John Lewis Christmas ads don’t hit as hard as they used to

For many, the beginning of the festive season is marked by the opening of door one on an advent calendar.

In Ad Land, however, it is announced via the launch of John Lewis’ annual Christmas campaign, which dropped on 3rd November. 

In this article, we dissect their latest TV advert, visit the ghost of John Lewis ads past and explore the commercial impact of such campaigns.



An unexpected (and slightly premature) guest

John Lewis, like many of its competitors, has taken the decision to launch its Christmas campaign earlier this year to meet increased consumer demand for an early festive period.

This year’s campaign, Unexpected Guest, is all about joy, escapism and taking time to savour the ‘moments of Christmas’ according to its Customer Director, Claire Pointon.

The two minute advert explores the friendship of 14 year-old Nathan and space traveler, Skye.

The ad sees Nathan introduce Skye to Christmas traditions, such as sharing a mince pie, watching movies and playing in the snow. Nathan’s parting gift as Skye returns to her home planet is his light-up Christmas jumper. 

See for yourself, here…


The John Lewis ads don’t hit as hard as they used to

While Unexpected Guest is undoubtedly a world-class piece of creative story-telling, I am of the humble opinion that the John Lewis ads simply don’t hit as hard as they used to. 

Perhaps it’s something to do with the department store’s own misfortunes of plunging revenues and store closures. Or more likely, because of how aggressively other retailers now rip-off John Lewis’ trademark tear-jerking narrative, softening its impact. 


The ghost of Christmas ads past

Looking back fondly to John Lewis’ 2014 spot, Monty The Penguin; for me, there is no comparison. It’s the GOAT. 

An immersive multi-channel campaign with an emotionally engaging story, all under-pinned by a silky Tom Odell soundtrack. It’s no wonder that Monty The Penguin generated marketing-led record sales, views and shares. 

Just to remind ourselves…


The commercial impact of the John Lewis Christmas campaign

As results-driven performance marketing agency, in the back of our minds we’re always thinking: “it looks fabulous… but what was the ROI?”

For Nathan & Skye of this year’s Unexpected Guest campaign, only time will tell. But they have got gigantic boots to fill if they are to get anywhere near our favourite, Monty The Penguin.

The campaign results were truly a phenomenon:

  • Sales were up 5.5% Y-o-Y, versus a market increase of just 1.5%. John Lewis also had a record sales week, taking £175m for the first time in history.
  • The campaign delivered a profit of £7.44 for every £1 invested in advertising. A 3% increase Y-o-Y.
  • The ad generated 349m impressions, up 320% Y-o-Y and #MontyThePenguin trended globally on Twitter.
  • Tom Odell’s soundtrack for the advert, ‘Real Love’ reached #3 on the iTunes chart.

So, what is your opinion on this year’s John Lewis campaign?

Let us know in the comments.


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