The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - November 20, 2014

John Lewis advert
John Lewis advert
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In this hurly-burly 100mph world we live in, it is all too easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas, which is, of course, adverts.

We’re halfway through November, all the big players have released theirs, and none come bigger than John Lewis.

For reasons I’m not sure of, it appears to have become a national institution in recent years. Mrs Canavan actually said to me, sometime in late July, ‘I wonder what the John Lewis Christmas advert will be like this year?’ I replied that I couldn’t care less.

But clearly Mrs Canavan is not on her own in being a fan, for just a few hours after its release the other week, a million people had viewed the John Lewis advert on the internet. Now the figure is 16 million.

The ad always relies on two key components; one, a famous song from yesteryear performed in soppy-style on the piano by a well-known artist of the day (this year it is John Lennon’s Real Love, performed by a young musician with very floppy hair called Tom Odell); and, two, a hugely sentimental theme often involving children and animals.

This year’s John Lewis tale involves, as far as I can make out, a penguin that follows a small boy around - including, at one point, running onto a football pitch, which is surely against FA rules? – but who seems to get a bit upset when he spots a couple of pensioners holding hands on a park bench.

Then the penguin sees a young couple kissing and gets even glummer.

The young boy notices the sadness in the eyes of his pal and so, on Christmas morning, buys him a female penguin, while the boy’s mum – who, incredibly, doesn’t seem alarmed at having two penguins in her lounge, or by the fact that her son spends all his time with an animal as opposed to interacting with human beings, looks on smiling.

Thankfully the ad ends before we see the penguins rushing off to the bedroom and getting down to what they’ve clearly been longing to do for ages, and anyway it turns out that the penguin isn’t real after all but a cuddly toy.

“Give someone the Christmas they’ve been dreaming of”, says the on-screen slogan, while Tom warbles in the background.

It is all very sweet of course, for if John Lewis know how to do one thing aside from selling over-priced toasters, then it is making an effective advert.

However, I’m not quite sure how it is designed to make any of us want to shop at its stores, not unless we’ve got a fetish for penguins, which, as far as I’m aware, very few of us do.

Still the John Lewis ad is better than the Marks and Spencer’s effort, which features women dressed as fairies who fly around and use their wands to magically change items into something else.

At one point, for instance, a man wrapping an alarm clock for his beloved suddenly finds he’s holding a women’s bra. It’s a nice bra - pink, with frilly bits on - but if I was him I’d be fuming. He probably spent ages choosing that clock and suddenly a flying woman with a wand has wrecked it.

Sainsbury’s, meanwhile, have gone for something entirely different, a cinematic effort depicting the scene on Christmas Eve 1914 when the German and British troops climbed from their trenches and sang carols and played football, the most humane episode in the most inhumane of conflicts and one of the most wonderful moments in the history of mankind.

While the Sainsbury’s ad is very worthy (made in partnership with the Royal British Legion, it will hopefully lead to a few youngsters learning about an important piece of history), it seems a strange way of trying to persuade people to pop into their local store to buy orange juice and cereal.

The conclusion of all this? Don’t watch TV until early January. I’ve followed that rule every year since 1998 and have never been happier.

The not so perfect gift for loved ones

Full marks to Blackpool FC’s marketing department.

Fans have been receiving emails asking if they would like to buy a half-year season ticket, claiming it is the perfect Christmas gift “for a loved one”.

Given Blackpool’s league position – bottom, 10 points from safety, and with one win in 17 games - I’m pretty sure my loved ones would punch me in the face if they eagerly unwrapped their present on Christmas morning and discovered a ticket for Bloomfield Road inside.

*Some people say Americans are bonkers.

And if Jose Canseco is anything to go by, yes they are.

Canesco, a major League baseball star who grew up in Florida, has announced he is planning to sell his amputated middle finger on eBay a few weeks after he accidentally shot it off while cleaning his handgun.

The former Oakland Athletics outfielder also plans to package the finger with a .45 Remington handgun.

Taking to Twitter to announce his intentions, Canseco wrote: “The eBay ad will read slightly used middle finger with 462 home runs, could be used as a stirring straw for drinks.”

Get your bids in now, for what more could a loved one desire this Christmas … apart from a season ticket for Blackpool, obviously.