John Lewis: tugging at heart or purse strings?

John Lewis: tugging at heart or purse strings?

In 1955, the first television advertisement was broadcast in the United Kingdom, advertising the efficacy of a make of toothpaste manufactured by Gibbs. Undoubtedly, the first handful of adverts aimed to portray and advertise a lifestyle amiable for all; luxury items and consumer durables were advertised as the idyllic lifestyle of the modern dream. It was clear that these initial adverts had a very specific aim: to increase sales and sustain a reputation for the company. In recent years, the meaning behind television advertising has changed significantly; the annual release of the John Lewis Christmas advert is enough to strike joy into the heart of any excitable child, and, markedly, a number of adults. 

The sales of John Lewis increase by around 10% during the run up to Christmas. The impact of the Christmas advert is inevitably fundamental to boosting sales and overtaking similar franchises during the festive season, but the anticipation surrounding its release has become incredibly poignant in society. John Lewis has become renowned for creating some of the most innovative adverts in modern history; it comes as no surprise that many would consider the first release of their Christmas advert as initiating the festive season. But have these adverts distracted from the true meaning of Christmas? 

One might suggest quite the opposite: the John Lewis adverts have revolutionised the manner in which British society views Christmas for the better. Behind many of the adverts lies a message which has more of a focal point around morality, rather than values which are inherently capitalist. Instead of perpetuating the idea that the festive season should be defined by the receiving of presents, many of the infamous adverts have focused on the idea of gift-giving as a pleasure superior to receiving. In 2011, the image of an excitable boy appeared on our television screens; he was counting down the days until he could finally give his parents a gift they much deserved. The idea of giving back is thus deeply engrained within the mantra of these advertisements. The concepts of friendship, family, and solidarity amongst these groups has been much enhanced as a result of this phenomenon; the ‘Bear and the Hare’ advert of 2013 immediately reached heights of success in conveying the heart-warming friendship between two animals. 

Yes, it is inevitable that all television advertisements are ultimately created with the ambition of making money, but the significance of the John Lewis Christmas advert is suggestive of something much more special than just a business organisation. It has become a modern tradition in itself. Just as any film or book would hope to convey, these adverts are created with the hope of injecting some festive spirit into a modern world which has largely become dominated by the ideals of a capitalist market come December. We have nothing but thanks to give to John Lewis for reminding us of what Christmas is truly about: family, friendship, love, and tradition.

Eleanor Noyce
(Image courtesy of The Guardian)

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