In a first for the two '& Partners' brands, John Lewis and Waitrose have combined their festive creative efforts and released a joint Christmas ad, opting for a fairytale spot that – true to form – features a loveable mascot in Edgar the excitable dragon.
The heartwarming story of a little girl, Ava, and her friendship with an excitable young dragon opens 'far, far, away' in a quaint, snow-engulfed town as it prepares for Christmas.
Edgar – a toddler-sized, winged and unequally horned dragon – struggles to control his flame breathing. And while he loves Christmas, unfortunately for the town, his over-eagerness often gets the better of him.
Every time he and Ava try to get involved in seasonal activities, there are unexpected consequences. As kids are seen making a snowman, Edgar plods over quickly to help, but when he gets too excited, he lets out a burst of fire, and the snowman promptly melts.
The duo also try to ice-skate, but the activity is brought to a standstill when the dragon dissolves the ice.
As a result, the town starts to shun Edgar. Ava tries all she can to help him control his fire breathing, tying a scarf around his nose to prevent him from letting off flames at the annual dressing of the village.
This ends in disaster when fire shoots out his ears, and very quickly there is nothing left of the display or trees other than cindered pine needles.
Dismayed, and worried he will ruin the Christmas festivities even further, Edgar locks himself away from the villagers in his home.
But Ava comes up a way to show Edgar how much she cares about him – presenting him with the perfect gift of a Christmas pudding. Later that evening, as the villagers tuck into their Waitrose spread, Edgar arrives, much to their shock.
Hiding under the table, they watch as the dragon puts his flame to good use – by lighting the festive dessert.
A humourous tearjerker
Set in a town far, far away, the CGI dragon, fairytale setting and witty tone of the ad conjure up a picture of what the film Shrek could have been if Lord Farquaad shopped at Waitrose. The world was created by John Lewis' longterm agency, Adam&Eve/DDB, while Dougal Wilson directed the film.
Craig Inglis, partner and customer director at John Lewis & Partners, admitted they didn't set out to feature a dragon nor a fairytale setting in the annual Christmas film.
"We reviewed 30 or 40 scripts in total, but Edgar was a unanimous decision because it brought together the tearjerker, gifting element of John Lewis with the humorous tone of Waitrose, which is about hosting," Inglis said.
"Dragons obviously come in different shapes and sizes - they can be scary and menacing. Edgar is meant to a toddler version of a dragon. Even his horns are still growing."
This is the second time John Lewis and Waitrose have launched a joint brand campaign since the brands became John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners following a rebrand.
To mark the rebrand, the two '& Partners' brands released a film that showed a group of cute primary school kids putting on a special performance of Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen for their parents.
Despite this, John Lewis and Waitrose chose not to team up for a Christmas campaign last year, because the marketing teams believed each brand had a different seasonal story to tell.
Now, after more than a year united by name, the brands felt they were in the right place to unify creatively.
"We were really conscious of keeping the DNA of both Waitrose and John Lewis, to ensure we kept both our handwriting," said Inglis. "In the ad, it even came down to the song choice and who sang it."
He explained how John Lewis Christmas ads typically feature female-sung, emotional tracks, while Waitrose ads usually go for more upbeat songs. Together, they selected Dan Smith from Bastille as this year's artist, who recorded his own version of 'Can’t Fight This Feeling’ by REO Speedwagon.
Firing up social
"A lot of our engagement comes from social, with people watching [the ad] on their phones on the way to work," Inglis, continued. "So most of our channels for the launch are digital to begin with."
Adam&Eve/DDB has created a Snapchat filter, which users can download to give themselves an Edgar-style makeover. Meanwhile, a bespoke Edgar emoji will be available on Twitter until 25 December.
After a big push on social this week, the ad will launch on ITV this weekend during X Factor and I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Media planning and buying for the campaign has been executed by Manning Gottlieb OMD.
Martin George, partner and customer director, Waitrose & Partners admits that at the end of the day, "TV is our best performing channel - it has played an important role over the years".
"We picked the right programmes for the family viewing moment, where everyone is sat down together, which is obviously how our customers watch it," said George.
As part of this, the two '& Partners' brands have teamed up with ITV. A media first, a series of bespoke animations featuring Edgar will appear on ITV throughout December, with the excitable dragon taking over credits and announcements of seasonal shows.
In-store, the campaign will come to life as merchandise, including a cuddly Edgar toy, an Excitable Edgar storybook, pyjamas, wellington boots and cupcakes. The products will appear in both Waitrose & Partners and John Lewis & Partners shops.
And the store-front display will no longer just be a marvel exclusive to the flagship Oxford Street store. It will roll across multiple John Lewis stores across the country.