Oscar-winning directors, chart-topping bands, and budgets larger than some movies: Christmas adverts have never been bigger. But, as this list proves, the best Christmas ads 2017 were the ones that played with the form, took chances, and did something a bit different.
There's still a big emphasis on making you blub, but we also liked action ads, comedy ads, and otherworldly ads. We've looked at the best of British – where the Christmas ad has blown up in recent years – but have also taken in commercials from the US, Europe, and further afield. In no particular order, here's our pick of the best Christmas ads of the year.
01. A Very Merry Mistake, Host/Havas
Santa's a sort of bigwig sitting behind a massive desk. He takes calls from kids all over the world. He's fluent in all languages, you see. Then kids from New Zealand start calling. The Kiwi accent – clipped, vowel-swapping – proves too much for Santa. A boy named 'Bin' apparently wants a new 'biscuitball'. Fortunately for all, the Air New Zealand cabin crew are on hand to translate. Easily the funniest ad of the year.
02. Gogglebox Meets Coca-Cola's 'Holidays Are Coming'
Gogglebox, if you haven't seen it, is a TV show that points a camera a people watching TV shows. Sounds rubbish; actually brilliant. Here the Gogglebox families watch Coca-Cola's Holidays Are Coming ad – which is now over two decades old. Say what want you about Coca-Cola, but for many of us, that ad signals the start of the Christmas season, as the Goggleboxers' reactions prove. A recent study found this the most engaging ad of the season.
03. Toyota R+S Holiday Commercial, Saatchi & Saatchi
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without multinational corporations trying to sell you stuff by making you cry. That's Toyota's play here: it got Emmy-winner Lance Acord to direct this Sundance-style, indie-movie tearjerker. Man: "So your folks took it pretty hard, huh?" Woman: "They loved that tree."
A minute and a half later the whole family is gathered around said recently fallen tree. But, wait, it's been given a new lease of life and the woman's folks couldn't be happier about it. Cynical maybe, but it's deftly done.
04. Bring Everyone Together, CLM BBDO
Remember that old M&Ms Christmas ad? Santa bumps in to Red and Yellow (those walking, talking, M&M characters). Both Santa and Red faint. It came out in 1996 and this is the sequel.
What happens next is Yellow steps in to delivery Santa's presents, but, being a chocolate covered nut with no experience in complex intercontinental logistics, he gets them all mixed up. Did he ruin Christmas? No. Course not. "I think," Red says, "you made it even better."
05. Parking Lot, Venables Bell & Partners
Two flustered men drive to into the parking lot of a mall for some last-minute Christmas shopping. Thing is, there's only one parking space left. They're both driving souped-up Audis and they both appear to be world-class stunt drivers. What follows is perhaps the best car chase in the history of advertising. It's nicely scripted too, as the ending mirrors the beginning when the two men meet again, this time while pushing shopping trolleys.
06. Paddington & The Christmas Visitor, Grey London
This Paddington bear ad – for British supermarket Marks & Spencer – has a pretty familiar plot. Paddington mistakes a bearded burglar for Santa Claus. The bear helps him take back all the presents he's nicked. The thief sees the light … but then, according to some complaints, swears at Paddington. A spokesman for M&S said it's obvious the words are actually, "Thank you, little bear."
07. Moz The Monster, adam&eveDDB
Current heavyweight champion of the Christmas ad in the UK is John Lewis. Moz the Monster is about a boy who makes mates with the creature that lives under his bed. Industry figures suggest its the department store's least successful Christmas campaign in five years. But when it comes to big names, it doesn't get much better: it's directed by Academy Award winner Michel Gondry and soundtracked by Mercury Music Prize winner Elbow.
08. J’ai tant rêvé, Romance
French supermarket Intermarché went for something a bit different this year. A boy decides Santa's trademark big belly is doing him no good. The boy administers a diet of fresh fruit and veg, all from his favourite supermarket chain, of course, and bonds with his sister in the process. It's all nicely shot, with a Henri Salvador’s lovely J’ai tant rêvé providing the title and the soundtrack.
09. Danielle, Leo Burnett Iberia
Most epic ad of the year goes to the Spanish national lottery. The Oscar-winning director Alejandro Amenábar directs Danielle, an 18-minute spot about an alien who comes to earth and takes the form of a woman. She tries to get to grips with modern life in Madrid. She meets Daniel, who thinks she's a foreigner, can't speak Spanish, and so mistakenly thinks her name is Danielle. It's a visually stunning ad which manages to incorporate the client into the story in a really creative way.
10. #YouShall Find Your Fairytale Christmas, J. Walter Thompson
British department store Debenhams does a modern take on Cinderella in one of the most lushly shot ads of the season. Boy and girl meet, boy and girl lose each other … The two attempt to track each other down using social media. The whole thing goes viral. But still the pair can't find each other. That's when good old fashion fate steps in. It's all narrated by Ewan McGregor, who pops up at the end with a cameo that gives fate a helping hand.