Sunday, 10 November 2013

John Lewis Christmas Ad: Pure Experience focus transcends product placement

Each year John Lewis puts out probably the best (certainly one of the better) Christmas advert.  The creative direction over years has without doubt set a high water mark.  Unlike gauche imitators who ape the moody, atmospheric tunes and carefully crafted story telling, John Lewis this year has jumped ALL THE WAY into using an emotional story telling approach that avoids show casing its range of products.  In the words of a successful leading service brand British Airways campaign "It's the way we make you feel that makes us the world's favourite airline."  This single minded proposition encapsulates my feelings very well.  Gone is the story telling using actors wearing and using promotional products and JL appears to have moved on to a new form of different. The neo-neo perhaps ?
Totally productless ?, well, apart from a single, short shot of an alarm clock, that is.  I can't see a big sales run on those this Christmas. 
And how this marks the transition !  I predicted last year that, with intense competition from facsimile retailers, the approach would have to change.  I would like to claim a partial victory.  The music is totally John Lewis - a contemporary (gender inversion) of an old classic song, probably by an up and coming artist.  The story telling remains, with the tease revealing the sponsors identity arriving only in the final frames of a two minute ten slot. 
This year the JL creative team appear to have gone a step further, last years star, the lifelike yet fictional snowman sporting a very human scarf is replaced with Winnie the Pooh/Disney style cartoons and a the tale of the fable of the hare and bear which seems to pull on familiar ground, yet different and new. 
How funny, I have just looked at the media coverage and discovered the £7m campaign creative lead was by Aaron Blaise, whose resume includes genuine Disney magic dust credentials in the form of Pocahontas and the Lion King.  Cartoon characters, particularly wild animals, do not generally wear real clothes, nor use real products, thus their use imaginatively and conceptually reinforces the experiential conceit. 
My services management guru and colleague Dr. Sameer Hosany has been looking out for this ad for a couple of weeks already. I have already owned up to a secret hankering for the surprisingly Aldi ad (value brand, quality products, expensive feeling ad, ummm) As a keen proponent of experience marketing, Sameer will no doubt be delighted.  I would like to say I had to tune into X-Factor especially to catch the ad, but family life at the O'Briens requires me to never miss a moment of this low brow entertainment.  Clearly I watch commercial TV only for professional interest in the advertisements. 
I look forwards to discussing further in our double width and sprung (aiding Royal Holloway ladies comportment) corridor of marketing power, the clever inversion or story twist, a John Lewis favourite ploy.  The Hare appears on first view to be disappointed and presentless, whilst all around are demonstrating the materialistic, hedonistic joy of receiving well chosen gifts, whilst the reveal shows the behaviour was hope and anticipation of celebrating Christmas with a best friend, the Bear.  So pure, so sweet, so authentic and meaningful. Or should I be unforgiving and critical and suggest that well executed heart strings pulling using child friendly plot lines and pastiche images is clich├ęd and transparent.  Or is that Downton Abbey ?
We may also consider another perennial inversion, the gender blend cover, this time by established (but retired ?) artist hip Lily Allen and whether this will make number one AGAIN in the download charts, help the ad to the public "most liked" status AGAIN and why the lead (media hypes yet also snipes) news coverage suggesting twitterati consumers are critical.  (ooh ! The Sun, Nov 10, 2013)
What do you think ?  Which are your favourite Christmas ads this season ?