Controversial Marks & Spencer (M&S) Christmas ad 2023

TV Commercial Review

Heart or Humor


It divided audiences

Marks & Spencer (LON: MKS) has thrown the festive rulebook out the window with its latest Christmas ad, ‘Love Thismas (Not Thatmas)’, causing quite the stir. With a celebrity lineup that reads like a who’s who of British pop culture, M&S aims to win over budget-conscious shoppers by saying ‘no’ to the traditional and ‘yes’ to the personal. But has this gamble paid off, or is it a Christmas misstep?

M&S’s ‘Love Thismas (Not Thatmas)’ Christmas ad for 2023 is a high-stakes play that has certainly captured attention. With its mix of celebrity glitz and a daring message, it’s an ad that’s as divisive as it is glossy. Whether it becomes a festive favorite or a seasonal faux pas, one thing is for sure: M&S has boldly stated that this Christmas, you do you.

A person is lighting a candle on a table of cards in a Christmas ad for Marks & Spencer's 2023 campaign.
Controversial Marks & Spencer (M&S) Holiday ad 2023: Christmas Destruction

M&S Christmas Advert Sparks Controversy – viewers comments

The Marks & Spencer (M&S) Christmas ad 2023 has ignited a firestorm of controversy, with viewer comments reflecting a mix of confusion, disappointment, and outright anger. The advert, which began with a heartwarming portrayal of festive preparations and family togetherness, took a dramatic turn that left many viewers cold.

The initial scenes of making decorations and playing games resonated with the traditional spirit of Christmas. However, as noted by @williamsmit and echoed by others, the advert’s tone shifted abruptly, leading to a backlash that has rippled across social media.

Critics like @dvlbud lament the loss of Christmas’s enchanting essence, which for many is rooted in childhood memories and traditions. The advert’s perceived deviation from these traditions has sparked a debate on the true meaning of Christmas in contemporary advertising.

@hadayimosi and @AB-zvdz express a sentiment that the advert fails to capture the “loving time of year” that Christmas represents, instead offering a portrayal that seems to undermine the very values that the holiday upholds.

The advert’s aesthetics, such as the white fireplace mentioned by @thewisdombox, seem to be one of the few redeeming qualities amidst the controversy. However, this is not enough to salvage the overall reception, as @spizzenergi and @karenadamson point out the negative impact on their shopping choices and the perceived “Grinch-like” approach to the festive season.

The criticism extends beyond mere dislike for the creative direction. Comments from @tracey and @royaloak suggest a deeper cultural and ideological disconnect, accusing M&S of promoting political correctness over traditional Christmas values.

The advert’s message of doing what you love during the holidays, as @larrytalbot and @highroyds interpret it, has been received as promoting selfishness rather than the selflessness traditionally associated with the season.

In stark contrast to the M&S advert, @davidthomas praises a competitor, Lidl, for capturing the “true spirit of Christmas,” highlighting the importance of understanding the target audience’s expectations.

The controversy has led to calls for boycotts, as seen in comments from @LEEROY and @Lazarus, with some viewers feeling that the advert is an affront to Christian values and family traditions.

Amidst the uproar, there are voices like @annietaylor and @Happylife that defend the advert’s message of personal happiness and breaking free from the shackles of tradition. However, these are in the minority compared to the overwhelming disapproval.

The advert’s impact on M&S’s brand image and sales remains to be seen, but the initial reactions suggest a significant misstep. The company’s attempt to resonate with a modern audience appears to have backfired, alienating a large portion of its customer base.

In advertising, especially during a culturally significant period like Christmas, it is crucial to balance innovation and tradition. The M&S advert is a cautionary tale of what can happen when that balance is lost. It’s a stark reminder that the core message of an advert must align with the values and expectations of its audience, especially when dealing with a holiday as steeped in tradition as Christmas.

As we reflect on the reactions, it’s evident that the M&S Christmas advert has become a topic of heated discussion, not for its festive cheer, but for its controversial departure from the Christmas spirit, as many know and cherish it.


  • Memorable (70/100): The ad’s controversial take on Christmas traditions is sure to stick in viewers’ minds, but perhaps not always for the right reasons.
  • Effective (40/100): While aiming to resonate with the fatigued shopper, the ad’s message may have been lost in translation, leaving some viewers cold.
  • Style (80/100): The glamour and star power bring a certain panache to the ad, aligning with M&S’s upscale brand image.
  • Heart/Humor (50/100): The ad’s attempt at humor through the destruction of festive favorites has divided audiences, with some finding it more ‘bah humbug’ than ‘ho ho ho’.
  • Execution (75/100): Directed by Ally Pankiw and set to Ray BLK’s rendition of a Meatloaf classic, the ad’s execution is slick, but the concept has not landed as intended with all viewers.

Interesting Facts:

  • The ad features a reworking of Meatloaf‘s hit by Ray BLK, adding a modern twist to a classic tune.
  • Directed by Ally Pankiw, known for ‘Black Mirror‘ and ‘Feel Good’, the ad takes a cinematic approach to Christmas advertising.
  • M&S continues to leverage its staff as influencers, a unique strategy that personalizes the brand.

M&S Christmas ad 2023 Pros And Cons


  1. Star Power: Including celebrities like Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Tan France adds a touch of glamour.
  2. Unique Angle: The ad’s rebellious stance against forced festive cheer is a fresh take in a sea of traditional Christmas ads.
  3. Brand Consistency: M&S maintains its image of sophistication, even when flipping Christmas traditions on their head.


  1. Divisive Message: The ad’s break from tradition has not been universally well-received, with some viewers finding it hard to relate to.
  2. Risk of Alienation: By choosing to focus on the rejection of Christmas customs, M&S risks alienating those who cherish these traditions.
A woman is holding a Santa Claus doll in the snow for a Christmas ad.
Controversial Marks & Spencer (M&S) Christmas ad 2023


The ‘M&S Christmas Ad 2023’ has certainly made waves, challenging viewers to rethink what Christmas means to them. Whether you’re a fan of the ad’s irreverent take on holiday norms or not, it’s clear that M&S has sparked a conversation. And isn’t stirring debate what memorable advertising is all about?



The message may have been lost in translation

Heart or Humor5.0
Reader Rating: ( 1 vote ) 9

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