The ad features two characters, a bear and a hare, one of which has never seen Christmas. As the other woodland animals prepare for the big day, bear goes into hibernation, but is awoken by a present from hare that enables him to see his first Christmas.

Speaking at an event in London to unveil the ad, John Lewis marketing director Craig Inglis said it continues the theme of “thoughtful giving” but this year looks to tell the story of the brand in a “different, fresh and innovative way”. It uses a form of animation that has never been used in a UK TV ad before, combining hand-drawn 2D stop motion drawing with 3D sets.

“We are the home of Christmas and customers come to us to find the perfect gift. We want to connect with the customer by using an emotionally powerful story but using new creative approaches,” he added.

John Lewis has been teasing the ads with 10 second spots on ITV, tweets using the hashtag #sleepingbear and a projection on the South Bank in London. The full 2 minute ad launches today (8 November) on YouTube and the John Lewis website.

Inglis said the social media launch is about creating “conversation and intrigue” around the campaign, guiding people towards the TV launch during the X Factor on Saturday (9 November). For that, John Lewis has secured the first ever exclusive ad break during the X Factor, with a 3 minute break in the programme featuring the usual TalkTalk sponsorship, an introduction and outro from ITV and the ad.

“This year we wanted to raise the bar and launch our ads in a different way. This was a big deal, with ITV having to reschedule the whole evening. Simon Cowell even had to sign it off,” added Inglis.

The ad will also be projected on the South Bank at the same time. Plus John Lewis is planning in-store marketing using the same theme, with merchandise such as toy hares and bears on sale.

The campaign this year cost £7m, £6m of which went on production and media buying for TV, with the rest going on supporting media including press, online and cinema. Inglis said that despite the growing importance of social media, TV will remain John Lewis’ main focus.

“Social media and TV work hand in hand. We recognise that our social media users are closer to the brand and so we want to engage with them. But we’ll never drop TV. The ROI we get is significant and it drives conversations around the country,” he added.

The campaign was created by ad agency Adam&Eve/DDB and OMD Manning Gottlieb and features Lily Allen singing Keane’s 2004 track “Somewhere Only We Know”.