'Tis the season

06 Nov 2015|Cultural Insight Team

The season of the Christmas advert is upon us. The release of the John Lewis advert is always a major Christmas event, and this year we were eager to see how they’d follow up from last year’s Monty the Penguin. In the context of the other big brands’ adverts, we found the high street giant’s latest offering too predictably sentimental.

Retailers such as Waitrose and Asda have embraced a more recognisable approach to the festive season. We’ve seen a rise in the trend for depicting reality, and these brands manage to bring to life the moments of Christmas we all know – from writing to Santa, greeting grown up kids back into the fold, misjudging the size of the Christmas tree, setting the Christmas pudding alight, and then falling asleep in front of the TV. They show those entirely familiar moments, whilst maintaining a sense of the aspirational. Their joyfully down-to-earth approach makes John Lewis’s advert look a little mawkish and otherworldly.

Although characteristically beautiful, and set to a hauntingly breathy cover of Oasis’s Half the World Away, John Lewis hasn’t created a world that feels relatable enough. Interestingly, the chosen song instantly takes many people to the everyday reality of The Royle Family – a very different depiction of family life to this cosmic experience. Perhaps John Lewis could have brought together their celestial story with something a little more down-to-earth. It would’ve been lovely to have seen the story culminating with the arrival of Lily’s grandpa to the family home on Christmas day. For us to have discovered that the Man on the Moon story was part of a real and playful game.

The brand’s partnership with Age UK, although a moving and positive action, is not given a clear role in the advert. There is no evident call to action. This could leave viewers feeling a little emotionally manipulated, rather than motivated to do something.

As the latest in a string of overtly sentimental adverts, it feels as though John Lewis needs to try something new. As other brands embrace the glorious reality of Christmas, we’d like to have seen something a little more resonant, and a little less out of this world.

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