John Lewis 2016 Christmas ad a bit simple and falls a little flat

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market


I feel like a little kid who races downstairs only to be disappointed by my gift. And then I feel bad about it. I am one of those who love the John Lewis Christmas ads and starts to think about it around early October.

And yet, this year, I just feel “blah”.

Once a year, brand fans await the latest installment of the John Lewis Christmas ad. So much attention, that it creates media hysteria trying to predict when it will be launched. John Lewis took advantage of that hype to use three little 10-second teasers with #BounceBounce to build up the anticipation.

The ad is OK, but not great.

It’s cute, but not brilliant.

It falls a little flat, compared to previous John Lewis ads.

Here is the ad, and before I lose you I have put all the John Lewis Christmas ads below for you to compare with.


Pretty simple story. Kid likes to bounce on things. Dad builds a trampoline. Animals come out and bounce on it. Dog sees them and is jealous. Dog bounces on the trampoline before the kid gets to it. Kid disappointed?  Mom and Dad disappointed? No one seems happy.


How do you feel about it? Is it just me?

The people at John Lewis felt that last year’s spot was “too sad” and they didn’t want to do “sad-vertising” anymore. Personally, I loved last year’s spot. It did bring a tear to my eye, but in a good way. John Lewis has also said they are trying to tap into the insight that 2016 has been a tough year, with Brexit and the US elections. Wouldn’t a more elaborate story be a better escape for consumers?


John Lewis has created a legacy around Christmas that is tough to live up to

I have worked on campaigns that lasted 10 years and 5 years. The hardest thing for a Marketer is to stay on track, yet try to beat last year’s spot. It is very hard to be creatively different, yet stay in line with the campaign. marketing-execution-2017-extract-9-001Those fight against each other. Since 2009, John Lewis has wiggled a little each year. But what they have not done yet, is sold out to the pressure. Each year, the ads have been highly creative, the ads that created the magic simply through the eyes of the children in the ads. The emphasis has always been on giving. You will see there is not a lot John Lewis branding in any of these ads, but there is a certain degree of ownership.


Rachel Swift, head of brand marketing at John Lewis, says “It is has become part of our handwriting as a brand. It’s about storytelling through music and emotion. The sentiment behind that hasn’t changed – and that is quite intentional. The strategy behind our campaigns is always about thoughtful gifting.”

Let’s use that summary to see how well the 2016 spot lives up to the John Lewis ads of the past?

  • There is not much of a story.
  • It is not very emotional at all.
  • It is not really about thoughtful gifting.
  • No one in the ad even seems happy.

In my view, 2016 ad falls flat and now I have to turn my attention to other retailers to see what they do. My hope is someone does something extra special. Right now John Lewis is the gold standard for Christmas ads and this latest puts them at risk that another retailer easily outshines them.



The history of John Lewis Ads

Here is last year’s spot, that might have gone overboard on sad. But I truly loved it.

Yes, the man on the moon is a metaphor (sorry, there really isn’t a man on the moon) for reaching out and giving someone a gift. For me, this ad quickly reminds me of when my own kids are on the phone or FaceTime with my mom. There is a certain magic in the innocence and simplicity when the very young talk with older people. They both seem to get it, maybe sometimes more than the in-between ages where the innocence of Christmas is lost within their busy schedules.


Here are the John Lewis spots from the last few years and you can tell me which one you like the best.

2014:  Monty the Penguin:


Here is the one from 2011, about the boy who couldn’t wait for Christmas. You will notice this year’s Man on the Moon feels very similar.


This is also a great one from 2010


And you can see the one from 2009.


In 2012, the “snowman” ad felt bit too dark for me with the tone feeling like a slight miss for John Lewis. I felt they were trying too hard.  Maybe feeling the pressure to keep the campaign alive by being different when really the consumer just wants the fast-becoming-familiar-John-Lewis-magic each year.


I also found the 2013 ad a bit of a departure, going to animation and utilizing on-line and in-store media. This campaign seems trying too hard to capitalize on their success. Doesn’t feel like a fit.


I guess I’ll have to wait for the 2017 John Lewis Christmas ad!  🙁


Christmas is 8 weeks away. Expect to see this spot a lot on your social media feed. But, also expect the other UK retailers to compete as they did last year. Here is a link to the 7 best Holiday ads for last year:

Our 7 favorite Holiday ads of 2015. Have your say.


Passion in Marketing Execution Matters. If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. To read more about how to drive your Marketing Execution, here is our workshop that shows everything you need to know, to have the smarts of strategy, the discipline of leadership and the passion of creativity to generate brand love in today’s modern world.

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