Advertising at Christmas: All is not what it seems


If any of you are living in the UK or have recently visited, you’ll have noticed that Christmas has well and truly arrived. Lights adorn towns and cities across the country, the smell of mulled wine and cider wafts around and shopping malls and high streets are suddenly bustling with people looking for the ultimate present for their loved ones. One other inescapable part of Christmas is the bombardment of TV adverts trying to get people to part with their hard-earned cash. There are plenty of people in the UK and the US who would tell you that the Christmas period has only started once the famous advert for a very popular fizzy drink, featuring Santa Claus and Coca-Cola lorries driving through a snow covered village, airs on television (I should also mention the arrival of Christmas resources on  is a big December moment!)

Adverts are really interesting culturally as they can give an insight into what life is like in a particular area at a particular time and could be fascinating for your students.

A number of complaints recently about the Christmas adverts we see on TV here in the UK led to a really interesting article in the BBC Magazine. It talks about why companies spend so much money creating exaggerated or sometimes hyper-realistic campaigns to give us that warm, fuzzy feeling, or to try to identify with consumers.

Why not use this as a starting point for a lesson mixing advertising and Christmas? By searching for ‘advertising’ on your Macmillan English Campus, you will find some nice listening activities to introduce the topic and its vocabulary. If you have a laptop or whiteboard, you could show your students some of the Christmas adverts mentioned in the magazine or even take some cuttings from glossy magazines or even the internet into class to show how companies use plays on words and clever grammar to create memorable campaigns and slogans. You could even get students to work together to create their own campaign.

Then why not split your class into two to start a debate – one half acting as consumers unconvinced by the adverts’ messages – like whether  it really snows on Christmas day, or if mums are really expected to do all the work. Then the other half of the class – let’s call them the advertising agency – can argue to convince their critics.

If you want to give your students more experience in debating beforehand, or after, there are plenty of ideas on onestopenglish. And of course, you don’t have to limit this idea just for this time of year – a lesson plan is for life, not just for Christmas.


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