In praise of John Lewis and the ad event

By Anastasia Scott / 10-11-2015

Oh John Lewis how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Full disclosure – I am a John Lewis super fan. I love its products. I love the stores. I love that the brand is built on a genuine and incredible focus on customer service. I love that everyone who works there is a partner (although FYI I’d love it more if this included the cleaners and the company paid them The Living Wage). In short, I have regularly felt that the world would be a more convivial place if it was run by John Lewis. And now I love John Lewis all the more because it has made its advertising a Christmas event.

When I was growing up – admittedly in the Victorian era – the showpiece media event each Christmas was the unveiling of the TV schedule. People clambered for their copies of the Radio Times (upper middle-class households) or the TV Times (the rest of us) and circled in biro the shows the whole family would gather to watch. Now, families have six screens to get their content from and appointment to view TV is a rare, and increasingly rarer, beast. Yet, the John Lewis Christmas ad has now become that beautiful thing: a piece of advertising that reaches beyond channel and brand-loyalists, and becomes a talking point in offices, playgrounds and pubs across the land.

Kudos to my favourite retailer on the planet and its amazing roster of creative, PR and media planning agencies for making this happen. For have no doubt, this is about an integrated campaign where every ounce has been wrung from the media machine, whether it’s through paid, owned or earned channels. The explosion of tweets about Man on the Moon and the parodies that have already sprung up show it’s captured the public’s imagination.

Yet, John Lewis is using its seasonal offering to do more than build its brand and shift stock. This year it has partnered with Age UK to raise awareness of the loneliness that many people feel not only, but often at Christmas time. The stores will stock some merchandise related to the ad, but will also encourage people to text Moon to 70800 to donate £5. Given last year’s charity partner – the WWF – saw a 250% increase in penguin donations (remember these guys) there’s a precedent for making a real difference to a charity that might otherwise miss out in the Christmas scrum.

The choice has obviously been inspired by this year’s creative, but it’s also a reflection of the John Lewis audience. And this isn’t just a focus group of one mega-fan. Looking at YouGov data John Lewis shoppers are more likely than average (64% v’s 45% general public) to support Age UK. Here’s hoping shoppers (like me) get behind this crucial part of this year’s ad too. It’s that type of behaviour change that will raise the bar for what John Lewis has made an annual event.

In the meantime, if the industry can use this as an example of where advertising – working in harmony with PR, social and experiential – can still make consumers sit up, take notice and act then it’s not only John Lewis that’ll be over the moon this Christmas. As for me, the mothership is calling me. I wonder if they stock telescopes on the fifth floor?