Christmas adverts tackling loneliness


There has been a surge of advertisement tackling loneliness among the elderly this Christmas, with major brands teaming up with charitable organisations to highlight the issue. For many, these adverts have been powerful and thought provoking, forcing us to face the reality that thousands of elderly people throughout Britain face.

Although many may be irritated by the emotional manipulation undoubtedly going on, it has highlighted a massive issue. More than half of those aged 75 or over live alone and over 5 million elderly people report that their main source of company is the television set.

Britain has become more isolated and fragmented in recent years, with a shift towards the online world for everything, resulting in less and less human contact. However I think these recent Christmas adverts have begun to pave the way for positive and real change. So, I have decided to take a look at a few key, successful Christmas adverts looking at the theme of loneliness among the elderly.

John Lewis – Man on the Moon

The obvious starting point is the John Lewis Christmas advert, Man on the Moon. The advert tells the story of friendship between a little girl named Lily, and an old man who lives on the moon. The ad was made in partnership with Age UK, with the direct intention to evoke thought for those elderly people facing Christmas alone this year. The advert has been viewed over 21 million times on YouTube, showing that the powerful message has reached huge audiences and contributed to increasing awareness around the issue.

According to Blurtt, a website that looks at social media responses, the overall Twitter reaction was 52% positive. Whether you liked the advert or not, the fact cannot be ignored that the message was powerful. It forced many to rethink the real meaning and purpose of Christmas, and evaluate the role they could play themselves this festive period. Overall, I would say the John Lewis Christmas advert was extremely successful in combating the issue of loneliness among the elderly and spreading awareness of the problem.

Bisto – Spare Chair Sunday

Earlier this month Bisto released their Christmas advert, “Spare Chair Sunday”, joining other big name brands focusing on this issue. Bisto teamed up with Contact the Elderly, to tackle isolation among elderly people. Another effective and powerful advert, building on their campaign idea of “Spare Chair Sunday” (launched in September) to try and promote inclusion among communities.

The ad is narrated by 93 year old Connie, who has been invited round for Christmas lunch by a family in her local area. It shows how meaningful and important such a small gesture can mean to a lonely elderly person. The Spare Chair Sunday campaign has been extremely successful, with over 900 households volunteering for the initiative since its launch. The campaign perfectly matches the brand and the charity, with Bisto trying to promote the theme of ‘bringing everyone together’.

Contact the Elderly – Cracker for one

A deliberately depressing advert that focuses on how miserable the festive period can be if you are by yourself. The ‘solo cracker’ idea came from BMB, and constitutes a part of Contact the Elderly’s wider Christmas campaign to raise awareness around the issue.

The online campaign looks at the story of an elderly woman at Christmas and finishes with the powerful image of her pulling a cracker alone. The advert then has a link to encourage people to donate £5 to Contact the Elderly. The charity estimates that over half a million elderly people will spend Christmas day by themselves this year, and hopes that donations with help them to try and reduce this number.

Although a miserable topic for Christmas adverts to focus on, I think together these ads and many more like them, go a long way in helping to tackle the real issue of loneliness among the elderly.

The Bisto campaign is probably the most effective, as it presents a positive and attainable answer to difficult and complex problems, which perfectly matches its brand. The idea of ‘bringing everyone together’ is something we can all relate to, especially at the festive time of year.

The message that prevails throughout these Christmas adverts is that you don’t need to have a lot of money to make a difference; the smallest of gestures can have huge influence. I think they have been highly successful in forcing people to consider those less fortunate than themselves, and will hopefully help to reduce the number of elderly people spending Christmas alone this year and in years to come.

Jen Haughton Photograph

Jen Haughton

Community Manager