Why that John Lewis ad was genius
The John Lewis Christmas TV ad came in for some stick as well as praise. I loved it so much I was tempted to rush to the keyboard the hour it was first aired. Today’s announcement of JL’s record-breaking Christmas sales (they got it right, then), gives me the excuse to write a quick note now.
This was an advert hoping to make us spend money at someone’s shop. Any criticism that forgot that entirely missed the point. You might as well complain that a polar bear kills seals or a traffic warden gives out parking tickets: that’s what they’re designed to do, and the way to judge them is to ask how well they do those tasks.
So we had a clever story told well, filmed beautifully and set to almost Schubertian piano playing with Amelia Warner/Slow Moving Millie’s version of a Smiths’ song. What was there not to like? If you were a Smiths’ fan, you should have been celebrating. I was introduced to Bach – entertainingly mangled by Jacques Lousier – by Collett Dickenson Pearce’s Hamlet cigar adverts when I was 12 (if you don’t know them, watch the lot here). Bach has been with me ever since, almost every day.
To pick out just one thing I haven’t seen commented on, I liked the cut from the clock pendulum to the swing, reminiscent of the flying bone cut in 2001, one of my favourite films. But what I most liked about the ad was simply that it understood its customers – you only get ads this good when client and creatives work together well. So let’s celebrate the people who made it, among them Craig Inglis (marketing director, John Lewis), Lloyd Page (head of marketing/brand) and creative agency Adam and Eve.
It didn’t hit you over the head with its products or prices, but soothed you into a world that was made entirely of John Lewis, artefacts barely on screen whose presence really came to life only when you visited a store. It was an ad that could have been designed by Danny Miller, an embodiment of his thesis in The Comfort of Things: we are shaped by the stuff around us, and we use artefacts to create who we are.