John Lewis at Christmas: a history in ads

John Lewis only started doing Christmas TV ads in 2007, but in that time they have established themselves as the standard bearer.

This year they’ve pulled out all the stops, signing up Lily Allen to sign the song and going for an animation that feature cute animals designed again to tug at the heartstrings. In a first, it has also signed a deal with ITV to take over a whole ad break during the X Factor that Simon Cowell himself had to sign off in order to “premier” the ad to the awaiting public.

Yet they all follow a similar pattern, eschewing celebrities, glitz and glamour to instead tell a story that makes an emotional connection with the viewer.

2007 – Shadows

This marked John Lewis’ return to the small screen after three years away. Created by Lowe London, it used a soundtrack of Aubade/Morning Serenade from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and showed people stacking presents to produce a shadow of a woman and her dog to show how people can use John Lewis to find the perfect gift.

2008 – From Me To You

Set to a cover of The Beatles’ “From Me To You”, the ad showed various people and their ideal gifts.

2009 – Never Knowingly Undersold

Adam&Eve took over the John Lewis Christmas campaign, relaunching the retailer’s “Never Knowingly Undersold” strapline. It showed children opening gifts meant for adults, including slippers and a coffee machine. It also featured the first use of a Guns N’ Roses song in a UK TV ad with a folksy cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.

2010 – Your Song

Craig Inglis took over as marketing director and his first Christmas campaign in charge depicted people trying to wrap and hide presents for loved ones. Ellie Goulding, at the time an up-and-coming singer, covered Elton John’s “Your Song” for the ad, which reached number two in the charts.

However it also courted controversy, with people criticising a scene in which a dog is left out in the cold as “heartless” and “irresponsible”. It then cut the scene, apologising for any concern caused.

2011 – The Long Wait

This is the year John Lewis went stellar. The ad shows a young boy waiting for Christmas, with the twist at the end revealing that he actually can’t wait to give his parents their presents. It was also the first year John Lewis launched its Christmas campaign online first, garnering more than 1m hits in the first day alone. It featured The Smiths’ track “Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”, covered by Slow Moving Millie.

2012 – The Journey

John Lewis had a lot to live up to after the success of 2011’s campaign. This year it went with a snowman, who goes to great lengths to find the perfect gift, journeying from the country to a city to buy a hat, scarf and gloves for his snowwoman. It was accompanied by a singer Gabrielle Aplin’s version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “The Power of Love”.

2013 – The Bare And The Hare

Launched online this morning (8 November), this marks the first time John Lewis has used animation in its Christmas advertising. The ad features a hare trying to find the perfect gift for his friend, who has never seen Christmas. That turns out to be an alarm clock, waking him up from hibernation to share in the festive season.

John Lewis stepped up the ante this year, teasing the ad on TV and online, as well as recreating a scene on the South Bank. It is also taking out a full ad break during the X Factor and supporting the campaign with in-store activities and merchandise.

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