John Lewis Christmas Ad
Student/PR

Will John Lewis make it to #1 Christmas ad this year?

Nothing says ‘festive’ like the John Lewis Christmas ad. It’s iconic, has been for years and I kinda’ thought it always would be. #MozTheMonster was a big success for them last year, their pre-release marketing was stunning and the ad itself was so triumphant in capturing the attention, the minds… the hearts of the masses.

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Miss you Moz, you still have my heart

In fact, pretty much all of the John Lewis Christmas ads have had this effect. They’re renowned for being tearjerkers that truly pull on the heartstrings (cause having a mini-breakdown over a toy monster disappearing, or a lonely man on the moon during the break of I’m a Celebrity is an Xmas tradition now, right?).

That’s their USP and it’s always worked for them.


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Why the John Lewis ad was problematic this year…

So this year, I was really looking forward to seeing what they’d pull out the bag. I don’t doubt that the entire latter half of their advertising and marketing team’s efforts are largely spent on the production of this campaign, so you’d certainly expect it to be a showstopper. That’s the pedestal they’ve placed themselves on, they’ve set the bar this high and you’d expect them to stick to it, if not even raise it.

This year, however, I can’t deny that I was wildly disappointed with their efforts. I didn’t even know the 2018 ad had been released until my Mum text me about it. A poor show compared to last year, when their elusive Twitter account had everyone guessing for days.

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They raised speculation before even showcasing their ad, and it worked so well for them as was the pinnacle of everything a perfect marketing campaign should be. So, of course, you can understand (as someone whos incredibly and arguably embarrassingly into festive campaigns) my disappointment when I headed to work earlier completely unbeknowing to the fact that my favourite brand for Christmas advertisement had released their iconic ad with little pre-hype or awareness raised at all. I need to up my game, or John Lewis needs to up theirs…

I know, how can I say the effort wasn’t there this year when they only went and recruited Elton John for their campaign? (Part of me is arguing with myself, okay). I suppose its unfair of me to say that because the ad is brilliant and it does kinda have that John Lewis etiquette to it.

However, despite employing one of the worlds most renowned musicians, and despite showcasing a honestly lovely story, I’m still going to put it out there that this ad wasn’t a patch on its predecessors. If not only for the standard of the advertisement, but for the lack of pre-engagement that made last year’s just so successful. Why was there no build up? They surely know that they hold the world’s most anticipated Christmas offering, so surely with great power comes great responsibility? I just don’t think the care and effort hit the mark this year compared to previous campaigns. Challenge me if I’m wrong, but that’s my opinion.

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I do like it, and it is growing on me – but I just don’t think it compares to some of their other work at all

And let’s talk about the context of the ad too. Because I can’t remember the last time John Lewis released a Christmas campaign without an interactive make-believe element of sorts to it. I’d say the last time was when that young boy was super excited to give his parents their Christmas present. And how long ago was that?

Now I’m not saying don’t be afraid to challenge the norm, in fact, I’m a big advocate of that. Often the greatest campaigns are those that throw in the towel and decide to be utterly daring and creative. However, in the same breath… When you know your USP, and you know the nation is waited with bated breath to see more of it, why would you change that? Call me a child but I’m incredibly disappointed to see no small creatures or make-believe monsters gracing my screens this year. Sorry.

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It’s not that I don’t like it. I guess I just can’t let go of some of their stunning previous efforts

And it was always going to be difficult for John Lewis, too

Not only did John Lewis produce a below-par ad this year, but they also released it at an entirely difficult time too. I literally said days ago that if they were to release it within the next week, I’d rethink that as there’s still a lot of noise surrounding Iceland’s banned Christmas advertisement.

But nevertheless, they didn’t listen (I can’t believe it), and aired it anyway. Maybe that’s in some part why I didn’t hear about the campaign immediately this morning, because people are still talking about other affairs at the moment. Or maybe because it’s simply not so revolutionary this year, who knows.

And not only this, but in recent years the culture of brands jumping on other brands has grown immensely. I remember when I was about 12 years old and I saw an advertisement from Asda saying their prices were cheaper than Tescos and I was shell shocked. I had no idea that kind of behaviour was allowed. But fast forward 9 years and those kinds of attitudes and behaviours saturate the marketing and advertising industry now. As soon as one brand makes a mistake, another is there to call it out. I’ve even seen the likes of Poundland displaying Boots products in their windows, and saying how theirs are cheaper. Brand competition is rife, and is probably in bloom now more than ever – which is why you need something really revolutionary this time of year to cut through the noise. Or, (and this has happened today), brands will undermine you and may even begin to generate more attention with their spoofs and jokes than your original content actually does.

