John Lewis Christmas ad goes for joy rather than tears

John Lewis Christmas ad 2016

The release of the John Lewis Christmas ad has become a festive ritual in the UK, and increasingly around the world. Ten years in it has established a formula that is strong enough to convincingly spoof (as someone did earlier this week): we’ve come to expect a schmaltzy cover of a classic song, a very cute kid and a little bit of sentimental Christmas pulling of the heartstrings.

But hold on a minute: this year one element is missing. Instead of trying to make us cry, this year the brand wants to make us chuckle, delivering an ad centred on the unexpected yet charming combination of woodland animals and a child’s trampoline. The end result is still heartwarming, just not heart-wrenching. Check it out below:

The ad is the main event though the campaign’s presence will be felt across multiple channels. There are Snapchat filters, Twitter stickers, a wide range of products (including toy animals and a new children’s book based on the ad), and even a VR event at the flagship Oxford Street store. The spot launches on demand on Sky this morning, and will air on TV for the first time this evening. And if that isn’t enough, there is a charitable tie in – this year with The Wildlife Trust – as well as a making-of film and bespoke content about British Wildlife to appear on Sky. There will be no escaping this campaign.

John Lewis Christmas ad 2016
John Lewis Christmas ad 2016
John Lewis Christmas ad 2016

But does it deliver? Apparently the decision to be more uplifting this year was intentional: “2016 has certainly been quite a year,” says Craig Inglis, customer director at John Lewis. “so we hope our advert will make people smile.” And perhaps, after such a rollercoaster news cycle of late, we should be grateful.

Yet the vibe of the ad is a little muddled. It is set to the usual sentimental soundtrack – this time a cover of One Day I’ll Fly Away by up-and-coming UK band Vaults. This style of music has a Pavlovian power to induce sobbing in the core John Lewis Xmas ad audience, but then the brand asks us for laughs. And on top of this, the trampolining wildlife animals – undoubtedly a very funny idea on paper – feel a little too CGI to deliver in the finished spot.

A great, natural performance from both Buster the Dog and the little girl in the ad (director Dougal Wilson once again showing off his ability to work brilliantly with kids) bring it back into focus, but in the end it doesn’t quite deliver the full emotional hit we’ve come to expect from John Lewis at Christmas. We await the emoji verdict on Twitter.

Agency: adam&eveDDB
Director: Dougal Wilson
Production company: Blink Productions

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