Xmas ads and why John Lewis wins

I don’t hate Christmas. That would be an exaggeration uncalled for. I’m just not a fan. It’s as simple as that. For the past few years, since I was about 17, I have met Christmas with the same apathy I have reserved for shoe-laces. I’m not bigging up my dislike of Christmas for the purpose of this article, this is how I genuinely feel. All the shopping, the stupid bloody Coca Cola advert, the silly songs and the gifts that I felt I didn’t deserve, they just poked away at me, like hateful little Christmas elves with sticks and grudges, until I forgot what it was to really experience Christmas as a willing participant.


Christmas bear in social media

One week ago I was chilling out with a friend watching TV and I saw a little rabbit getting a piggyback from a bear. Bear feels a snowflake land on his nose, stretches and yawns, and Rabbit’s ears droop; his friend is going to miss Christmas again. There is a tree and some of the gifts have already been wrapped. Bear can’t join in – he has to go and hibernate for the winter. So he disappears, tired, defeated and alone, as Rabbit looks on, saddened that he is destined to miss out through no fault of his own. Rabbit has an idea.


Cut to Christmas Day. All the animals are frolicking with their gifts, but Rabbit is dejected. He isn’t sharing Christmas with the one friend he cherishes the most. Suddenly, over the hill comes Bear – and he smiles. His first Christmas! Rabbit rushes over to greet him as the other animals cheer, including him in the celebrations he has missed so many times before.


Cut to an alarm clock, just for Bear. Because all Rabbit wanted was to share Christmas with him.

alarm clock john lewis

And something changed. All the years of cynical disapproval melted away and filled me with renewed hope. Finally, somebody else ‘got’ it. All the façade and grandiosity of Christmas was not only ignored, but pushed aside, for the sake of an alarm clock that summed up what Christmas is really supposed to be about – the celebration of our mutual loves and affections.


This is what annoyed me so much before. The desperation to sell goods by the powerful multinationals completely overwhelmed the individual’s desire to buy, so one gift that meant something became five gifts that meant nothing – a shirt that a thousand other people will soon be wearing, a video game that everybody wants, chocolates that won’t last the day, shoes because they were reduced £40 down to £20 and a photo frame even though so few use a polaroid anymore. These five gifts mean nothing without a context or a reason. They’re just ‘stuff’ and that is all it will ever be while ‘Christmas’ contrives to shove products down our throats in place of compassion, togetherness and general Christmassy emotion. Here is my fundamental argument: we spend way too much time on finding gifts for them instead of finding gifts for them.


The purpose of this blog was to rank the Christmas ads in terms of popularity and innovation. Unfortunately, this post is left almost irrelevant based upon the pretty obvious fact that John Lewis has blown everyone out of the water so far that even coming second in this poll only makes you the first loser, one of many that fail to truly encompass what it is we need and want from Christmas. I feel like the commercial agenda of most firms has now overshadowed the intrinsic need to advertise Christmas as a ‘feeling’ holiday.


This is perhaps why John Lewis seems to be getting it so right – because its rivals are getting it all so moronically wrong. I’d dare say that the multinationals are all going to make plenty of money this Christmas, so why not use their marketing budget to help inspire goodwill amongst its stakeholders? Their financial success is almost inevitable so, in my humble opinion, their brand recognition would probably benefit more from a ‘meaningful’ Christmas campaign than any run-of-the-mill TV advertisement will ever afford them. I mean, we all know if we’re shopping at Tesco or Sainsbury’s this year, and that’s not going to change any time soon, so this 21st century audience is more likely to respond from something that is worth the title ‘viral’ than playing it safe with special offers.


Check out the supermarket ads. They’ll tell you how cheap their Christmas meat is and how the “succulent beef” will give you the “moistest Christmas yet” or something similarly nauseating. Or Argos, and those creepy aliens that should be endearing but aren’t. They’ll have cheap George Foreman grills that will be especially cheap if you buy one in conjunction with a tent. But where’s the thought? Where’s the love in a sideways toaster?


john lewis bear and hare digital marketing

I can’t help but feel we are to blame. We are so far gone in our desperation to buy, buy, buy ourselves into a rut that it takes a phenomenal TV ad to remind us of what our stance should be when it comes to this spending fest we call Christmas. So, here’s to you, John Lewis. You turned a miserly Scrooge back into a believer. Here’s hoping your ridiculously high benchmark is emulated in the coming years, and maybe we’ll find our collective soul once more. And to think, it all started with a hare, and a bear, and a simple word called ‘care’.

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