In towns and cities across the UK the Christmas lights are being turned on, snow-themed jumpers are being unpacked from the attic and it’s beginning to feel as though the big day is fast approaching. And you may have also noticed that suddenly the adverts on the television are accompanied by jingle bells…
The power of John Lewis
But there’s one brand in town that’s on everyone’s lips when it comes to Christmas adverts, or rather one penguin… Monty. John Lewis’s campaign this year takes on the story of the lonely cuddly toy and his search for a companion. And it’s managed to ruffle the feathers of Coca Cola – who five years ago topped a survey of the best Christmas ads of all time. Here at Shout! we specialise in video production, which is why we’re so intrigued by the magic behind this advert.
Not your typical advert
Perhaps most significantly, John Lewis is one of the few companies that have chosen not to use their campaign to flog their products. Although inevitably Monty himself has now become the product (a quick google search and you’ll find hundreds of official merchandise and imitation cuddly penguins). Instead of product promotion, John Lewis has chosen to tell a story – one with a very distinctive beginning, middle and end. In a refreshing twist there is no mention of Santa or nativity which helps captivate the audience further. The themes of the advert are family and love, which anyone can relate too regardless of religion. This opens up their target audience much further and brings on board those who wouldn’t normally celebrate Christmas.
As anyone who works in media will tell you: “It’s all about what’s new”. We live in an age when new news becomes old news within the space of a few hours, which means a video is never as exciting as the next one. John Lewis seems to have recognised this and rather than using same theme every year they create a very different advert for each festive period. In 2011, we had “the long wait” with a young boy who couldn’t wait to surprise his parents, in 2012 we had Mr and Mrs Snowman who melted our hearts and last year we had the best of friends – the bear and the hare.
Length is key
Christmas advertisements have three main goals; promote a brand/product, get the viewer excited for Christmas and ultimately drive sales up. They’ll generally aim to get the message across in around 30 seconds. But John Lewis have smashed through the barrier with their 2 minute 11 second video – which feels more like a mini movie than an advert. And it’s that movie format which is precisely why it can get away with the longer length. How often have you walked out of the cinema mid-film because you don’t like the film? Chances are not very often, because ultimately, no matter how bad the plot, you want to know what happens in the end.
Breaking the rules
What makes the John Lewis campaign so successful is that it’s the exception to the rule. If every Christmas advert followed the same format, Monty’s story wouldn’t have the same hold over the audience. For now at least the length and narrative make John Lewis stand out in its approach to Christmas, with the only fear that other retailers may follow suit in years to come.