Peacocks’ Christmas advert soiled my soul

It’s finally happened, everyone. Littlewoods’ 2011 Christmas advert, which went about ruthlessly erasing Santa in favour of your mother owing lots of money to Shop Direct Group, has been surpassed in its awfulness. It feels almost wrong to be typing those words, because I was firmly convinced that nothing could be worse than that. I was wrong. So very, tragically wrong. Peacocks have outdone them. The “Worst Christmas Advert I’ve Ever Seen” contest now has Peacocks as the all time winner. This is a brown note of an advert that is simply unpleasant in an obnoxious, insulting way from start to finish. Brace yourselves.

I’ll freely admit that I don’t know much about Peacocks. I don’t think I’ve been into one of their stores willingly, and my impression of their brand positioning until now is “Primark but not”. I was wrong about that too; apparently their brand positioning is “we’re like Iceland in the Kerry Katona-fronted days, only for clothes”. I don’t understand why they would take this approach, and this is one of the first things I very concretely don’t understand and don’t want to understand about it.

I don’t understand, for instance, why the centrepiece of anyone’s Christmas ad campaign would be Honey G. For a start, having Honey G advertise fashion is like having Ian Huntley advertise childcare. For another thing, Honey G has such limited relevance to most people that the campaign could probably be fronted by a variety of characters from Studio Ghibli films — not even the good ones — and have more cultural resonance. Lord knows I’d rather see the dull lead character from Only Yesterday try and flog me blouses before I would Honey G. The only thing Honey G could effectively advertise is Dignitas.

“Only €500 and all this goes away! BRRRRRRAP”

To skip back a bit, Iceland’s problem in the Katona years stemmed from Katona herself being an obviously bargain basement figure selling bargain basement food. She wasn’t really famous for anything at that point, she was famous because she had once had some cultural relevance but had gone significantly off the rails, and her presence was rather obviously only because she was available and cheap rather than any real connection with Iceland or food. In the end, the impression you got from Katona selling Iceland was that Iceland is cheap, nasty, tacky and aimed at extremely thick people, and this is the reputation the chain is still struggling to shake off many years later (and, for what it’s worth, something of an unfair one). However, in full hindsight, Katona was at least once part of a semi-popular band and was recognisable as having her own limited merits, so it makes a small amount of sense.

Honey G wasn’t even in Atomic Kitten. Honey G was a shit act on the X Factor who is semi-famous for being shit on a show full of shit “musicians” and whose debut single got to number 149 in the charts. Honey G sounds and raps like Vanilla Ice crossed with Charli XCX crossed with a strangled goose. The only people who like Honey G like her because she is terrible, and that is who Peacocks have chosen as the centrepiece of their advertising campaign. Peacocks think that if they show you Honey G attempting to rap, you will go to their shop and give them money. There is no reading of this that isn’t grossly offensive to you and to the country in general; a horrifying insult delivered to you by a bargain-basement clothes shop. “We think you are so fucking thick that you will buy clothes if we show you this utter moron”. That is what Peacocks think of you and by extension everyone you know and love.

Of course, Honey G is not the only attraction here. The advert also features Jedward. Fucking Jedward. Jedward, an act that was a reject on the X Factor about 4,000 years ago and demonstrated both a total lack of talent and extreme unearned self-regard by daring to cover both David Bowie and Freddie Mercury at the same time. Jedward, a tweeting pair of hair-gelled Bieberoid gonks who are cultural milestones in the same way that British Leyland was an industrial one. Jedward, or as they’re otherwise known “oh for fuck’s sake not those awful cunts”. Jedward are here, everyone, and they’re introducing Honey G, and they’re singing with Honey G, and they want to sell you clothes, and they’re singing and rapping and dancing around, and if that description doesn’t make you want to stab yourself through your neck with a screwdriver you need an intervention.

Words cannot describe how singularly, completely bad this is. This is just thirty seconds of sheer, unremitting pain and suffering, inflicted by a shop on you using three of the least interesting and talented human beings ever to walk on God’s green earth as conduits of pure psychic pain. The only thing I’ve ever wanted to see Jedward and Honey G in at the same time is an industrial plastic shredder, but here they are, singing and rapping together, as if they’re attempting some kind of hideous opposite-day counterpart to Jay Z and Kanye West’s “Watch The Throne” — two truly reprehensible and talentless non-musical entities at the peak of their obnoxiousness. There are people in the video who are supposedly back-up dancers, and they have the same eyes-glazed “I am doing this at gunpoint” look and dancing style as those in Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video — a look showing that they not only understand just how awful what they’re participating in is, but that they deeply regret assisting in its creation in ways humans don’t have the capacity to communicate. This should come with a content warning that is ten times longer than the advert itself.

In the name of journalism, or giving myself a serious mental illness I will never recover from (delete as applicable), I’ve watched this horror again and will give you my views on what is happening at any point in time. This means you don’t have to watch it yourself, which frankly is a Christ-like act of benevolence on my part for which all should be grateful.

