Why a telescope is at the top of my Christmas list this year

Joanna Newsome – Account Director at Spreckley

The annual event that is the John Lewis Christmas TV ad has happened, and yet again it has broken records on social media. Within two hours of going live, the ad had gathered 23,000 mentions on various networks (versus 2014’s Monty the Penguin at 14,000), and on publication of this blog has clocked almost ten million views on John Lewis’s official YouTube channel.

While I’m not going to talk about how John Lewis has managed to turn a simple medium into one of the major markers of the approaching seasonal period in the UK (with the other quite clearly being the Coca-Cola “the holidays are coming” truck ad – I’m a child of the ‘80s, what can I say), I am going to praise the brand for using that power for the greater good.

The ad features little Lily, a girl who uses a telescope to spot an elderly gentleman living alone on the moon, and decides that she will send up a gift to him (his own telescope) so that they can communicate and he won’t be so lonely any more. While I could get into why this could never happen (how exactly was the man breathing? And how did a helium balloon lift the ten thousand miles to our natural satellite?!), what I felt the ad has done spectacularly well – without patronising – is raise awareness of a growing, ageing population of people in need of human interaction.

According to charity Age UK, one million older people haven’t spoken to a friend, neighbour or family member for at least a month. So in conjunction with Age UK’s “Love Later Life” campaign, the ad is designed to make you think, rather than make you feel guilty. Christmas in the UK is typically cold; it’s certainly lonely if you have nobody to share it with, but it’s also the perfect time to give a little piece of yourself to others. Age UK did a good job of putting out its own PR and digital marketing around its “Call in Time” telephone befriending service in the lead up to the ad’s launch last week without any indication that it would be linked. Channel 4 also interviewed users of the telephone befriending service, which puts an elderly person in contact with a volunteer friend for a “Good Day Call” once a week. While it almost seems as if Generation Y and X take ‘being connected 24/7’ for granted, sometimes even among the stats and surveys claiming that the silver surfer population is growing, it is easy to forget that many of us stay detached and feel torn away from today’s society.

Sure, it is easy to say, “get out, go to the library, or pub, or a knitting-natter group and make friends”: but for many this is a very difficult task. Whether it’s through immobility, anxiety, a loss of family and friends or simply through fear, it’s easier to say it than do it. With a new friend, Christmas 2015 could be one to remember!

We might be in the age of communication, but we can always do more with those skills than furiously text each other about after-work pints, post duck face selfies on Facebook, or create Poot Lovato memes to share on Reddit. Why not pick up the phone or pop round someone’s house, and put a smile on a face that really needs it?

The “Never Knowingly Undersold” brand’s metaphorical tale of friendship across thousands of miles and a few generations may be one of the most talked about media events of the year, but I just hope the message resonates throughout 2016 and beyond.

You can find out more about Age UK and its face-to-face and telephone befriending services at its website, here.