Paul Simons: why the John Lewis Christmas campaign scores so strongly with the middle classes

It’s the Full Monty from John Lewis

Well here we are again with the first airing of the John Lewis Christmas television advertising due tonight; previews on YouTube.

For readers outside the UK you can be forgiven to wondering what all the fuss is about but the big production numbers emerge about now, not the same as the Super Bowl in the US but not far off in the advertising calendar in the UK.

Over recent years the work for John Lewis has led the way and the client plus the agency responsible have picked up buckets of awards, deservedly so.

I am regretting not being a stuffed toy manufacturer at the moment as I suspect the nation will be rushing out to buy penguins, just like Monty in the beautiful production from adam&eveDDB. They do keep doing them.

What I find very interesting about the John Lewis approach is they eschew the conventional Christmas content most, if not all, retailers embrace.

No product or pricing, just a feel good family setting with a twist. The end line “Give someone a Christmas they’ve been dreaming of” is of course a generic point but nevertheless it sticks to John Lewis and, further, it makes any similar approach feel like a poor copy.

Early Christmas offerings from Currys PC World and Argos have upped the game in terms of technique, clever productions but they do remain firmly in the “we have a wide range of products available” camp.

John Lewis is also magnificent in following through the TV work to other channels and their stores will be merchandised to the hilt with the end line and Monty as the seasonal hero. The product range featuring Monty and Mabel – the girlfriend Monty gets for Christmas – is from mugs to t shirts to pyjamas.

I’ve made a similar comment in the past about how the John Lewis work seems to know their target audience very well. The clues in the Monty film are subtle but evident. The setting feels like a middle class level of home with large garden, close to a park, well furnished, near Primrose Hill for the sledging scene, and of course the music, a John Lennon song.

I suspect the bullseye target audience is 40’ish professional parents with a young family. They are smart enough to work out John Lewis sells loads of stuff and quite possibly everything you might want for present buying.

Good to see high quality work on television that is both intelligent and entertaining. For me it simply reinforces my strong emotional relationship with the brand.

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About Paul Simons

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.

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