0:01 — One second in — ONE SECOND — and we’re shown Jedward, excitingly opening the door to their house (which they live in together, I suppose…?) after some carol singers have rung the bell. Aside from the appearance of Jedward, which is as ever completely unwelcome, this is by far the least offensive thing about the entire enterprise, but I know what’s coming and I am not looking forward to it. The feeling of dread in the air is palpable.

0:06 — Some people (who I presume are X Factor famous — i.e. not famous — in some way) are at the door and have sung — “Deck the halls with rhymes from Honey”, which sounds less like a cheerful pastiche of a Christmas standard and more like the direst threat I’ve ever received. And the answer to this call, in case you’re wondering, is no. No I will not deck the halls with rhymes from Honey. I’ve decked the back of my toilet bowl with better rhymes than Honey’s after a bad curry. Also, how the fuck am I supposed to do anything with “rhymes” in the physical world? Am I supposed to print them out and staple them to the wall? I can think of numerous things I’d rather do with printed out Honey G “rhymes” before I’d do that, and they all involve Jedward suffering horrifying paper cuts.

0:08 — “H H H H HONEY G IN THE HOUSE!” No. Not in the house, Honey G. You’re not coming in my house. If I see you at my front door I’m calling the fucking police, after I’ve finished pointing at you and screeching like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I will confess that before I saw this I’d never actually heard or seen Honey G, as I have about as much interest in The X Factor as I do in hammering cricket bats into my urethra with my face; seeing and hearing her for the first time was a true psychiatric cherry popping for me, I can tell you.

0:11 — “These Peacocks gifts got Christmas rocking!” More like spinning. Spinning in its grave. Because you and Jedward killed it. You killed it and buried it and this is the song playing at the wake, you utter monsters.

0:13 — Jedward are making sounds now, and as always it sounds half like a pair of seven year olds pretending to be Kriss Kross (who were already thirteen year olds pretending to be twenty year olds) and half the trumpet that heralds the end of days. “Slippers and socks in every stocking!” they inform us, as if this is something to be proud of. Aren’t slippers and socks meant to be what you buy out of desperation for someone you have no idea how to buy presents for? Is this Peacock’s positioning — “come to us when you’re just throwing up your hands in despair”? If that’s the case then if nothing else they have cause and effect the wrong way around.

0:15 — “Honeywear for everyone and Honey’s not stopping!” Yes I know she’s not stopping. That’s what I was worried about. Also what the fuck is “Honeywear”? If it’s what she’s wearing in this, it’s a gaudy golden shell suit, which for the record is one of the few allowable reasons to murder someone and not go to prison if you receive it for Christmas. To be fair I am unclear on this point as, as noted, Honey G is not known for her crisp diction, and I’m usually screaming at this point, so I might be mishearing “Honeywear”. Maybe “Honeywell”? She’s trying to flog me a thermostat?

0:17 — Jedward: “If fashion is your passion you’ll be shoppin’ til you’re droppin’!” Well, that is at least factually correct; if you’re interested in fashion (which I’m not, in any way shape or form, so that’s yet another way this war crime of a song isn’t meant for me) you will do a lot of shopping. And at least this rhymes, unlike Honey G’s “rhymes” which don’t, at all. This is the best line in this advert so far, although at this point there’s Nazi propaganda I’d rather be listening to so standards are low.

0:22 — “Peacocks got Christmas sorted! All you need to do is the wrapping!”, says a voiceover, which may be Honey G, or it could be someone else who for some reason was willing to put time into this abortion. Sure, Peacocks have got Christmas sorted, in the sense that mass murderers get overpopulation sorted. But if this is Christmas, then why would I want to experience Christmas? If this is Peacocks “sorting” Christmas, then why should I not want to burn down every Peacocks I see? To then follow this quandary up with a weak “w/rapping” pun is both insulting to the viewer and also to the concept of rap. People stopped being able to make Christmas “w/rapping” puns, by law, after The Waitresses released “Christmas Wrapping” in 1981 and completely obviated the need for any more from anyone else ever; the sentence for breaking this law is death by being eaten by rabid dogs, and I will be passing this post to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration as soon as it’s complete.

0:26 — Oh good, Honey’s back, and she is indeed not stopping. “BRRRAP, PEACOCK’S JUST SLAYED IT!” she says, exuding all the warmth and likeability of a breezeblock made up to look like Myra Hindley. Here we have another pun, slay/sleigh — and with also a tacit admission that what Peacocks have “slayed” is the concept of Christmas. Christmas and all of its associated joy, warmth, happiness and love have been slayed — brutally and efficiently. Slaughtered, even, with the mechanical precision of a Bernard Matthew’s turkey — bop on the head with an electric stunner, slit its throat and it’s done. It’s gone now. It’s never coming back. And Peacocks didn’t just do this by accident — they meant to.

