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Emotional Engagement Ad Analysis: John Lewis 2011 Christmas ad 'The Long Wait' beats 'The Hare and the Bear'

The most effective of advertising is the one that illicits an emotional response and engages the viewer on a personal level. By monitoring people's faces for reaction while watching an ad, Mihkel Jäätma, CEO of Realeyes, was able to analyse the reaction to this year's Christmas advertising campaign for John Lewis. He offers his insight as to what response it aims to generate and just how successful it is in doing so.

John Lewis's Christmas effort is now well established as the 'daddy', and the clamour ahead of this year's unveiling has been quite remarkable. Is it worth all the fuss? Of course it is. Like last year, there's a notable absence of humans in the ad and this proves a wise choice as it allows an unremitting level of sentimentality.

Agency: adam&eveDDB

The ad, as with previous years, aims to build emotional engagement around John Lewis’ Christmas message. Ads that continually build engagement all the way through to the end, which is difficult, tend to succeed as they have a high emotional impact - which is certainly the case with this year’s offering.

However, according to Realeyes’ emotion measurement analysis using Cint, a provider of panels/technology for obtaining market insight, it was less emotionally engaging than both 2011 and 2012; the upward trend in engagement was less steep and the happiness level at the end was lower. The peak engagement level in 2011 was over 40 per cent higher than this year. The particularly strong emotional performance of 2011's 'The Long Wait' means John Lewis' Christmas ad has become something of an 'event' but the two sequels have both failed to reach the gold standard it set.

The 2013 version's relatively weaker performance is probably down to a combination of the final ‘reveal’ being less strong, the ad being less relatable to human situations and also being a third longer. The ad could be shorter yet still deliver the same impact.

The two key peaks in emotional engagement are when the hare leaves the present outside the bear’s cave and when the present is revealed to be an alarm clock. There is a further mini peak as the tagline is revealed a few seconds before the John Lewis name appears. Male happiness levels peaked after the alarm clock ‘reveal’ during the tagline appearing whilst women’s peaked before this as the bear joins the celebrations.

Not surprisingly, using animals displaying emotions meant women found the ad far more engaging than men. Female emotions mirrored the peaks and troughs of happiness/sadness whilst male happiness and engagement levels actually rose during the main sad scenes depicting the bear’s lonely life.

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