The new John Lewis ad with Elton John fails to deliver Christmas

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

The new John Lewis 2018 Christmas advertising is finally out. It was well known the British retailer would be using Elton John, but not many of us knew to what extent. The ad does a great job in showing Elton’s entire life story, moving backward, to see the source of his inspiration for music. It is well done. However, it’s not a Christmas ad. It doesn’t capture the joy of giving. There’s no surprising twist. It’s a celebrity ad, but is it a John Lewis ad?

I’ll give this sir Elton spot a solid 7/10.

It’s a 9 if it was for an Elton John movie coming out. It’s a 6 for Christmas. Yes, it’s enjoyable. Warm. Good storytelling. It’s good but not great. Sadly, Elton won’t save Christmas for the John Lewis stores.

Ugh: Borrowed Equity

The idea of “borrowed equity” is where you take something well-known in the marketplace and try to link it to your brand communication. It rarely works. It’s fine to use a song to tell your story, but never let the story get in the way of your brand. In this case, the Elton John equity overwhelms the John Lewis brand, and it overwhelms the power of Christmas. It becomes a great Elton John ad, not a great John Lewis ad.

When I see brands use “borrowed equity,” it usually means they find their own brand too dull. Look below at the 2011 John Lewis ad, and tell me if it is boring. Alternatively, did the people at John Lewis get bored with your own brand?

This Elton John ad could easily have been used  to announce the merger of John Lewis and Waitrose, and we would have thought “hey, that’s a nice spot.” As for a Christmas ad, this one flops.

The pressure seems to be getting to brands

For a few years, there was hysteria and anticipation for the John Lewis Christmas ad, but that may be dying down if they fail to deliver. During the era amazing John Lewis advertising they were able to link the advertising with sales growth of 5-8%. The connectivity with consumers was helping buck the declines other retailers were facing with e-Commerce.

The ad will generate a lot of talk value at the lunch table and in the pubs. However, that talk will be fairly mixed. Some will say they nailed it; others will say they’ve seen enough of Elton John, and others will say it’s not about Christmas.

Will it work?

What it won’t do is separate John Lewis from the pack this holiday season, nor will it drive consumers into their stores. It fails to communicate on the joy of giving, which John Lewis had nailed so well. It will be memorable for those who love Elton John, who is likely over 50 or 60, but certainly not under 25.

So now the ad team will start working on those scripts for 2019. My advice: watch the 2011 spot and give your consumers a story like that. It’s ok if it looks similar. That’s what people want. Comfort.

2011: Counting down

This is my favorite John Lewis ad from 2011, about the boy who couldn’t wait for Christmas. Great story telling about the boy who could not wait, but with a nice surprise at the end. You will notice the “Man on the Moon” feels very similar. But that’s OK, traditions are allowed to have some repetition to the ritual.

2010: “Your song”

This is also a great one from 2010, with the story telling improving over the 2009 spot and Ellie Goulding’s cover of “Your song” is incredible. With the multiple stories throughout the spot, it has that “Love Actually” quality to the ad.

2009: Sweet Child of Mine

This ad was the starting point for the great advertising John Lewis would do. Engaging video story-telling with a soft cover of a classic song. These would become the trademark of the great John Lewis ads over the next few years.



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