Every keen creative knows it’s never too early to start talking about Christmas, and what better place to start than the Father Christmas of festive marketing campaigns: the John Lewis Christmas advert. So settle in, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and hold on for deer-life as we walk you through John Lewis Christmas ads past and future.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (advert season)
John Lewis’ first advertisement came out in 2007. Shot in just one take, the 60-second clip features a team of people creating a shadow scene (revealed at the end to be a woman and her dog) out of various household objects. There’s also a CGI robin, which undoubtedly helped to justify the company’s six million pound budget, their biggest seasonal ad spend up to that point. ‘Shadows’ isn’t the best advert we’ve ever seen, but the cultural significance of its creation, and the shockwaves it sent through the industry, register it as the fons et origo of Christmas ads as we know and love them today.
Highlights over the years
2009 – Sweet Child O’ Mine
2009 was a hallmark year for John Lewis Christmas ads, as it was the first created by advertising agency Adam & Eve, now adam&eveDDB, who have produced all of the John Lewis adverts since then. That’s why, if you watch ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, you’ll be left with that same familiar twang of emotion that’s become synonyms with John Lewis Christmas ads over the years. Featuring children unwrapping gifts for grown-ups (a coffee machine, laptops, etc.), with the tagline “Remember how Christmas used to feel? Give someone that feeling.”, adam&eveDDB nailed the formula first time.
2013 – The Bear And The Hare
Each year, as the new John Lewis Christmas ad comes out, it’s always compared to ‘The Bear And The Hare’, and for good reason. Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, accompanied by a stupidly moving animated story showing a rabbit’s friendship with a bear, is a punch to even the coldest of hearts. Hailed by Unruly as “The Most Effective John Lewis Christmas Ad Of All Time”, an unsurprising 48% of viewers had an “intense emotional reaction to the content”.
2018 – The Boy And The Piano
It’s incredible to think that a decade on from ‘Shadows’, the John Lewis Christmas advert had evolved to star one of the most famous icons in music, Elton John. Interestingly, you may also assume that their budget had evolved too, but that’s where you’d be wrong. Despite claims Elton took home a whopping £5 million, this was discredited. Furthermore, a spokesperson from the marketing team, when asked about how much the ad cost, added: “‘we don’t give out a number but in previous years it has been spoken about as being £7million and it is the same territory this year. But the vast majority of that is on media spend, and then it also includes production of the ad, our ad windows, everything – it’s the whole package”. So while it’s not confirmed specifically for 2018, we can assume the ad only cost around a million more than it did to create a decade earlier. On brand, on budget – what we like to see.
Predictions for the 2022 John Lewis Christmas Advert
Each year, the anticipation for the John Lewis Christmas ad grows a little bit stronger, and with last year’s ‘Unexpected Guest’ advert coming out on the 4th November 2021, it’s not long to wait. Many people, from marketers to punters alike, have begun to speculate what this year’s theme could be.
One of the most popular frontrunners is a commemorative advert following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, with others suggesting the love story of two people meeting in The Queue ‘has John Lewis Christmas advert written all over it’. As for us here at Wonderhatch? We’ve got a couple of ideas. Alice Constance, our in-house re-toucher, suggested John Lewis may go down the route of incorporating Paddington following the success of the Jubilee video released by the Royal Family earlier this year. Marc Webbon, Wonderhatch’s co-founder and head of Sales, proposed that the retailer may choose to include a story featuring Ukrainian refugees as a comment on how the nation has welcome them iinto our homes this year. Tilly Redshaw, marketing consultant, thought there may be an energy-crisis angle, as huddling around the fire has taken on a whole new meaning.
Whatever the angle, whatever the message, the team at adam&eveDDB and John Lewis have some big decisions to make. With such a huge audience (‘The Hare & The Bear’ has over 45 million views), we’re excited to see how the retailer uses their platform in 2022.
The Wonderhatch Team’s Favourite John Lewis Ads
Monty the Penguin
Click here to watch
“From the get-go, I’m hooked. Little boy with a penguin for a friend? It’s eye-rollingly cute. But in true John Lewis style, they’ve only gone and made the penguin lonely. Queue a montage of elderly couples laughing together, as a sad little penguin looks on, wishing he had a little penguin wife of his own. After a swell of Tom O’Dell’s cover of ‘Real Love’, we see the little boy has got his penguin a girlfriend for Christmas (it’s much less creepy than it reads). The final nail in the emotional coffin? The penguin is actually the boy’s stuffed toy, and we see him sat by the tree, an immaculate new penguin and a well-loved old penguin in hand. Total waterworks.”
Man on the Moon
Click here to watch
“A lonely old man given the gift of company. Partnered with Age UK, the tagline ‘show someone they’re loved this Christmas’ had us all ringing our grannies before the ad had even ended!”
But wait…there’s myrrh
Here at Wonderhatch, we’re no stranger to creating festive content. Whether it’s capturing Yuletide decorations at The Savoy, or Christmassy consumer shoots, our team are experts at capturing inspiring content that works. If you’re looking for something merry and bright to elevate your offering this winter, send us an email to email@example.com or fill in our contact form here.