Let Us Know What You Think of John Lewis's 2014 Christmas Ad & Content?

It’s that time of year where brands are publishing months of planning and creative effort as they up their efforts to associate their brand festive trading period. Last year John Lewis’s The Bear & The Hare stole the show with their emotionally connective piece blending excellent and authentic artwork, brilliant accompanying music and a heart-warming story. Alexander Gunz suggests that the John Lewis ads:

“… invite us to disengage our critical faculties, and plunge ourselves into the world of the narrative. There, we swallow things whole that we would never normally accept: magic-flinging wizards, impossible technologies, and small animals who gift wrap presents for their predators. Once we are caught up into these imaginary worlds, we absorb ideas and emotions from them that we would normally filter out as untrue.”

Now there will be somewhere that comment will resonate however; personally, this is extremely ‘fluffy’ and the more realistic impact is that people warm to a  clear and meaningful storyline, simple creative concept and packed with seasonality. The result is a heart-warming almost ‘cute’ appreciation at Christmas. Coca Cola’s long standing ‘Holidays are Coming’ concept has been leveraging these principles for years and still continue to drive engagement and association to Christmas itself which is generally the holy Grail for brands at Christmas.

What Did John Lewis Learn From The Bear & The Hare 2013?

In 2013 John Lewis gave use the heart-warming tale titled The Bear & The Hare. From the opening frame of the 2 minute + online video ‘Christmas’ is mentioned in the copy and it’s not long before the Autumn cartoon scene drops its first snow flake. In fact its 15 seconds before we see the first snow flake and the music from Lilly Allan begins to enthuse the audience with Christmas good will and curiosity. Before the audience knows it they are 30 seconds into their online video and we see a glimpse of a snow covered landscape and other cute woodland creatures decorating their Christmas tree. The unmoved bear then goes ahead with the winter ritual of hibernating, however, the hare wants to show the bear the spirit of Christmas by dropping a gift off to his cave. As with all stories there is a happy ending and as the woodland creatures gather to celebrate Christmas. The sun shines on the hill top and there, standing in admiration and Christmas splendour  is a joyous bear. At this point it all sounds stereotypical, however the magic of this ad is the gift the Hare gave the Bear. A meaningful alarm clock that will forever bring Christmas to the bear. The thoughtful nature of the present shows attention to detail, quality and thoughtfulness. All of which are messages John Lewis wanted to associate with their brand.

Whilst this demonstration of goodwill is an age old branding mechanic, the Watership Down style art work combined with excellent choice in music and Christmas images present in most of the video allowed all ages to associate and warm to the advert and its story.

 

What have we learnt from Monty The Penguin in 2014?

The story shows a boy in a non-cartoon format having a fun, but lonely relationship with an imaginary penguin. It takes 45 seconds of the 2:10 minute video to show the audience the first reference to Christmas. Like The Bear and The Hare, there is a Christmas tree and when it is shown the audience is being decorated. However, rather than cute woodland animals; this year’s ad features the boy and his parents with Monty dragging over more decorations. But at this stage there is a huge difference in this year’s John Lewis ad. So far the audience is not inspired by heart-warming images or Christmas scenery. Also, the music selection seems more depressing than complimenting the creative itself. Along with this, during the putting up of the tree you don’t see so much as a face of the parents, let alone a heart-warming smile.

The story moves on to the boy sitting in a dark bedroom creating his hand made Christmas card featuring the penguin. At this point the creative has shown the emotionless penguin over a few scenes and its only until he sees a romantic black and white scene of a couple walking in a snow filled park that the character begins to have any sort of personality. Then, whilst the boy and the penguin take a bus ride, they see and old couple kissing on a bench. It appears that these moments of unfulfillment spark a reaction from the child that the penguin needs a soul partner in order to be complete. The next scene shows the excited boy hurrying the penguin down stairs to open a gift and standing there is a female (can only presume) penguin.  The boy is now sitting by the tree playing with both toy penguins and the copy “Give Someone the Christmas they’ve been dreaming of” appears.

Summary

Overall, this year’s Monty the Penguin delivers an emotive story but not so much of the Christmas joy versus last year’s creative. For me, the essence of the Monty ad provides sympathy rather than Christmas spirt and it’s not surprising given there isn’t so much as a smile or scene with a completed Christmas tree. Unlike the 2013 Bear and The Hare story, I don’t think this year’s Monty the Penguin creative will touch as many people in the same way, and that’s already clear with the number of on the fence news and blog articles. The Metros’ take on the debate titled John Lewis’s 2014 Christmas advert Monty the Penguin beats Bear and the Hare showcases a split opinion with 51% preferring the 2014 creative.

I casted my vote in the Metro’s article and whilst the 2014 creative is emotive, it’s too dark and doesn’t install the festive feel good moment I had seeing the 2013 creative for the first time. Yes, the ad will be recognisable, naturally it will touch some people due to the £7million advertising budget but will there be the same Christmas centred digital buzz that was expressed by millions across social media. The key term here is the Christmas centred buzz rather than a more sympathetic tone. Whilst it’s clear that the ad has great reach its because of the excellent art work and CGI of the penguins, efforts in partnerships and awareness (most brands and charities are jumping on this) and it’s impossible to not love penguins no matter how miserable they seem. Take a look at some of these Tweets which bring to life that sympathetic buzz to life, rather than the anticipation for Christmas and Christmas joy in 2013. In summary, the principles of giving and the power of Christmas is evident but is this year’s creative going to move people in the same Christmassy direction compared to The Bear and The Hare, I’m afraid not.