Top 10 John Lewis Christmas ads
John Lewis produce the most eagerly-awaited Christmas adverts. John Lewis own the yuletide ad breaks! But, which of their legendary ads are best?
Coca-Cola used to wear the sparkly, fur-lined Christmas crown with their immortal ‘Holidays are Coming‘ ad, featuring the vehicle that everyone always associates with Santa: the 18-wheeler truck.
But, then, John Lewis overtook them. How did it happen?
London-based agency Adam & Eve/DDB have had the account since 2009, and have been responsible for a real advertising arms race; as other retailers – notably the supermarkets – have been rolling-out the big guns to compete.
Typically, a John Lewis Christmas ad runs long, involves movie-level special effects, and involves children and animals. Importantly, the story-telling and creation of sentiment is more important than promoting any particular products. These ads sell John Lewis as the enduring spirit of Christmas, rather than as a place that sells stuff.
This year – after weeks of quivering anticipation – they unveiled their new ‘lovable friend’, Excitable Edgar:
This new ad needed to unite John Lewis with their new business partner, Waitrose, and manages to also unite the spirits of both Game of Thrones (for those who are missing their dragon fix) and the magical setting of Harry Potter, with the air of a Christmas-time fairy tale.
So, how does Excitable Edgar rank in the top ten John Lewis Christmas ads? Here’s our considered chart run-down of ten years at the top of the (Christmas) tree:
#10: 2010 – Your Song
This ad featured the first pop-star-singing-a-stripped-back-version-of-someone-else’s-song of the campaign; in this case, Ellie Goulding, giving us her version of the Elton John classic. Hm, we might come back to that. By far the least ambitious of the ads, it leaves one with the overwhelming feeling that the best present they could give that dog, would be to let it in from the snow.
#9: 2014 – Real Love
There was no way this was going to match-up to the success of the previous year’s The Bear and The Hare. It did show the campaign’s first use of movie-standard CGI. It evokes the feel of Winnie the Pooh, or Paddington, with its child protagonist and his cute animal friend, but the photo-real imagery does leave you with a slightly uncomfortable feeling. After all, a penguin’s for life, not just for Christmas.
#8: 2011 – Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want
A stripped-back cover of a Smiths song seems like an odd choice for a traditional Christmas. Morrissey probably won’t be having turkey and bacon-wrapped sausages for his Chrimbo dinner. Never-the-less, this ad focused on the importance of giving, rather than receiving, from a kid’s perspective, and really set in stone the template for the more successful ads to come.
#7: 2016 – One Day I’ll Fly Away
Returning to the kid with their animal friend motif, this ad takes it one step further and sees Christmas from the point-of-view of the animal itself, in this case Buster the Boxer who loves to bounce. Instead of just going for the ‘awwww’ response, this ad reaches the height of genuine humour.
#6: 2018: Your Song
If these ads are meant to create a sense of nostalgia, this one certainly does, since they’ve used Elton John’s Your Song before. This time, it was done with Reg’s full participation and, despite the highest production values yet seen – with several actors wearing complicated prosthetics to make them look like Elton at varying stages in his career – the ultimate effect is to make this ad, essentially, a trailer for the Rocketman movie, which came out a few months later.
#5: 2015 – Half the World Away
It was an audacious move, to select a song which most people knew to be the theme of the TV show The Royle Family. But, that added an extra layer of feel-good to this stripped-back version. The ad was so popular that Aldi’s agency McCann Manchester created a parody Man On The Moon ad, which they managed to get on air just a week later.
#4: 2019 – Can’t Fight This Feeling
Here it is – the newest entry in our chart. Pouring many of the usual ingredients into the mix – a child and her magical friend, state-of-the-art special effects, a story with a beginning, middle and end, plus lots of merchandising potential. Excitable Edgar already has his own hashtag! Will this light a fire under John Lewis’ Christmas sales? Only time will tell.
#3: 2013 – Somewhere Only We Know
This one really grabbed the public’s imagination. Lily Allen’s plaintive rendering of the relatively-recent Keane song flew to the top of the charts. This ‘making of’ video also stressed how the film uses traditional Disney-style animation techniques, rather than relying on CGI. Certainly the spirit of Christmasses past.
#2: 2017 – Golden Slumbers
Another kid, another imaginary friend. This time, John Lewis recognised the wonder of merchandising, by producing a range of Moz the Monster goodies. And, getting Elbow music on your ad: instant class!
#1: 2012 – The Power of Love
This was the ad where the magic happened. It’s still not been bettered. Taking an established Christmas classic – Frankie’s The Power of Love – and evoking childhood memories of the film The Snowman – this ad told a story, gave everyone the Christmas feels, and created a template which is still serving John Lewis well today: Christmas is about magic!