Love and penguins in the new John Lewis Christmas ad

There is a nip in the London morning air at last, and with the release of the new John Lewis Christmas ad, it feels like the countdown to the festive season is beginning...

The ad, from Adam&EveDDB, is directed by Dougal Wilson and stars a little boy and his toy penguin in a story of love at Christmastime: in other words, Calvin and Hobbes infused with the sentiment of Love Actually.

John Lewis's Christmas ad has become a 'thing'. After a series of Xmas advertising hits over the past seven years, expectation hangs on its arrival, and it has led to a general resurgence in quality among UK festive ads, with other brands keen to get a slice of the attention. So how does this year's spot fare?

Well, it's a bit of an amalgamation of the brand's previous ads. The team has played it safe with the music – creating another saccarine cover of a classic song (this time Tom Odell offers up a version of John Lennon's Real Love, but somehow manages to scrub all the poignancy out of the original). And by returning to Wilson to direct, after last year's animated diversion with the bear and the hare, the spot falls into line with the director's previous ads in the series, from 2011 and 2012. The 2011 spot starred a young boy counting down to giving his parents a gift at Christmas, while the 2012 ad featured a snowman on an incongruous journey to the department store to buy his snow girlfriend some woollen gloves.

If the dominance of the penguin in this year's spot feels a touch strange, there is another story at work here too, which would explain it. Last year, John Lewis sold out of a product line of toys featuring the bear and hare characters from the ad, and it's likely that the penguin from the new ad will be popular with children and parents too. And with a wide range of products available (the largest penguin toy retails at £95), John Lewis has made it very easy for shoppers to be part of its Christmas 'experience'.

Agency: Adam&EveDDB
Creatives: Daniel Fisher, Richard Brim
Director: Dougal Wilson
Production company: Blink
Post: MPC