The 2012 John Lewis Christmas ad has been the subject of much debate, so I’m going to add my two chocolate pennies worth. The 2011 John Lewis Christmas ad is one of my all-time favourites. It ticked all the gift-wrapped boxes – it was beautifully shot, beautifully acted, and it was smart enough to yank on our heartstrings. It had a little story and a nice twist in the pay-off that made us feel all toasty inside. It was like a mini-feelgood-movie. It was the perfect Christmas ad.
So, to follow this up must have been a massive challenge for John Lewis in 2012. They obviously felt they had to build and improve on their previous masterpiece. It doesn't really live up to the huge expectation, does it? Have they been the victims of their own success?
They’ve got a few things right. This year's ad is beautifully shot and art directed. But instead of graciously accepting that the 2011 ad was a good at it was going to get with this theme and taking a different approach, they've gone bigger, tried harder, and it's resulted an over-complicated effort, with a hard-to-follow metaphor. It's the awkward sophomore album – there are some good moments, but after the Grammy-winning debut, we were all hoping for a bit more.
This could also be partially down to my personal distaste for the current trend of turning classic rock tracks into whimsical female-led vocal ballads – but seeing as John Lewis managed to turn this into a positive by using it to raise money for Save The Children, I guess it would be a bit Dickensian to complain too much.
This 2012 ad has attracted such an incredible amount of attention that I can’t imagine it will be seen as anything but a huge win for the store and their agency. But for me, it's simply trying too hard to make us feel a certain way, instead of telling a simple story we can all relate to whether we are young or old, parent or child. That was the genius of the 2011 spot.
Tim Ash is a creative partner at Movement with over 15 years’ experience in digital design and marketing. He’s worked with the likes of Nokia, Panasonic, Levi’s and Xbox, and has won numerous awards promoting the power of integrated communication with mobile at the heart. Tim loves Japanese movies, 80s video-games and reliable babysitters.
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