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John Lewis Christmas ad 2014: industry reaction

07 Nov 2014  |   

From The Bear and the Hare to The Long Wait, John Lewis is famed for its Christmas adverts. On Thursday, the retailer sent the world into a social media frenzy as it launched its much-anticipated 2014 ad starring a penguin called Monty - so what do our advertising gurus make of John Lewis' latest festive production?

David Wood, managing director, Jaywing

I love the John Lewis brand and I want to like the advert, but I wonder if it's becoming tired. Do I think it'll work? The answer is yes. It's not about products, it's about 'giving' and that draws people in.

They seem to have hit upon a winning formula of sentimentality, which people warm to at this time of year. But I don't think it will live long in the memory. The hype is great publicity for John Lewis and their agency, and may even do more for them than the ad itself.

Karl Guard, head of strategy, ZenithOptimedia

It's fitting that the new John Lewis Christmas features a John Lennon cover as the soundtrack, because like the Beatles, John Lewis Christmas ads are things that you criticise in public at your own peril.

Not being one to subscribe to the cultural hegemony, however, I'll give it a shot, for whilst as a consumer and father it brought a solitary tear to my eye, I can't help but think that rather than an incidentally charming tale we have a guaranteed and optimised pastiche of commercial and creative success.

There's the Calvin and Hobbs conceit about little boys and their toys, the ubiquitous anthropomorphised CGI animal, a range of accompanying merchandise and even (this year) a range of partner-created items on a keenly optimised suite of digital owned-assets.

The planner in me is sure it will be wonderfully successful commercially but the little boy in me wishes that it had been a little more original.

Justin Taylor, managing director, digital, MEC

The John Lewis Christmas ad reveal is now seen as a marker, for not only ad-land but consumers alike, as welcoming in the start of the Christmas season. The choice to unveil the film online, rather than last year's lavish London cinema screen launch, emphasises the growing power of digital as an engaging channel for consumers.

The integrated campaign which will launch on TV today, has been well thought-through with in-store activity and a dedicated 'Monty merchandise' hub online.

Although slightly less ambitious than last year's Bear and Hare animations, the ad is another tear-jerker telling the story of a boy and his beloved CGI penguin.

Ian Prager, deputy chairman, MC&C

Alongside Starbucks' red cups and Coca-Cola's Christmas truck, John Lewis has firmly planted itself in the company of those elite brands that are iconic for signalling that the Christmas season has begun.

This year the retailer has declined the primetime TV spot for a 'modest' launch of the film online alongside the Twitter hashtag #MontyThePenguin. The emphasis has been put on getting the public excited to create organic momentum. Whilst the online launch is supported by an integrated campaign to disseminate its message, the decision highlights the growing power of Twitter to amplify a campaign and to directly engage consumers.

Interestingly, the retailer hasn't wavered from the traditional format - heart warming story, fluffy animal and a re-working of an old hit. Whilst the formula works, it will be interesting to see if they have done enough to beat the success of last year's Bear and the Hare.

Matt Bennett, CCO and co-founder, ZAK Media Group

It's yet another excellently executed, emotionally charged ad. The message hasn't changed at all; Christmas is a time for giving, for putting others first, and John Lewis is the destination to buy gifts for people that matter.

Full channel integration, including in-store will continue to deliver this proposition so well that shoppers inevitably spend a little more than they had planned. And no doubt innumerable Monty the Penguin soft toys will be sold this year, which does make the whole endeavour a little hollow. Bah humbug, maybe I'm just being cynical. Well done to agency and client.

Justin Cooke, CEO UK, POSSIBLE

Ultimately, the question is does the ad work? Today the best ads are a by-product of building an emotional connection and tugging on the heartstrings at Christmas. This year's has been given a minor upgrade in the form of a CGI Penguin, but only time will tell if it manages to raise John Lewis' game.

So certain is John Lewis that this ad will have the same emotional resonance as the Bear and the Hare, that Monty merchandise is already available through their website. The campaign has been effectively thought through across every channel, and it's is refreshing to see a brand actually delivering a seamless, co-ordinated experience.

This year surpasses the last by extending the experience to in-store and online themed purchases. Even the timing is superb - releasing on a Friday morning to maximise weekend trading - genius!

Dan Todaro, managing director, Gekko

Not surprised to see an emotional ATL from JLP, the production and the Tom Odell soundtrack are beautifully paired here to great effect. If a bit saccharine, it gets the Christmas spirit ignited in early November but I suspect before the month is out, we're going to get a bit bored of it.

Interestingly the brand tie ups for Monty's Den and Goggles is cleverly positioned to extend the effectiveness of the ATL online and more importantly the customer journey into store, a real game changer.

Barry Hayman, senior copywriter and David Lang, senior art director, The Minimart

Over the last few years the John Lewis festive ads have managed to become as big a part of Christmas tradition as Bond films and bad jumpers, an incredible position for the brand to be in - people actually look forward to the next ad.

This, their latest festive film seems to have merged the warmth of Adam and Eve's 2011 ad (a young boy waiting to give a gift) with the magic of the snowman scarf film. For me, it works really well and I'm certain it'll be a big hit with the public too - while no doubt shifting a ton of fluffy penguin toys in the process.

Mike Cavers, executive creative director, The GIG

Hats off to John Lewis for producing yet another beautiful Christmas ad that taps into the core values of Christmas without a cliché in sight or indeed a Terry Gillingham sized budget.

We all love penguins and Monty is an absolute star here - as you get drawn into him getting lonelier as we get nearer to Christmas morning only to have his dreams fulfilled - albeit with the frisson of love in the air when his present is a nice lady penguin partner.

This is all rounded off nicely with the final reveal - which it's the little boys dream present too. I predict there will not be a dry eye in the house again this year, all over the country and Antarctica.

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