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Cracker or humbug? UK retailers unleash Xmas ads

The second we take off our Halloween masks, U.K. retailers bombard the screens with their latest blockbuster mega-budget Christmas ads. But can retailers rely on pulling our heartstrings to generate much-needed sales?

With retail sales in Britain expected to reach £36.5 billion ($57 billion) this December, according to Mintel, businesses hope to impress with their marketing campaigns, while supermarkets aim to win back consumer trust.

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The joys of giving and sharing dominates ads this year. Budget supermarket Aldi shows how people worldwide join in with the Christmas dinner spirit, whilst Marks and Spencer's employs fairies to spread magic, and Tesco's gives the gift of light to U.K. families.

John Lewis spent £1 million ($1.56 million) to create their advert, as part of their £7 million Christmas campaign, which featured a boy giving his toy penguin, Monty the gift of friendship, by introducing Monty to a furry female friend, Mabel.

Mintel's senior trends consultant, Richard Cope, told CNBC in an email that "ads are getting longer, bigger, more expensive, with wider social media campaigns".

"Messages" about "inclusiveness and belonging" is a key technique in attracting consumers, alongside having "some realism amongst the fantasy and escapism", he added.

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Holiday presents, christmas gifts
Microzoa | Getty Images

Bah Humbug?

One of the more controversial campaigns this year is Sainsbury's Christmas message, which is a cinematic commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I, exhibiting the Christmas truce that took place between British and German soldiers in 1914.

However, U.K. watchdog the Advertising Standards Agency has received 240 complaints in the first two days of its release. Although, the advert seems to have worked.

Sainsbury's £1 chocolate bars, released as part of the campaign with some of the proceeds going to veterans' charities, are being sold at a rate of 5,000 per hour, according to the retailer.

British retailers will also have to compete with international competitors, as Coca Cola target families to deliver Christmas joy.

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Richard Cope defined U.K. Christmas adverts as having "become box office and the seasonal campaigns akin to a blockbuster war" when it comes to their importance during the holiday season.

However, retailers expecting to surge in sales should look towards their online presence, as reports worldwide suggest a fall in store-bought purchases and an escalation in online sales.

Jan Kniffen, CEO of J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises spoke to CNBC earlier this month, saying that "if you're not playing well online, you're not going to play very well at all."

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