A still from the Sainsbury’s Christmas Calamity advert, hailed as a ‘huge success’ by the supermarket. Photograph: Sainsbury’s/PA

John Lewis – The Journey

It might seem too obvious but any list of the best Christmas ads would not be complete without the campaign that has become the most anticipated in the marketing calendar. John Lewis’s formula is tried and tested and has spawned any number of parodies and copycats. Yet for all the chit-chat itv still delivers in the key area: sales.

“The one that started it all, The Long Wait, about the boy who just could not wait to give his parents their presents on Christmas day, is most people’s favourite. But give me the tale of two snowmen any day, a beautifully told and moving story of the lengths someone (a snowman) will go to get the right gift and completely in line with John Lewis’s ‘thoughtful giving’ brand strapline.”

Lidl – Surprises

Lidly Christmas advert 2015

The rise of the discounters has a lot to do with their excellent advertising and Christmas is no exception. Their greatest trick of all might be convincing people to use them over the festive period, when people typically steer away from cheaper brands as they look to treat themselves.

“2014’s ‘Surprises’ campaign, featuring a blind taste test of Lidl products, is a classic example of using a simple message to help shift perceptions of Lidl from a discounter to a grocer selling premium products cheaply.”

Currys/PC World – Spare the Act

Spare the Act 2015 – with Jeff Goldblum.

Currys PC World tends to use Christmas to push its products but last year, for the first time, it tried selling its brand instead. The campaign starred Hollywood star Jeff Goldblum and aimed to get across the idea that if you buy people the right presents (from Currys or PC World, of course) then they won’t have to pretend to like them.

“In a sea of brands trying to copy John Lewis by pulling at the heartstrings, Currys PC World’s focus on humour was refreshing and successful, so much so they’ve brought it back this year.”

Sainsbury’s – Christmas in a Day

Sainsbury’s advert 2015

Back in 2013 Sainsbury’s pulled out all the stops by creating not a single ad campaign but a 50-minute film showing how Britain spends Christmas day using videos sent in by customers. It featured traditional scenes such as decorating the Christmas tree and children waiting for Santa, as well as personal shots of, for example, a soldier surprising his kids with an unexpected Christmas visit.

“It was a risk, but one that paid off and has given the supermarket the confidence to break the mould ever since and, almost, steal the Christmas crown from John Lewis.”

Warburtons – The Giant Crumpet Show

The Warburton’s Xmas ad

Warburtons joined the Christmas ad battle last year, drafting in the Muppets to help flog its new giant crumpets. And it worked. The product launch was one of the most successful of last year and helped it win recognition as the ‘top Christmas ad’ according to marketresearch company Millward Brown.

“By creating a Christmas campaign with a twist and getting the Muppets to pitch an idea to sell the crumpets, Warburtons came up with a winning campaign that showed of its brand personality and innovation.”

Boots – Discover More

Boots has proved a bit hit and miss at Christmas. It found itself the subject of an investigation by the ad regulator in 2012 for a scene in which a child pointed a hairdryer at a dog, but followed that up with two great campaigns featuring a boy leaving gifts for neighbours and a family waiting until mum got home from work at midnight to celebrate Christmas. Then just when they seemed to be on the right track, last year they came out with Discover More, which followed a firefly around a giant Boots factory.

“After two years of great campaigns I was eagerly waiting to see what Boots would do. What we got was a hugely disappointing campaign made even worse by a backing track sung by Jessie J.”

M&S – Magic & Sparkle

M&S 2013

M&S’s advertising always looks amazing and 2013 was no exception. Millions were spent creating an ad showcasing its best products across home, food and clothing. The problem is that the ad feels worlds away from the average M&S shopper and their experience of shopping in one of its stores.

“As with much of M&S’s marketing, this is style over substance. It’s a beautiful ad but its so far removed from the reality of M&S on the high street.”

Morrisons and Asda – 2012

Asda advert 2015

Retailers want to see people talking about their ads, but in 2012 Morrisons and Asda hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Both managed to produce ads that caused hundreds to complain to the ad regulator for using “stereotypical” depictions of women as being in charge of cooking on Christmas day and dads being little more than feckless idiots.

“The ire raised served as a reminder to all brands that there is no place for stereotypes and cliches in modern advertising.”

Sarah Vizard, Marketing Week