Behind Every Great Christmas, There’s a Mug

Sorry, did I say ‘mug’? I meant ‘mum’, obviously!ASDA have rolled out their Christmas advert by Saatchi & Saatchi which, like a lot of Christmas adverts, is kind of sickening. Not just because it shows the oh-so-perfect family Christmas – which most of us know is about as real as Santa Claus – but because it portrays the ubiquitous downtrodden mother character.

Fair enough, it probably is true that in most families, mum is responsible for a lot of the Christmas preparations. But did this advert have to evoke such a pathetic self-sacrificial figure? Everything about it seems to suggest that this woman should run around after her family and get no thanks at all. She even serves her husband Christmas dinner, before making do with the worst seat at the dinner table. Her female friend is the only one to help her clear up, and when she finally sits down to relax with a glass of wine, we don’t see her receiving any presents or praise. Oh no. Her feckless husband simply asks her, “What’s for tea, love?”

The advert would be much more entertaining (and realistic) if at this point, she had chucked her wine all over the useless idiot, before screaming, “LEFTOVERS, YOU MORON!”

At least it would stop everyone else from feeling that their own Christmases were a little inadequate. I mean, who the hell is that perfect and patient and drippy? I think that ASDA’s ‘mum’ could do with buying herself a spine in the January sales!

9 responses to “Behind Every Great Christmas, There’s a Mug

  1. Hahaha, yes, so true, both regarding the insidious “perfect” Christmas imagery and perpetuating the all-serving mother image.

    It has to be said that the excuse that it “reflects reality” doesn’t really hold up in my book. I mean, there are still many parts of society with racist ideas or prejudice against gay people. Would it be acceptable to see this blithely reflected back at us because “that’s the reality” in many homes or workplaces? I don’t think so…

    It will be interesting to see how this ad fares in our annual poll on the best and worst over at christmasadvert.com. Last year, the Littlewoods ad got taken apart in a similar atmosphere of (perfectly justified imho) indignation.

  2. Haha, yeah – you’d think that they might have learned from The Littlewoods advert that it doesn’t go down very well to act as though Christmas only happens because of what ‘mum’ has done. I looked on your site and I found the Morrisons advert to be quite funny though. It took the bog standard ‘mum does everything’ advert and humanised it a little – it’s like you said about an advert that “reflects reality”. If an advert is going to reflect reality, then I feel it has to show the whole reality, and that whole reality is usually that the do-it-all mum ends up feeling a bit frazzled and begrudging – especially in the run up to Christmas!
    In our household, I do all the cooking while my mum sits around watching Christmas telly. I don’t really expect for that kind of reality to be portrayed – supermarkets aren’t trying to appeal to young graduates who can’t afford to move out. Having said that though, it just sets my teeth on edge to see women acting like doormats in adverts. I’ve grown up around women who are feminine and capable, but don’t take shit from anyone!
    I think it would be refreshing to show an advert where the mum tells the dad that he can cook/wrap the presents this year, or gets the kids to wash up afterwards or something. That ASDA advert could have even been saved if, at the end, the mum went into the living room and her family had got her loads of presents, or offered her a mince pie…or even just acknowledged her existence beyond her husband’s request for more bloody food!

  3. “where the mum tells the dad that he can cook/wrap the presents this year”

    Yes 🙂

    Or even an ad where the bloke does not have to be TOLD to cook or wrap presents, is not HELPING with something that’s not really his business, but rather is an equal partner and just naturally does cook, wrap, do the washing up, etc

    Surely there is some advertising kudos to gain here, just from the sheer number of people who would say, “At last, an advert that reflects my world rather than my (gran)parents’ one”?

  4. Given the fact that in todays world MANY women proudly proclaim they ‘cannot cook’ I actually find this advert now refreshing. I am sick to death of Christmas and its disgusting, crass, commercialised greed of eat to bloated sickness and buy rubbish at the start of OCTOBER it seems with scant regard for the religious meaning behind it all. However, having read your thoughts on it Leonie I have to say with regard this ad for ASDA I am actually glad there is an ad on tv at present that reverts the now accustomed and accepted reverse sexism that shows men pandering to women or men being made out to be total and utter pricks where women are concerned i.e. women saying ‘you do this, you do that and we’ll sit on our arses in this age of feminised equality’ which really equals women being sexist, it being accepted and men ‘putting up with it’. If this ad irks so many women in the UK heres a suggestion: DON’T BOTHER pretending to like Christmas, wasting money on food, drink, inviting relatives you hate and buying presents if Christmas is so much ‘hard work’ and its so disliked. It seems to me, if the advert doesn’t now mock men its not acceptable whereas if the ad ‘subverts the womans role’ back to being ‘mother, wife and housefrau’ you also don’t like it – if you want equality, treat men in the same way, not expect them to do everything while women now have ‘their feet up’.

