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25 days of Ausmas: Richard Ralphsmith, DPR&Co on John Lewis' Edgar the Dragon

Every day an advertising creative from Australia and New Zealand will offer their own favourite Christmas campaign from over the years as we celebrate the best work from the festive period the world over and hear their views on what is best in class.

I know I'm not the only person in this piece nominating John Lewis. In a review of the greatest ever Christmas commercials, it almost becomes a question of “which John Lewis ad?”

I settled on this year’s effort, Edgar the Dragon. I'm a total sucker for this little Christmas movie. I love the way it celebrates the irrepressibility of children, their zest for life. It’s a little bit sad when their blundering, joyful enthusiasm lands them in strife. Edgar embodies all of this. He just can't contain himself – and the world shuns him. His only friend, a little girl, is a lone ray of kindness. Really though, she’s more mother than friend. While she loves Edgar and his shenanigans, she learns for the first time about adulthood, about the heart-rending obligation to curtail the instincts of someone more carefree than herself. The commercial ends with her helping Edgar to harness his power for good, allowing him to solve his own problem to everyone’s delight.

Of course. It’s Christmas.

The soundtrack, Bastille’s version of I Can't Fight This Feeling, is perfect. It’s sweet and generous and it deftly tugs the heartstrings at just the right moments.

This spot delivers all of the mandatories of the Christmas genre. It’s family-friendly. It lives in the world of children’s imagination. It’s warm and yes, a little sentimental. (Sentimentality is entirely acceptable in Christmas stories.) This is a commercial that’s all about giving, without a trace of postmodern cynicism.

There are brands that could learn a lot from Edgar the Dragon. Last year Aldi decided to do a uniquely Australian take on Christmas, which is a commendable aim. But in their attempt, they replaced Santa, the jolly old elf, with a bewildered stranger that bore no resemblance to him.

Christmas commercials shouldn’t be about an adult world of gritty realism. They should be about children, magic, wonder and the joy of giving. Well done, John Lewis.

Richard Ralphsmith, creative director, DPR&Co

Check out the latest holiday ads from Australia and New Zealand here, and keep an eye on The Drum's ongoing Christmas coverage.

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