With the arrival of the new John Lewis ad, Arch Creative Executive Joe Briggs was on BBC Radio Leicester chatting to Ben “Jackson-In-The-Morning” about Christmas ads and their impact.
Every year, in the first few weeks of November, Christmas begins. Since 2007, typically on the first or second Friday, it’s marked by what has become a genuine British tradition: the revelation of the new John Lewis ad. In early November, we were contacted by the team at BBC Radio Leicester to come into the studio and talk to Ben Jackson about this advertising phenomenon.
To listen to Joe’s full interview – click here.
Off the back of our successful radio debut, we’ve compiled some of our research into this history of the John Lewis Christmas advert! (Plus the real reason you’re here – to find out about the Arch Christmas video!)
The first John Lewis ad in the modern era of high production value Christmas advertisements was Shadows – released ten years ago. It depicted a bunch of people piling John Lewis gifts in front of a bright light to create an image in the shadow projected on the wall. The image in the shadow was a lady walking her dog and peering into the distance. The strapline finishes the ad: “Whoever you’re looking for.”
A relatively innocuous ad – Shadows had a fraction of the impact that modern John Lewis ads have – but it was the first ad of this modern era and laid out a partial blueprint for all of the ads to come. The start of Shadows features a young boy moving into shot with a lamp – which immediately conjures up the Pixar lamp. This instant association with a nostalgic, emotionally charged brand sets the tone for the vast majority of future John Lewis ads.
2008’s From Me To You featured the first of the now-classic Christmas covers. Typically, these songs are from the 60s, 70s or 80s (to play into the nostalgia factor again) and are almost invariably slowed down, accompanied by plinking piano notes and sung in breathy, minimalistic tones by someone like Lily Allen.
These tracks are merchandising powerhouses in themselves – 2012 ad The Journey featured a cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s The Power of Love by Gabrielle Aplin, the first John Lewis single to reach number one in the UK charts.
The first TV ad was aired during Gogglebox on Nov 7th with the second airing during the X Factor on the following day – two shows with gigantic viewerships that attract massive social media engagement. John Lewis stores featured Monty’s Dens which included 3D experiences. Monty’s hardback book sold 25,000 copies, and 48,000 Monty and Mabel (the penguin’s love interest) soft toys were sold in stores across the UK. The campaign was a truly integrated one, and outperformed all of its competitors that year.
This year’s ad – Moz The Monster – has a similarly buyable character at its centre in the shape of the titular Moz. The ad, released at 8AM GMT on 10th November, saw over 34,000 Facebook shares in its first hour, and was sitting at 11,000 retweets four hours in. After four hours on Youtube, the video had been viewed just under 378,000 times. The ad has divided fans with a main criticism coming from the fact the ad isn’t Christmassy enough – but hey, it features another Beatles cover, this time by Elbow, so we’re happy at Arch.
After all this research, we think we’ve come up with a magic formula for Christmas Ads. We’re basing this on John Lewis ads, so really it’s the formula for the perfect John Lewis spot, but they’re the “original” and the focus of this post, so we’re sticking to what we know.
Christmas ads boil down to the following – a list of seven magical points that’ll have customers buying and viewers crying. In a good way:
There you have it – rinse and repeat and you’ll be on your way to creating your very own Christmas spot!
Anyway, that’s enough about John Lewis. We know what you’re all here for really – and that’s news of the Arch Creative Christmas video! After the success of our videos for the last two years, we’re at it again and are hard at work in the pre-production stage. The content of the video is a closely guarded secret, but we’ll give you a little hint of what to expect:
We recently received a Request For Proposal from a certain Christmas related person to give him an Arch Creative rebrand. Sleighs and Reindeer just don’t cut it anymore…
We’ve already said too much! Keep your eyes peeled for the Arch Christmas video, which will be out in December.