John Lewis : The Nation's Brand for Christmas Storytelling
There’s a nip in the Mancunian air at last and with the release of the festive John Lewis advert, it feels like the countdown to the Christmas festivities has begun. For the past nine years, John Lewis’ Christmas advert has become as regular a part of the Christmas season as dry turkey, fights on Albert Square and jazzy Christmas knits from your Nanna. Expectation hangs on the arrival of the advert and it has led to a revival of quality in UK festive adverts, with other brands keen to get a slice of the Christmas pud (so to speak.)
Here at pixel8, we’ve taken a look at the evolution of the John Lewis Christmas advert, from their debut in 2007 with ‘Shadows’ to this year’s ‘Bounce Bounce’, featuring Buster the Boxer and some very excitable UK wildlife, let’s take a Christmas walk through the magic of John Lewis’ storytelling:
‘Shadows’, 2007: ‘Whoever you’re looking out for this Christmas’
Newly appointed Managing Director, Andy Street, grabbed the reindeer’s reigns with the help of advertising giants, Lowe London and put John Lewis on the map with its Yuletide television ad offering. ‘Shadows’ is a product focussed, traditional advert with classical music and children playing. Not exactly a tear-jerker or one to stir emotions, but does the job to reflect the quality of the John Lewis brand. The stark grey backdrop lets the products take centre stage which are cleverly staged to create a silhouette of a little girl riding a sleigh. This was the first step to cementing John Lewis on the Christmas advertising stage.
‘From Me to You’, 2008: ‘If you know the person, you’ll find the present’
The reworked Beatles ‘From me to you’ cover as the soundtrack certainly ups the emotion factor for 2008’s Christmas creation. With the grey background once again, we understand that the advert’s focus is the products themselves, the emotive soundtrack, however, adds to the festive sentimentally which helps us to think about the ones we love and what we should buy them – even for four-legged friends. Cleverly executed by Lowe London again and paved the way for future John Lewis adverts to come.
‘Sweet Child of Mine’, 2009: ‘Remember how Christmas used to feel, give someone that feeling’
Guns ‘n’ Roses is hardly synonymous with Christmastime, but this advert certainly stirred emotions of Christmases gone by and the magic for children in the festive season. This time, Adam + Eve, creative advertising masters, took over from Lowe to switch the focus from products, to the people. A heart-warming story, which had us reaching for the Kleenex. Adam and Eve continue to this day to create the storytelling masterpieces for John Lewis.
‘A Tribute to Givers’, 2010: ‘For those who care about showing they care’
Ellie Goulding's cover of ‘Your Song’ by Elton John, was the tear-enabler of Christmas 2010. A beautiful song (which was a huge success in itself) and heart-meltingly sweet sentiment about the thought that goes into choosing presents for loved ones. We see John Lewis products lovingly wrapped at work, in the library and a mother hiding a mini-kitchen in the loft away from little eyes to find. Almost everyone can relate to this advert and put themselves in the shoes of the characters. From all walks of life, everyone has the same mission at Christmas – to make that special someone happy.
‘The Long Wait’, 2011: ‘For gifts you can’t wait to give’
John Lewis caught ours (and the whole of Twitter's) attention with their Christmas advertisement which reworks The Smiths classic, ‘Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want.’ A lovely story of a little boy, impatient counting down the days until the ‘big day’. In 2011’s ad, the focus is taken away from the John Lewis products (although lots of products are subtly placed in the video) and the viewers are instead told a story. We’re surprised to find out at the end, that it wasn’t the gifts Father Christmas was bringing that the boy was excited about, but the present he was giving to his Mum and Dad. A tear-jerker, if we ever saw one, and shows that there’s still good eggs amongst all our little Yuletide consumerists. Beautifully styled and executed – for many this is the Christmas advert.
‘The Journey’, 2012: ‘Give a little more love this Christmas’
A snowman’s journey and the ‘Power of Love’ was 2012’s Christmas hit. The Christmas advert, called ‘The Journey’, shows the extraordinary lengths some will go to in their search of the perfect gift for the person they love – in this instance a wool scarf and mitten set for Mr Snowman’s Snow Girlfriend. Frankie goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’ is the soundtrack for this, covered and sweetened up with the folky and simplistic soundtrack style that we’ve all become more than familiar with. We relate to Mr Snowman, children love the magic of snowpeople coming to life – an all-round winner and another year of John Lewis cashing in on the nation’s tears.
‘The Bear and the Hare, 2013: ‘‘Give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget’
The Bear and the Hare, our animated friends, were 2013’s advert stars who got the nation cooing at the tale of two best pals wanting to spend Christmas together. This advert attracted more than 10 million YouTube views and had the Twitter world alight with comments on the new advert. A success entirely, and with no product placement, a true example of how brands who hold as much prestige as John Lewis, can instead simply offer us a story and a sentiment, instead of the hard-sell. A brand, clearly, who has won the loyalty of the customer.
‘Monty’s Christmas’, 2014: ‘Give someone the Christmas they’ve been dreaming of’
John Lewis raised their game in 2014 and spent over £1million on the magnificent creation. Meet Monty, the CGI-animated penguin and his best friend, little boy Sam. We love a heart-warming story with a happy ending and Monty’s Christmas ticks all the boxes. A sugary cover of John Lennon’s ‘Real Love’ by Tom Odell, was a not-so-popular song choice but the sentiment of the song reflects well. Monty the Penguin caused a Twitter frenzy, and whether you cried or cringed, it certainly got everyone talking. You could even buy your very own Monty at John Lewis for a mere £95 – well played, John Lewis.
John Lewis' Man on the Moon 2015
Man on the Moon is the 2015 advert from John Lewis, and their Christmas ad saw them team up with Age UK to raise awareness of older generations who may be alone this Christmas. It's a heart-warming advert that undoubtedly had the nation in floods of tears - especially those who have grandparents who live alone. The advert has clearly had a lot of thought go into it, and it's been worked on since February of this year. We think it's most definitely been worth it though now that it has racked more than 19 million views on Youtube alone, and we love the thought of raising awareness for a great cause whilst reflecting the kindness of others.
Isn't that what Christmas is really all about?
John Lewis' Bounce Bounce 2016
Despite being released a little later than expected, John Lewis has managed to hit another home run with their latest Christmas advert. Created by adam&eveDDB, and featuring a boxer dog who's only ambition in life is to bounce, we see him gazing fondly as everyone seems to get a bounce on the trampoline - expect him! There's a humorous, light-hearted element which is certainly what the world needs after a tough year, and the brand has been releasing trailers all week, building suspense and gearing the nation up for the launch. We adore it, and we also love the partnership with The Wildlife Trust, too.
adam&eveDDB have hit the spot with their perfectly executed recipe for the perfect Christmas advert. For John Lewis, this appears to be a sweet cover of a heart-meltingly sad love song, mixed with the spirit of childhood Christmases; giving instead of receiving and animals who we wish were our friends and/or pets. Wash this down with an epic story and a few sprinkles of John Lewis products and you have the Christmas advert that guarantees sales, raises brand awareness and has your marketing team popping the champagne - very nicely done. adam&eveDDB and John Lewis appear to be the perfect partnership. We’re excited to see if any of the other big British brands come close to this.
Did you cringe or cry watching the John Lewis Christmas ads? Did they convince you to go there this Christmas? Have you donated to The Wildlife Trust? Join in our conversation on Twitter, @pixel8ltd, and take a look at what our Facebook fans have to say too.