0:29 — VO: “Peacocks Christmas — in store and online”. So I can’t avoid it anywhere? Shit. Honey, at the end of this sentence, emits a constipated grunt — even she finds this physically painful, and she’s the hell creature responsible for it. Advert ends, as does everyone’s hope for the future. This is the best part of it.

I found that as I was writing the above, me splitting this out by second with judicious use of the pause button actually dulled the impact, because taking it in three or four second bursts lets you recover from the onslaught of cheap, tacky awfulness delivered by people who somehow come across as less likeable than most spree killers. Taken as one thirty second blob, it’s a continuous stream of increasingly awful people saying increasingly insipid and banal things delivered over what sounds like a broken 808 drum machine falling down the stairs. If you don’t believe me, watch it for yourself, and keep sharp objects out of reach:

When I posted a much shortened version of this rant on Facebook, the first response I got was simply “I want everyone involved in making this dead”. If that was not, in some form, your reaction on witnessing this atrocity, I bluntly don’t think you qualify as human as your brain stem has withered beyond what sapience requires. Anyone who sees Honey G turning round to throw up gang signs — the first of many moments in this thirty second wrongcast which signify matters taking a turn for the worse — and doesn’t feel the same existential horror as if they walked in on their parents having a menage a trois with a 6ft tall scorpion shouldn’t be buying clothes. They should be being spoon fed and monitored round the clock to ensure both their safety from the world and our safety from them. I genuinely feel like a cheapened human being for having seen this — any right thinking person’s mind should try to process it, fail and instead reject it like a transplanted kidney, as a wholesale aberration from normal human thought and decency.

I stand by what I said about this being worse than Littlewoods’ 2011 effort, but it’s worse in a different way. That was horrifying because it took one of the few childlike glories of Christmas — the concept of that non-existent alcoholic gourmand Father Christmas flying around on his sleigh pulled by his cute little reindeer to deliver gifts to the good children — and efficiently dispatched it in favour of the cold, hard logic of consumption on credit. It had a very unsubtle message — that the mother who bought all her family shiny baubles on tick was an amazing mother, with the implicit message that a mother who doesn’t is a bad mother who’s probably been on Jeremy Kyle. It was repulsive on many, many levels, however at the very least it was not repulsive aesthetically — it was well produced and shot, and as much as I may dislike the whole notion of children singing at me with a passion I can at least understand the appeal to some people. Not very clever people, but people.

This is different. This was not appealing in any way shape or form and everyone involved is hateful on an instinctive, primal level. No, it didn’t kill Santa, but it did kill Christmas and took a bit of my soul with it into the bargain. Not only did it emphasise consumption on blingy tacky shit, it did it in the least aesthetically appealing way imaginable — has-been no-talent entertainers, whose entire schtick is that they’re fucking awful, talking unlistenable bollocks over a beat worse than the presets on a kiddie’s Casio keyboard, accompanied by twitching wraiths who appear to long for death. This is Christmas now — a tawdry little festival of shite clothes, hawked at you by people you’d cross the street to avoid. Worst of all is the assumption implicit in the whole enterprise that I, Mr A. Consumer, care about these people, want to hear from these people and will hand over money because these people tell me to. How fucking thick do they think I am? Is this what the British public want? I thought advertising at me with hashtags and emoji was trite and patronising, but Honey G and Jedward? In 2017? Are you serious?

I just don’t understand this — I think my IQ may be too high for it. It wears out its welcome after about five picoseconds (which is the exact length of time it takes for your brain to register Jedward) and then, once it’s finished, the feeling of sensory violation and accompanying loss of whatever innocence remained within you hangs in the air like a fart in a lift. I genuinely don’t comprehend how anyone at Peacocks thought this would be a good idea, on any level, and why nobody stopped them. I don’t understand how someone saw this and green lit it. I don’t understand how someone pitched “Honey G and Jedward” as a concept and wasn’t immediately tarred and feathered. I don’t understand how anyone can like this who doesn’t have a bread roll instead of grey matter. Most of all, when all is said and done, I don’t understand Peacocks. I didn’t understand their purpose before and I still don’t. They fell into the same category as Debenhams for me — a middle-of-the-road but oddly ubiquitous shop for which no unique selling point exists that is not better served by another one, and they’ve rectified that in the worst way possible, switching me from indifference to loathing in the space of thirty seconds. This is how they’ve chosen to present themselves to the world — Honey G and Jedward. My main question with their value proposition has always been “if I want cheap clothes, why would I go there instead of Primark?” and they’ve answered that with “you don’t want to”.

So there. This is the worst Christmas advert I have ever seen. It is repulsive. It is repellent. Everyone involved should be ashamed to the point of ritual suicide. If something somehow surpasses it in tastelessness, annoyance and sheer unbridled unpleasantness I would almost be impressed; I’m not sure how you could without just putting a logo on some animal porn. Well done, Peacocks. Go out of business — soon, please.