An annual short christmas story has become the definition of the holidays for millions. It is anticipated and advertised like a Hollywood blockbuster and has become one of the most talked-about holiday subjects. It all started in 2007 when Department Store John Lewis invested in the art of storytelling with a creative commercial called ‘Shadows’ of a group of people from all age groups putting products together to create a Christmas themed shadow. Today as they releases their 12th Christmas ad we will take a look at the story of how a Department Store became the epitome of Christmas for millions.
Since 2007, tear-jerking, emotion-inducing, goosebump-provoking commercials have represented John Lewis every holiday season going from strength-to-strength, winning-awards and skyrocketing sales. The subject? Giving a thoughtful gift. The characters? Everything that can grab any adult’s empathy from a lonely penguin, to a happy dog, a travelling snowman and a man on the moon. The formula? The art of storytelling with award winning screenwriters such as Michel Gondry + remakes of classic songs such as ‘Somewhere Only We Go’ and ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ + well-known singers like Ellie Goulding and Lily Allen = the most talked about ads of every Christmas season for the last decade.
These seemingly creativity-oriented ads are not a charitable piece of entertainment for the holiday season, they are putting forward the notion of buying thoughtful gifts - from John Lewis. The subjects of the ads are often based on items sold at the store. In 2014’s the Christmas of Monty and Mabel, the two main characters were penguin toys which could be purchased at the store - and reportedly single handedly made the store 18 million pounds in sales that year. While 2015’s Man on the Moon sold out their ‘Make your own telescope’ product online.
Their 11-flagship ads are not only award-winning but also a part of a major marketing strategy. John Lewis invests close to 1 million in its hollywood-quality production but for every pound it spends it makes 8 pounds in profits and an average of 16% increase in sales.
The media strategy is an elaborate one which begins with early campaigns across all media to create a ‘buzz’ using teasers and hashtags which trigger speculation and excitement. Powerful partnerships are created with major media outlets such as Channel 4, Google and Microsoft to ensure grand reach. The ad is released on social media, TV channels and in all-important slots such as during the X Factor to increase exposure and talk-value.
Additionally, the characters of each year’s ads are advertised beyond the screen in many interactive methods turning them into celebrities. John Lewis has created a unique formula in which the ad itself becomes the subject for an empire of merchandise, ranging from umbrellas to onesies and slippers all based on the ad’s characters.
But the most amusing part remains that John Lewis ads have become a fundamental part of the holidays, as anticipated as putting up the Christmas tree. In 2014 the Monty and Mabel ad was retweeted close to 124,000 times … during the first 48 hours, proving the love people have built for these little Christmas stories.
John Lewis has redefined modern Christmas and set a new standard which competitors have tried but failed to reach*. Fan theories and speculation have already flooded the internet about the 2018 Advert Elton John Lewis Christmas, cue the tears.
John Lewis Christmas Ad 2018 - #EltonJohnLewis
*Sainsbury’s 2014 Christmas ad ‘1914’ must be mentioned as a worthy competitor. Watch it here.
Happy Holidays from 120ADVERTISING.