John Lewis’ early campaign reflects an unexpected Christmas season | WARC | The Feed
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John Lewis’ early campaign reflects an unexpected Christmas season
With the early arrival of an ad campaign that has come to act as the UK’s starting gun for the Christmas season, John Lewis & Partners latest in its Christmas ad saga says much about the changing shape of the most important retail season.
Why it matters
It’s reasonable to suggest that the John Lewis Christmas ad is probably the biggest moment in British advertising. While the season at large is often compared with the Super Bowl in the US as a major advertising (and therefore commercial) event, the Super Bowl’s agenda doesn’t tend to be set by one brand in the same way.
And it has worked, for the most part, the series of campaigns led to 883% ROMI, £1.2bn in incremental sales and £411m in profit, over the years.
The expected unexpected
We know the script by now: it lands – the ad, not the spaceship – and, notably, you probably hear about the new John Lewis Christmas ad through a WhatsApp group, or news notification, and watch it through your computer rather than on TV. ‘It’s getting earlier every year!’, someone complains, and, yes, that’s kind of the news get from this year’s seasonal kick-off event. And this year, there were Aliens.
It does the things we expect. There’s a cover of a pop song, often from the latter decades of the 20th Century. A child protagonist encounters a being whose non-humanity serves to teach us something deeper about the human condition and, therefore, Christmas. There is no dialogue.
These are aspects so well-trodden now that the style itself has become more of a distinctive asset for the company than the logo. After all, John Lewis has always been more about a very middle-class perception of good taste, which for most of us is something to aspire to.
Earlier and longer
"The fact that the industry stops to discuss their thoughts on the ad itself demonstrates its impact," notes Rion Swartz, VP of Brand Marketing, Shutterstock, the image company.
But it’s the timing that has piqued people. This year’s campaign launches a full week ahead of 2020’s launch – which was itself a very different affair, with a series of animated mini-tales – reflecting the impression across numerous sources that the public is starting its shopping earlier in anticipation of continued supply chain pressures.
“Our Christmas audience - those reading content specific to the festive season - has grown c.9% faster over the past three months versus the same period last year,” explains Sophie Raptis, Client Director, at the Ozone Project, the ad sales consortium of UK premium publishers.
In comments to Adweek, John Lewis’ customer director, Claire Pointon explained, “we made sure we ordered enough on time and brought in enough stock for Christmas. That was very deliberate in terms of really backing our assortment.”
A very different year
This year, however, John Lewis has come under unexpected pressure as it applied its expensively-shot, middle class aesthetic to the promotion of home insurance, which resulted in an ad that some people found not only contentious but eventually got so angry about that it resulted in the brand pulling the spot altogether.
But difficulties abound across the business, with store closures and job losses signs of trouble at the core of one of the UK’s few partnership businesses – it is, famously, owned by its members. Redundancies are not made lightly.
Yet there are some positives to be taken. The UK’s rush online, having already been a country relatively e-commerce friendly, in the pandemic has brought the firm opportunities as well as risks and shoppability abounds with many of the products depicted directly available to buy on the campaign landing page. For instance, it has made available jumpers as-seen in the ad, all forms of which have now sold out.
Per Shutterstock, the return to classic Christmas scenes could well drive additional impact, with ads containing the humble Christmas tree - which this ad does in abundance - driving 41% more online engagement during the festive period than those without. It sounds obvious, but sometimes it's worth remembering the basics.
John Lewis’ Christmas tactics have always gone long and short, with big media campaigns capable of driving short term sales.
The other strength returning this year, despite the uncertainties around where COVID goes next, is the ability to bring people back into stores. These have always been core to the brand, the place where its well-paid, hyper loyal employees dazzle shoppers, and ripe advertising opportunities that the retailer will be using as “Christmas Emporiums”.
But a key move is the separation of John Lewis and Waitrose, sister companies, that are now abandoning joint advertising in favour of greater distinction. “We decided that advertising isn’t the place for our brands to come together in that way,” Pointon added.
What nobody can doubt is that the brand consistently makes a big splash.
Sourced from WARC, John Lewis, Adweek, Ozone Project, FT, Evening Standard
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