Christmas adverts: Following John Lewis’ tradition

Jo Evans – Senior Design Manager at Spreckley

‘Tis the season for the much anticipated Christmas ads, with the annual offering from John Lewis always high on the Christmas wish list. John Lewis started this trend of wonderfully-crafted Christmas ads a few years ago, which has led the retailer enjoying a 16% increase in festive sales and significantly increasing footfall in its stores by 50% between 2013 and 2015. Realising this, other companies have upped the ad-ante and followed in hot pursuit, yet not every brand can quite boast the same impact or quality. And as each year passes there is an added pressure on companies to appeal to consumer’s expectations.

But what exactly makes a great Christmas ad? They seem to range from a minute and a half to about four minutes, but to be honest, anything longer than three minutes isn’t going to hold my short attention span – I’m off making a cup of tea faster than you can say “Bah humbug”! The story must be intriguing, entertaining and has to encourage me to want to watch till the end – if not, the final message is missed and the whole thing becomes pointless. Ah, the final message! However clever and memorable the ad is, if I can’t remember who it’s for its lost the impact and just becomes “Oh, did you see the ad with the robin? Wasn’t it lovely…can’t recollect who it’s for though…” Yes, Waitrose, I definitely think the final message could have been stronger. The ad itself was great, I loved it and did get a little emotional, but it’s not promoting robins after all. Research by MoneySavingExpert seems to validate the point, as 6% of us say we liked some of the Christmas ads but couldn’t remember who it was from. If this really is the case, then all the advertising budget invested within the commercials seem to go amiss.

John Lewis is fortunate in that its reputation has preceded them. With the increase in content marketing and platform channels like YouTube you’ve already viewed the ad before you see it on TV. It’s splashed across social media and spreads like wildfire. All good publicity for the well-loved brand.

One ad I was quite surprised about was H&M. Even though it was four minutes long, it stars Adrien Brody and is directed by Wes Anderson – a great combination! The last film they did together was The Grand Budapest Hotel and this ad certainly had the same look and feel. Brody is one of my favourite actors and I do have to say, quite gorgeous. It was a lovely story with a heartfelt meaning and featured the clever use of H&M day and night wear. Though the lack of music throughout left me feeling as though I had watched a short film as opposed to an ad, which perhaps indicates the future direction of other Christmas ads. John Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War is over) does play at the end which adds to its “Come together” message. What was good however was the explicit H&M branding, which was there from the start, and despite the lack music to hold it all together, I remembered who it was from.

With the number of ads out there from all the big brands including Sainsbury’s, Apple, and M&S, questions will always be raised on its success. Will brand’s quest for ever increasing creativity outstrip its ability to resonate with audiences and actually make them remember who the ad was by? John Lewis has set a precedent and it will be an all-out battle to see who can earn the hearts of the consumers, and boost sales in return.

Merry Christmas everyone x