  5. Stan, I can’t help but feel that you have missed the point a little bit with this. The bloke in this advert does come across as an ‘utter prick’. He is lazy and he is selfish. He barely seems to help at all, while his wife/partner does everything she can to please the family and create this oh-so-saccharine perfect Christmas. This is how ASDA portray it. If they had truly told a ‘traditional’ 1950s-style story of Christmas, surely we would have seen the man doing his bit too? We would have seen him slogging away at his day job, while his wife got to buy pretty gifts with the money he’d earned. We’d see him driving her to the supermarket and then getting out his wallet once she’d loaded the trolley with Christmas food. Then on Christmas day, he’d be helping the kids put their new toys together while she was doing all the cooking. This advert is fairly insulting all round. And I think it’s incredibly rash of you to assume that just because women now expect a little more help around the house (especially if we’re also the ones who hold down a job), that we now expect everything to be done for us!
    Your point about not bothering with the hassle that goes with Christmas is almost too stupid a suggestion to warrant an answer, but the reason why women (and men) do bother with Christmas is because a lot of the time it’s easier to just go along with the whole thing. I tend to have quite a minimalist Christmas – I refuse to waste money on a tree and tacky decorations, but I do like the chance to cook a special meal and exchange gifts with my family. However, that is entirely my choice! A lot of people celebrate Christmas for their children, so if you’re a dad then you should be involved (and be credited with being involved) with Christmas. Even if it’s just that you went out and worked for the money to fund the whole glitzy, bloated occasion.

    • The fundamental aspect of Saatchi’s Asda ad is that Mum IS the central figure to all great Christmases. Its a bit like Iceland’s strapline ‘thats why Mums go to Iceland’ and Asda are following suite. The ‘bloke’ isn’t the central figure of the ad. He’s only shown at the start or as a peripheral figure while the whole ad focuses on the so called ‘toil’ of Mum.
      My reaction to your analysis of the ad is based on the fact that many people bemoan Christmas and yet as you yourself say ‘go along with it’ – why so if they don’t really enjoy it? Then theres the fact that the chagrin the ad apparently causes for the so called feminine sensibility actually makes me roll my eyes as there is nothing ‘insulting’ about the fact that the central figure is a housewife and she’s preparing Christmas – for me the ad execs want the viewer, or expect the viewer to be intelligent enough to imagine the ‘bloke’ is probably at work doing exactly as you’ve described – working away earning money to fund his wife’s endeavours into having a ‘great Christmas’. What it seems to insult you with is that it has actually reinforced ‘traditional’ gender stereotypes – Mum the housewife and Mother, Dad in the background, invisibly providing the cash – or so I presume. The ad execs only have a few minutes to convey a story, not a diptych on the two supposed focal characters – Saatchi’s chose well – and frankly, its a realistic viewpoint which I am pretty sure was actually created by a predominantly female creative team and account management. Having done work experience at Saatchi & Saatchi myself I can definitely say there are more women working there than men. It seems to me that certain people find the ad ‘insulting’ as it insults their own sensibilities – as an Asian male I could find the ad ‘insulting’ that the whole ‘clan’ in the ad is White, middle class, theres not ONE ‘ethnic’ in the brood – even as an ‘in law’, so I could preclude that Asda are only pandering to same race family units – but NOT so. Its just an ad, showing a woman preparing Christmas – as far as I’m concerned its a bit like the women who ‘got on and did it’ during WW2 – they just do things and are happy with the outcome. My other comments previously are simply a reaction to feminist mores bemoaning this or that, which, frankly I am tired of – I could equate this ad with an ad featuring Amanda Holden for some yogurt in which adonis like young men are simply used to be ogled at – or as in her case by ad’s end used as table wear, or the Moonpig ad’s with another male model showing off his body – these could be seen as sexism pro women – we hardly ever hear women bemoan ads like that do we? So why shouldn’t the ‘bloke’ in the Asda ad be in the background? He’s not being lazy, its just how you and a few others see it – there are plenty of ads on tv now featuring ‘lazy’ women in which men have to get everything done.
      Finally, my point about ‘not bothering’ with Xmas isn’t ‘too stupid to warrant’ reaction – many, many people bemoan it, but like you say, ‘go along with it, with chagrin – the most logical thing would be not to – thats my point. As for me, both my parents are now dead sadly so the lustre of Christmas and making them smile is long gone, so you have me at that. Also, for your information, when my Father was alive (my Mother being in hospital a lot) it was I who went out and did all the shopping, present buying etc – just to put a smile on his face, which, without my Mother after she’d died, was only brief. However, I think that is the whole point of the ad, its essentially that the Mum is doing all this to put a smile on everyones face, and seeing all that, puts a smile, albeit a tired one, on hers too – its hardly about some form of gender specific sexism as you may think where the ‘bloke’ is a useless, lazy prick.

