John Lewis steps into trademark Christmas, this time with Elton John

The John Lewis Christmas ad is arguably the biggest moment of adland’s festive season. so we thought we’d look at it from two viewpoints. Emma Hall writes:

If you have a sense of déjà vu with this year’s John Lewis Christmas ad, it might be because the soundtrack — Elton John’s “Your Song” — was also used in the retailer’s 2010 festive offering, when the tune was sung by Ellie Goulding.

It’s not just the song that’s familiar: John Lewis & Partners has returned to the same emotional storytelling and “thoughtful gifting” formula that it has used every year since 2011’s “The Long Wait.”

That ad was such a trailblazer in its field that you can’t help but hope, each year, that adam&eveDDB will lead the industry on a new and different path to Christmas enlightenment.

At the same time, you can’t blame them for sticking to a winning formula.

This year the gift is a piano, given to four year-old Reg Dwight by his grandmother. Starting in the present day and working backwards, the ad shows how the little boy grows up to become Elton John, with five actors playing him at different stages in his life, plus a cameo appearance from the singer himself. It’s all set to “Your Song,” one of Elton’s classic tunes.

After a lot of speculation about the millions lavished on Elton John, John Lewis is keen to point out that this year’s campaign cost about the same as previous years, which is around £7 million, including media. Elton John is donating a portion of his fee to his own charitable trust.

In cinemas “The Boy & the Piano” will run next to Waitrose & Partners’ Christmas film, bringing the two brands even closer together. There will also be eight 10-second ads that are more product focused, all set to appropriate Elton John tracks. For example, the Nespresso promotion is accompanied by “I’m Still Standing.”

Merchandise opportunities are more limited than they were with previous Christmas campaigns like Moz the Monster, Buster the Bulldog, and Monty the Penguin. There are no cuddly Eltons on sale, but there is a range of Elton John t-shirts and some old fashioned vinyl and CDs of his music available to buy. And John Lewis is selling keyboards and pianos in the singer’s honour.

For customers in London, the Elton John experience will be extended. Some of the film set has been reconstructed so visitors can take a tour of the childhood sitting room, the recording studio, and a dressing room, all of which offer Instagram-friendly opportunities.

Craig Inglis, customer director, John Lewis & Partners, said: “Think back to all of the Christmases that you have enjoyed over the years – I’m sure there is one very special gift that stands out above all others. That’s the magical feeling we wanted to bring to life this year. The ad tells the story of why Elton’s piano was more than just a gift and we hope to remind customers of that special moment when they’ve given a gift at Christmas time that they know will be treasured forever.”

MAA creative scale: 6

Stephen Foster writes:

Don’t disagree with any of the above but I’d add that the JL Christmas campaign has become such an integral part of what the company stands for that, for client and agency, it’s a case of not dropping the ball.

Using a celebrity is a high risk strategy – but a point of difference over previous efforts – and I think they’ve incorporated Mr John into the gifting scenario pretty well.

So, for me, MAA creative scale: 7.5.

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former London Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.

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