The rise and fall of the John Lewis Christmas advert

Ooooh, controversial.

I’m fully aware many people love the John Lewis Christmas adverts, for some reason John Lewis get a free pass really to do anything for some people while others get nothing the same.

John Lewis are about to feel the inevitable rise and fall backlash though, where they started with everyone loving the heart-rending nature, the sweetness and the great Christmassy feel. As everyone knows though, this country is very good at pushing things and people above their station only to revel in the longer fall to the ground. John Lewis are on an inevitable track to the ground now and last year and this year simply demonstrate a company trying way too hard.

Let’s start with when this all started, back to 2011.

When this advert first appeared, it was a genuine standard bearer of premium Christmas adverts. It still stands well today. And this is the first problem for John Lewis, they’re always looking to top it. I do enjoy the parodies of this too, the fact that the present at the end is the sister’s head in a box. It’s dark, but it always makes me laugh. Just where is the sister at the end? The music in this advert is also really good, a really good choice which is another problem for them.

So, for 2012, they switched theme. This was an intelligent move and worked well.

This is a really good advert, before everyone was getting irritated by twee-ness and the sickly sweet nature of it all. The music is again brilliant chosen.

2013 then and another very different scene.

The music this time though is vaguely irritating. And suddenly it looks like the advert is genuinely trying to pull heart strings and I’m feeling cynical about it all. I don’t like this advert and this was the start of the fall after the previous year’s peak.

Incidentally, this advert is blocked on the official John Lewis Youtube page due to copyright, presumably because of the music. Well played the lawyers as usual.

On to 2014 now, and a massive return to form…

Until I started writing this, I’d actually forgotten this advert, but wow it’s literally brilliant. It pulls all of the right heart strings, the music is perfect and it’s absolutely the perfect embodiment of capitalism…they must have sold hundreds of thousands of those penguins!

Check it out though, it’s basically an advert by committee:

“What worked in 2011?”
“A cute kid…let’s do that again”
“What about 2012?”
“The love story of two unlikely things…ok, we have this penguin we’re selling, let’s do that as a love story.”.
“Can we have some slow, romantic music?”
“Of course”

Voila, you have your advert.

That might seem really cynical, but I’m almost certain it’s true. It’s also not really a criticism as the advert is really good. You can see what’s starting to happen though, they’re now trying hard to capture the 2011 and 2012 formulas.

Onto 2015, and this awful advert where the committee make all sorts of errors:

Cute kid, tick. Slow music, tick.

John Lewis’s problem here is they tried to make this a cause. Now, look, I get it, older people need be thought about, looked after and the cause is noble. So noble, in fact, why not buy them a telescope as a gift.

This could really, and should really, have been done anytime of the year and just doesn’t feel very much like a Christmas advert.

And now, this year.

Well, I’m not having it.

Go back to Monty the Penguin…there is an animal on a trampoline bit there too. Wait, the committee has done it again…

Music, tick.
Cute kid, tick.
Cute animals, tick.
Animal on a trampoline, tick.

But this time, it just doesn’t make sense. What are they selling here, the trampoline? They’re actually selling the brand, but the music is grating this year, the advert isn’t very Christmassy, the story doesn’t really make sense.

Trying too hard basically. They’ve tried for a bit of humour and it’s seriously jarring.

Next October I’m going to do a bingo sheet for the John Lewis advert. I can guarantee a full house.

I just wish they’d go back to being really Christmassy and try to focus on either romance or comedy, and not try to hit every note. This year is a bit of a fail, and that’s two years running (or three of the last four years, which is even worse).

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