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Loved it or underwhelmed? The John Lewis Christmas advert

It’s that time of year again when Christmas adverts start to appear on our screens. With winter truly on its way, big department stores, toy and food companies are all vying for our attention as we start to buy presents and plan for the festive season in the precious six-week run up to Christmas.

Building an emotional connection

With Christmas making an ever-increasing contribution to total annual sales for many companies, each year the pressure is on for the Christmas adverts to build their salience and strengthen the consumer-brand relationship. Building an emotional connection with your brand is the most powerful way to engage with consumers and build that bond – and ultimately encourage consumers to buy from you more. The Christmas adverts have traditionally been a powerful route to achieving this.

Maximising anticipation – a social media campaign

This year is no different; with a great build up and high expectations the John Lewis advert in particular, is greatly anticipated. Everyone was excited to see the new multi-million pound production (which this year was directed by Oscar-winning Michel Gondry) and how it compares to the trampolining Buster the Boxer, the Man on the Moon and Monty the Penguin of previous years. John Lewis cleverly maximised the potential of this anticipation and built excitement further using a mysterious @UnderTheBed2017 Twitter account to share a four second clip of what appeared to be a creature whose eyes can be seen peering out from the dark.

John Lewis Christmas adverts

The John Lewis Christmas adverts are, of course, intrinsically linked to the values and personality of the brand. They work hard to build an emotional connection with consumers through use of a heart felt story we can all relate to (often with a sad element but ending with a happy twist) and often set to the soundtrack of a beautiful cover / re-invention of a classic track sung by a successful current artist. I happily anticipate this familiar format and was excited to take this emotional journey with John Lewis again this year. Like many, before we stumbled across the ad on television, we searched for the ad online to get an early view of their creation.

Moz the Monster

This year the story tells of a Monster, Moz, who lives under a little boy (Joe)’s bed. At first Joe is scared, then annoyed by the snoring of Moz. Then, after Moz farts under the bed, Joe giggles and they become friends. After nights of playing with Moz, Joe becomes tired and struggles with staying awake during the day. Moz realises that he is distracting Joe so places a terribly wrapped present for Joe under the tree. It is a star night lamp. Joe turns this on and as if by magic, Moz has gone. However, when the light is switched off a little groan can be heard and Joe smiles, showing us that Moz is still around to be Joe’s friend whenever he turns off the lamp.

This advert, like many of the previous John Lewis Christmas ads, is clearly hugely successful in building an emotional connection with the brand at Christmas time. It hooks into a real consumer insight, which means that for many it is easy to relate to, and this is key. It also plays a more obvious role for John Lewis. The company have cleverly weaved in many key products, which will no doubt be best sellers this year (the star projector is already out of stock!). They have also created a specific line of products targeted at children who love Moz including a book, pyjamas and slippers – which will bring the John Lewis brand right into children’s stockings.

Divided opinions…

Overall, according to initial feedback from the general public on social media, opinion is divided by the ad. Some ‘felt let down’, ‘disappointed’ and that it’s ‘not Christmassy’. It is interesting to note that many people missed the subtle detail at the end and are furious that Moz has ‘gone’! Many early critics, however, ‘loved it’, ‘cried like a baby’ and said, ‘they’ve killed it again’.

A designer’s point of view (Tatum)…

I personally wasn’t blown away by it. Certainly, it is well filmed and Moz has been well animated – he is a loveable character. It follows the expected formula we know and love for the John Lewis Christmas advert, but I wasn’t left feeling overwhelmingly impressed at the end. However, I wonder if John Lewis are victims of their previous success? Is it because I had such high expectations based on their previous Christmas ad success that it failed to give me the wow factor? Similarly, when I watched La La Land, I was so excited to go into the cinema – it had won so many awards and had such great reviews… however, when I left I was disappointed and wouldn’t watch it again.

A Christmassy marketing campaign

I must say we both disagree with those critics saying, ‘it’s not Christmassy’ – we both think this is very Christmassy. Christmas isn’t all about snow, Santa, over indulging and lots of presents. It’s about spending time with family/friends/anyone that makes you happy, and being able to give without expecting anything in return – which is exactly what this ad is all about. In that sense, the ad is a great success – I wonder how many children will be cuddling up under space duvets in the new year?

Image courtesy of John Lewis.

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