Paul Simons: John Lewis’s Monty isn’t just a good film, it shows how integration works too

The outbreak of Christmas advertising condenses the differing ‘positioning’ various brands attempt to manage via their expensive TV productions.

The most explicit examples are retailers as they fight for their share of the seasonal spoils. Argos for example has had a complete makeover and is now seen via TV as a funky, colourful, modern brand. I have no idea how this chimes with Argos customers but I’m sure agency CHI have done their homework.

Their likely problem though is the work for Currys/PC World given the similarity of their respective production techniques, a first for the brand from AMV/BBDO (and there are lots of different ads in the lively Argos campaign).

Marks & Spencer has again pushed the boat out with an increase in marketing budget and another excellent TV job. They also have inserts in national newspapers fortheir Home product range and this is where I don’t get the aspirations of the senior team at M&S.

The Home insert is another quality print job but the art direction looks to me it is for a different brand. For example Paul Clarkson, head of buying at M&S Home says it “Strikes the perfect balance between glamour and sophistication” and Joanne Caulkett, Style & Living Home editor at M&S.com says: “Your Christmas meal is the indulgent highlight of the festive season, so go all out for glamour with a table to match” and goes on to say “….so I try to make my home as cosy and welcoming as possible, with snug throws and comfy cushions on the beds and sofas.”

I somehow suspect their homes are different to their average customer.

M&S advertising is littered with superlatives that feel to me as though they are trying too hard to be somebody else. They seem to be on a mission to say we are middle class too.

My learned friend Giles Keeble points out frequently that good and effective advertising is all about response (i.e. what you take out not just what you put in) and the latest John Lewis TV work is a great example of the point. Just days after their seasonal offering was aired for the first time, The Sunday Times ran a cartoon with a wise man offering a gift to Mary in the stable for baby Jesus and she says “I think he would prefer a penguin.” This is a simple example of a stunningly fast response to single-minded propaganda.

An unsung hero of mine is a chap called Mike Fox, a writer I worked with many years ago and as a trick he would suddenly toss six tennis balls across the table at an unsuspecting client and say “catch.” Every time the balls scattered across the table and then he would throw one which would be caught. His point was always the same; try and say six things and the chances are none will be remembered, say one thing well and you stand a better chance.

234044618The combined resources of John Lewis are 100 per cent behind Monty the penguin, he is everywhere, impossible to miss, and the OTS of bumping in to an image of Monty between now and Christmas must be double, maybe even treble digits. Over the weekend I reckon I saw at least a dozen images of Monty, the most noticeable were the carrier bags on the street.

These days there is so much talk about integration – common sense in the main – yet there are not that many outstanding examples of integrated campaigns. The John Lewis Christmas campaign not only positions the brand very clearly, it also is likely to be the best example of total integration we will see this year.

I think there is a lot of clear blue sky between them and the rest of the pack.

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About Paul Simons

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Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.