John Lewis’s “Unexpected guest” has all the hallmarks of the retailer’s famous Christmas ads, including the downbeat version of a classic pop tune; in this case, “Together in Electric Dreams” by Phil Oakey and Georgio Moroder, reworked by Lola Young.
But Somerset folk duo The Portraits claim that they got there first: they did an equally slow and mournful version of the song last year and sent it to the John Lewis marketing department in March. They suggested it would be good for one of their Christmas ads but didn’t get a reply.
John Lewis said: “There’s no substance to the claims as the person contacted by email left at the start of the summer and had no involvement in this year’s Christmas ad. The music that accompanies the ad is always the final element to be added and this year it was chosen at the end of October. The creation of advertising and music is carried out solely by our agency and we are unable to read or consider ideas from other external or internal sources.”
The Portraits’ version was a fundraising song aimed at supporting people who had suffered bereavement and poor mental health during the pandemic. They say the want justice to be done, and are asking John Lewis to make a donation to Covid charities.
John Lewis is more used to being plagiarised by other marketers, hoping to copy its magic formula. These kind of accusations are always a bit murky, but perhaps a donation to charity would show that John Lewis is bigger than all this.