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John Lewis Christmas Marks & Spencer

How does John Lewis’ Christmas ad stack up against its predecessors (and M&S?)


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

November 16, 2016 | 4 min read

It’s almost a week since John Lewis released its much-anticipated Christmas ad – so now that the dust has settled, how does #BustertheBoxer measure up against last year’s Man on the Moon and (more importantly) its biggest rival for shopper spend this festive season, Marks and Spencer?

Buster the Dog

Buster the Dog

Just 24 hours after launch, John Lewis' bouncing dog had attracted three times more YouTube and Facebook views Man on the moon" – 8.8 million views versus 28.5 million.

According to a facial recognition study by RealEyes, which measured people’s reactions as they watched the ads, Buster scored better than 95% of the 5,700 ads the company has in terms of emotional engagement.

The ‘emotional engagement’ metric is a combined measure of how the ad scores on attraction, retention, engagement and impact.

It was also found to be the most compelling of the last six John Lewis ads, the next best being 2011’s ‘The Long Wait’, followed by Monty the Penguin, The Journey, Man on the Moon and finally The Bare & the Hare.

“Initial industry opinion seemed to be that Buster isn’t a ‘rockstar’ edition from John Lewis but consumer’s emotional reaction says otherwise – it’s more engaging than their previous five offerings,” says Mihkel Jaatma, Realeyes’ chief executive explained.

“Its success is very much driven by happiness, a significant departure from last year’s melancholic Man on the Moon which even John Lewis admitted may have been too sad.”

Ahead of Buster’s reveal, John Lewis admitted that it revaluated its signature ‘sadvertising’ creative tactic following the mixed reception on social media to Man on the Moon.

Head of marketing Rachel Swift agreed with commentators that the retailer could elicit an emotion other than melancholy in consumers at Christmas.

Possible analysis

According to digital agency Possible, it’s succeeding in making people feel cheerier this year.

The agency analysed the social media messages sent around the time of the advert’s launch and using natural language processing and thematic categorisation it was able to extract aspects of individual emotions expressed in each message.

Of the eight different emotions it looked at, the overriding feeling towards Man on the Moon was sadness (28%) but that changed with Buster the Boxer where the majority of people (24%) felt joy.

Marks and Spencer

While it might be performing better compared to John Lewis’ previous ads, Buster the Boxer is not the favourite Christmas offering among the retailer’s key demographic during the shopping season – mums.

The annual poll from parenting site found over a third more mums rated the ad as their favourite than previous winner John Lewis, with 37% to 24% preferring M&S.

The survey also found that M&S’ Mrs Claus will be more effective at convincing mums to shop there. Around 40% of mums said they are more likely to shop with the store as a result of seeing the commercial. Compared with just 22% that claimed they would switch to John Lewis.

“It’s no mean feat to knock John Lewis off the top of the Christmas tree but M&S have done it spectacularly,” said Siobhan Freegard, founder of

“The new ad is being billed as the perfect Christmas commercial and many mums agree. Not only is it visually stunning, it tugs on the heartstrings, reminds families of what Christmas is all about and also encourages you to take a fresh look at what’s on the shelves in the store.”

John Lewis Christmas Marks & Spencer

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