I am increasingly irritated by X-factor, which I watch with embarrassing regularity. It’s not the almost universal mediocrity of the contestants. It’s not Kelly Rowland’s inability to speak in proper English or her calling all women who are black and/or plump ‘Mama’. And it’s not Dermot O-Leary constantly wearing light brown shoes with a blue pin-stripe suit.
No, my main irritation is caused by the Littlewoods advert that plays in most of the several hundred advert breaks that interrupt all the other X-Factor irritations. A link to the advert is below, if you can bear it. To save you the pain, I’m talking about the advert full of those creepy-looking children singing a song from a Christmassy stage, about how wonderful their mothers are and how fab Christmas is. Every time I see this advert I want to cry.
Aside from the fact that this is a Christmas advert airing in mid-October, my main gripe is that the wish-list of presents these dreadfully spoiled children reel off includes: an X-box, a fidget (a what?) and a laptop. Am I completely out of touch? I thought kids wanted Lego and tricycles.
None of these gifts are traditional, Christmassy, hand crafted, locally made or educational. They are all incredibly expensive. I checked the Littlewoods website (don’t say this blog doesn’t do its research) and an Xbox console starts at around £249 (roughly 7,000 czk). Including essential games packages, some of the consoles are twice that price. I come from a family seriously embraces Christmas and all the trimmings but are you kidding me?! Who has that sort of money for one present? Particularly a present for a pretentious-looking five-year old, who will play with it for approximately thirty seconds before either getting bored or breaking it.
Fortunately, in case mummy doesn’t have ready access to half a grand to spend on Christmas presents for the little darlings, Littlewoods offer a ‘payment plan’. As you can see from the happy picture you can ‘Buy now and pay nothing for twelve months’.
The irresponsibility of this advert makes me clench my fists. Have the last couple of years demonstrated nothing if not the need to spend and budget responsibly? If you can’t afford the Xbox (or fidget…) now, what makes you think that next year will be better? If lovely mummy doesn’t have £249 in December 2011, how will she feel in December 2012 when the full price plus interest at 32.9% APR is due? (Given that the English base interest rate is currently 0.5% and inflation is 5.2%, this is an impressive APR, to say the least.)
The last year has shown we need responsible businesses, responsible governments and responsible banks. In light of the redundancies, the repossession and the unemployment, this advert is off-the-scale of inappropriate. It encourages an expensive toy-based takeover of a traditional Christmas that encourages people to live horribly beyond their means.
Even without addressing the complete religious deficiency inherent in this advertisement it’s depressing. It completely misses the point. I’m sure that (the highlight of Christian year aside) Christmas is meant to be about spending a day with family and enjoying each other’s company. Snowy walks and log fires. Christmas carols and candle light.
Even in Czechland commercialisation creeps in. For example, in the most traditional Czech Christmas story, Santa does not bring the pressies. Baby Jesus (who for some reason is invisible) brings them. Hallmark were apparently unable to create an ad campaign around an invisible biblical character, and so western Santa is now quite common. And, whilst Czech Christmas markets sell traditional handicrafts, clothes, wine, and gingerbread, I’m pretty sure these are now focused mainly at tourists rather than locals. The Apple store down the road from my office already has its Christmas lights up…
Even in Prague then, all the traditional, romantic excitement of Christmas risks being completely lost amongst Xboxes and terrifying credit card bills.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a Christmas present (or several) but not at any cost. If times are tough, please don’t get out the credit card. I’d much rather have a kiss under the mistletoe and a home-made mince-pie.