  6. There’s really no need to patronise me – it’s not like I don’t have any idea what it’s like to work in advertising. I’m not expecting some kind of feature-length film for an advert. The point of my original post was that I didn’t like to see the woman being portrayed as such a doormat. If anything, it was as much an attack on her character as it was on her drippy husband’s. Not just that, but my original post was actually intended to be kind of…you know, funny? If ASDA wanted to make some sort of heartwarming advert, then they could have shown the woman getting a little more praise from her family. The reason that the John Lewis advert was so successful last year was because it did slightly subvert the family roles at Christmas – instead of showing the fraught parents running around after their demanding little brats, it showed a slightly awkward little boy who couldn’t wait to give his parents the present that he’d picked for them. It was a really nice twist, and even a grinch like me could see the cuteness in it.
    Besides, my issue here isn’t even to do with gender issues, really – it’s because I have an interest in advertising and I think that for an industry that’s supposed to be full of brilliantly creative people, it’s a bit boring to see the same tired old clichés being rolled out time and time again.

    • I wasn’t trying to patronise you. As for the crux of the discussion I simply see the ad as a Mum being the central figure, planning, spending, setting up, cooking and simply making sure everyones happy – she even is seen having to sit on a cushion at dinner i.e. shes happy to sacrifice even her seat / comfort for others on Christmas Day. She’s not a doormat at all. Asda / Saatchi seem to be saying ‘busy Mums shop at Asda for Xmas’ – thats all. As for praise – she reaped it, everyone was happy when she brought out the Turkey, her kids were seen to jump all over her with excitement on Christmas morning too – again, central figure being Mum. As for last years John Lewis ad, I can’t even recall it, I do however find their latest offering far more enjoyable to watch, inspired perhaps by Raymond Briggs ‘The Snowman’? Its a far different take on the self – sacrifice for a loved one in my view, and if I were to make fun of it, they could have inverted the gender and have the Snow Woman trek out for a present for her loved one, instead JL and the ad agency did go with the traditional approach of a ‘male’ figure buying for ‘female’ in a romantic subtext – someone, not me, could take it as a ‘bloke being a doormat for a woman at Xmas’ – but these are just ads for the sake of ads promoting two things as you know, brand and buy from them at Xmas.
      For me, I have been of the sentiment that adland is certainly now anodyne and boring, samey and ‘boring to see the same tired old cliches being rolled out time and again’; I usually feel this to the point of switching channels or pausing my Sky+ so as to delay things so I can simply fast forward through the dross for what seems like an eternity just to avoid the blandness that adland vomits out continually; this isn’t to say that there are a few choice gems once in a while, i.e. Southern Comforts latest offering of a fat, sweaty man swaggering down a beach telling us all to be comfortable in our own skin; then theres Ikea’s own Christmas offering ‘Playing with Friends’ or whatever its called, fun, fresh, cool, it makes me wish I actually had giant toys like that living with me – its only when you look carefully you see the Christmas connotations, its so clever in its intricate subtlety that it could even be run for say Easter 2013 even imo. I feel that what Saatchi’s and Asda have carved is an ad with a ‘traditional, modern bent’ on Xmas – its message, not my own I hasten to add seems to be: you have to really let Mum take care of the Xmas prep – men seem to be hopeless, disorganised and…stupid. If it weren’t for ‘Mum’ it’d never be a sucess and thats why they’ve made the Mum the central figure taking care of it all and the whole day being a success. If I were the director or creative on it, there’d be a post 9pm watershed version with the ad being exactly the same, except for one thing…at the end when Dad asks Mum:

      ‘Whats for tea luv?’

      Mum would say at that point:

      ‘Sod off, I’ve only sat down – you do something…’

      And glares at him and then swigs some wine and eats some chocolates…

  7. Pingback: Asda’s Christmas ad – is the Mum in it a dogsbody? « graphicstoysandmusings

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