November has arrived, which means it’s officially time to get ready for Christmas. To get everyone into the spirit, Marks & Spencer has released their star-studded Christmas advert on Wednesday 1 November, featuring Hannah Waddingham, Tan France, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and Zawe Ashton.
The advert aims to “celebrate the honest truth” of the festive season and acknowledge the parts of Christmas that we might not enjoy, but feel obliged to do anyway. It shows the stars facing a series of small dilemmas, such as struggling with decorating and playing family games they don’t particularly enjoy. But, some Brits are not too happy, and are claiming that the ad could ruin Christmas for their children.
According to M&S, each star makes a decision on “which Christmas traditions they’re going to embrace this year (and which ones they’re going to skip)”. In one scene, Ashton uses a baseball bat to take a swing at a toy Elf, sending it over neighbourhoods to Waddingham’s home, just after the latter uses a wood chipper to shred gold and silver paper hats into a burst of glittery confetti.
At the end of the advert, the Elf lands at Waddingham’s feet. She picks it up and initially appears confused about why it’s there, before glancing at her wood chipper and looking towards the camera with a raised eyebrow, suggesting the elf might be in trouble at Waddingham’s household too.
The Elf’s messy conclusion has struck a nerve among some people, who have complained that the advert could potentially “ruin [elf on a shelf] for thousands of families”. Commenting on the advert on M&S’s Instagram account, one person wrote: “I can imagine lots of children from Elf homes will have lots of awkward questions after seeing this.”
Another said: “Is the M&S message ‘Let’s be selfish and destructive this Christmas?’ Sorry, Not for me.”
On X, formerly known as Twitter, one person wrote: “Er… is it just me or is that a really mean-spirited ad? The hinted Fargo ending for the Elf on the shelf.”
What is 'Elf on a shelf'?
Elf on a shelf is a tradition for some families which involves parents placing an Elf toy in different places around the house for children to enjoy. It stems from a 2005 children’s story book titled Elf on the Shelf by American author Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. The book explains in rhymes how Santa Claus knows which children are naughty and nice through the Elf on the shelf, who visits children from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve and watches them, before reporting back to Santa Claus in the North Pole.
The tradition reached the UK in 2013, when official Elf on the Shelf toys arrived on British shores. Since then, it has become a popular Christmas pastime, with parents choosing new places to put the Elf once their children have gone to bed, so that when they wake up, it appears the Elf has magically moved to a different spot from which to watch them.
In reply to customer complaints, M&S said: “Our campaign is targeted at adults and we’re confident that they will take it in the way it is intended - fun, festive, and a cheeky take on those things we love - and don’t love - to do at Christmas time. For any concerned children, the elf in the ad is a prop and not a real, official Elf on the Shelf.”
Responding to another complaint, the retailer added: “We want to empower customers to embrace the traditions they love while recognising that this will be different for everyone - that’s what makes Christmas, Christmas.”