There’s the counterargument of course that brands mimicking your campaigns is still spreading its awareness, and I do agree to an extent. But in the same breath, nobody wants to put their heart and soul into something to have it ripped off by a discount version of yourself, right? They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but it’s also f*cking annoying too.

Anyway, as it always does, the new John Lewis Christmas advert debuted to great excitement, but it has already been the subject of a few cheeky social media digs.

I expected it no matter what John Lewis pulled out of the woodworks, to be honest, but not at all so soon. Remember last year when that group of students created the Moz the Monster advert with a £20 budget or something… It was the same kind of thing, but at least it took them weeks to execute. Poor John Lewis only released their advert this morning, and just hours later you’ve brands left right and centre ripping into them and clawing at the promotion as a desperate shot to promote their own products and services.

Enter Lidl and Pizza Hut, you’re taking the spotlight in my muggy wall of fame.

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Okay Lidl, we know you sell cheap things…

Lidl took a cheap shot at John Lewis and their extortionate prices (truth be told, they are pretty steep – but everyone knows that anyway and they target the right clientele for their costs). I’m in two minds about it, to be honest. Part of me thinks well done to the PR and marketing team, this would’ve taken them an hour to throw together at most – and they’ve generated a great deal of social (and press) attention off the back of it. But another part of me is saying ‘what a cheap shot’ think of your own ideas and let John Lewis be. I can’t decide where I stand with this one at all… I guess I’m just kinda tired of budget brands like Aldi and Lidl creating mock ups of other brand campaigns, it’s been done a number of times and it’s not original. But in the same breath, I did kinda like it and it’s a great example of how it doesn’t take a lot of budget to produce something great and successful.

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Digging at two companies, not even just the one, this isn’t cool at all #SorryNotSorry

And the second is Pizza Hut, who, to be honest, I just find tacky. Truth be told I haven’t even watched the video but I can tell from the thumbnail that they’re trying to recreate the Moz the Monster spin-off from last year. It’s one thing to rip off an ad, but its even worse to rip off the rip off of an ad. Unoriginal and not particularly funny. Not to mention I only saw this tweet cause they quote tweeted it as a reply to Lidl’s, desperate much? Sorry Pizza Hut, I like your brand but I’m not impressed this time. What does any of this have to do with pizza anyway? Return to your own industry, guys.

Anyway – back to the point. John Lewis is always going to have a tough run this time of year. They set the standards extortionately high for Christmas marketing, and that leaves them so susceptible to criticisms and also places them at the forefront of social media digs. They should be prepared for this of course though, that’s what comes with being an industry leader. And that’s why I’m just not too impressed with their efforts this year.

Will it ever be the same again?

Which of course now raises the question – has the flame burned out?

I do like the ad, I really do. I’m a big Elton John fan, I appreciate the story, I think it’s lovely and it does resonate with their audience. My concerns lie in their lack of effort this year, and not to mention that their campaign isn’t really a patch on other years. (Debate me if I’m wrong, in my opinion, this is one of their poorer advertisements when you look at the grander scheme of things – but that’s only because you expect pure brilliance from them year on year). Here’s my problems with this ad, and why I’m questioning whether John Lewis have lost their touch:

  • They’ve seemingly abandoned their USP this year (where’s the magic?).
  • They have reduced their pre-sell-in efforts when they should have been increasing them.
  • The focus is mainly on the fact that they’ve cast a brilliant musician, who is amazing, but at the same time they need to remember that their campaigns capture the hearts of millions. The story isn’t as strong as it has been in the past.
  • Not to mention, they have left themselves wide open for mimicking and ridiculing, and released their campaign at a pretty saturated time Xmas activity.

So is this a sign of things to come? Are they going to give up their title of festive ad leader and pass the torch to somebody else?

I honestly don’t know. I’d certainly hope not – as John Lewis’ ads are something I sincerly look forward to every year. I guess only time will tell. Nevermind eh, only around 365-odd days to go.

What do YOU think?

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PR and lifestyle blogger jessica pardoe

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