Janet McTeer plays Santa's wife in Marks & Spencer's epic Christmas ad. As her husband sets off on his annual gift-giving pilgrimage, she notices that one of the last batch of letters is addressed to her. It's a plea for help from a six year old boy in England who wants her to help him show his big sister that he loves her... despite all the mischief he's caused.
This 180" version won't get too much airplay which is probably just as well... charming though it is, you don't really need to see the story unfold this slowly more than once.
McTeer's Mirrenesque performance (do you think they asked Dame Helen first?) is a perfect blend of warmth and coolness. Her grand-maternal glow is tempered by a clinical efficiency as she completes her mission with the glee of a Yuletide secret service agent.
If social media is any guide, then this campaign has caught the imagination of the British public with a lot of people using Twitter and Facebook to volunteer the view that they prefer this to John Lewis's ad (though even using John Lewis as the benchmark seems to concede they are still the 'daddy' in this particular arena).
It's a triumph for outgoing agency Rainey Kelly but its success must be bittersweet. The problems for Marks & Spencer's non-food offer are deep-rooted and it's naive to imagine they could be solved by advertising alone. The recent announcement revealing a plan to close clothing stores in favour of the hugely successful food operation suggests the retailer is well aware of what the future holds. It's a realism which makes it hard to understand the decision to ditch the agency which created the winning formula on that side of the business.