John Lewis: The reign is over

The John Lewis Christmas advert is here, which can only mean one thing, the start of the festive season…

Over the past five years the department store has become renowned for its tear-  jerkers. However, this year sees a break in tradition with a more light-hearted approach featuring Buster the Boxer. On Christmas morning. six-year-old Summer rushes to enjoy her new trampoline only to be beaten to it by her dog after watching a selection of British wildlife use it through the night. According to a John Lewis spokesperson, this cheery advert is an attempt to distance itself from “sadvertising” after worries that last year’s campaign was slightly bleak and depressing.

Since 2011, John Lewis has become synonymous with heart-warming ads after the release of The Long Wait. This classic features a young boy impatiently counting down the days to Christmas; the twist is he’s more excited to give presents that receive them. The reaction was incredible and each Christmas the retailer attempts to replicate this success with a new advert designed to make us feel warm and fuzzy.

In 2012 we saw The Journey in which a snowman travels far and wide to find the perfect present for his wife. The following year saw The Bear and the Hare,  an animation featuring Lily Allen’s cover ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ as a bear delightfully experiences his first Christmas. 2014 was the year of Monty the Penguin which told of an endearing friendship between a boy and his toy penguin. Last year, the department store spent a whopping £7 million on the Man on the Moon in partnership with Age UK to raise awareness of the elderly at Christmas. Although charming, many did not think it was worth the price. This year, has John Lewis been able to live up to its success of five years ago?

Every year the new adverts are welcomed with an eager anticipation but always leave us with a tinge of disappointment. Every year we see other retailers fight John Lewis for the title of best Christmas advert. This year Sainsbury’s has taken the typical heart-warming approach with an animation of a dad who wants to spend more time with his family at Christmas. This ad features Dave, voiced by James Corden, who sings ‘The Greatest Gift For Christmas Is Me’ in an unexpected bid for Christmas no. 1. The endearing message of spending time with the ones you love does have the tear factor, but has met with some criticism with employees who are being forced to work on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day claiming the advert is hypocritical. Marks and Spencer has opted for a different approach focusing on Mrs Claus. As Father Christmas leaves to deliver presents across the world, we see his wife go on a mission of her own to deliver a gift to Anna on behalf of her younger brother. It is impossible not to smile as the sister opens her gift to reveal a pair of red sparkly trainers and we see a touching display of brotherly love. However, this year Heathrow Airport has emerged as the unlikely contender for the best Christmas advert. This week saw the unexpected rival launch its first ever festive ad campaign which features two teddy bears. We watch as these ‘grandparents’ land at Heathrow and make their way through the airport with a sense of bewilderment until they are reunited with their family at the arrivals lounge, where they are transformed into humans. Some critics have claimed this feel good heart-warmer is an attempt reduce negative attention following the announcement of a third runway in west London, but the overall reception has been overwhelmingly positive, with polls showing that public opinion puts this as the forerunner in the battle for best ad.

No one can deny that these adverts are heart-warming but, after all, they are adverts and the main focus is money. This year John Lewis has partnered up with The Wildlife Trust in order to raise awareness and promote the value of British wildlife. Similarly, Sainsbury’s has paired up with Great Ormond Street Hospital, Aldi with Barnardo’s and Waitrose with Crisis, with proceeds from merchandise going towards each respective charity. These partnerships offer a great opportunity for publicity and fundraising as seen by Age UK who, after partnering with John Lewis last year, report an increase in the number of volunteering enquires.

Despite this, the cheesy nature of Christmas adverts, especially those of John Lewis, is what we have come to love and expect each year. Unfortunately, this is distinctly lacking from ‘Buster the Boxer’ which, although light-hearted and enjoyable, does not live up to the standard of the retailer’s past adverts. It looks like John Lewis has finally lost its crown.

Anna Sutton

(Image: Evening Standard)

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