World’s best ads ever #71: John Lewis enters golden age with ‘The Bear and the Hare’
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
The outcome of a fabled 13-year partnership with Adam & EveDDB, 2013’s tale of interspecies friendship ‘The Bear and the Hare’ represents the golden era of John Lewis Christmas ads.
Now a staple of the Christmas build-up in the UK, the John Lewis Christmas ad is a reliable yearly creator of lumps in the nation’s throats.
Having had decent but not stratospheric success with fun but arguably twee ads with Lowe London in the early years, the Adam & Eve partnership began in 2009 when John Lewis’s then-marketing director Craig Inglis appointed the recently formed creative shop under chief creative officer Ben Priest.
The partnership initially yielded good ads leaning heavily on product nostalgia before really hitting a stride with 2010’s ‘A Tribute to Givers’, featuring an Ellie Goulding cover of Elton John’s Your Song. ‘The Long Wait’ and ‘The Journey’ cemented the formula: delicately yearning pop cover; epic-in-miniature storytelling.
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‘The Bear and the Hare’ both perfected and developed that formula. Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know earned her a number one single in the UK. The cover’s official video proved almost as popular as the ad itself, racking up more than 50m YouTube views.
The music video’s popularity is no accident, detailing the craft and care that went into the ad’s production. It was rendered in a mixture of 2D and 3D stop motion by Florida-based animation studio Premise Entertainment, whose creative team featured animation veterans from the likes of Disney. It’s no surprise, then, that the ad is evocative of both Disney’s The Jungle Book and British classic Watership Down.
The ad remains quite beautiful. Explaining why will perhaps be like explaining a joke, but: a bear and a hare are friends; the bear hibernates through Christmas every year, missing out on the festivities; the hare gifts the bear an alarm clock, which wakes the bear up just in time to celebrate.
Some may prefer other entries from the John Lewis Christmas ad’s golden age – ‘Monty the Penguin’, which you'll find elsewhere on this list, ‘The Man on the Moon’, ‘Buster the Boxer’, maybe. But it’s the Bear and the Hare who invited us to that golden age in the first place.