The John Lewis Christmas ad: Marketers react

With British advertising’s most-hyped ad of the year now live, six senior marketers give their verdict.


John Lewis wants to make people laugh not cry with its Christmas ad this year, with early figures suggesting huge buzz.

Since the YouTube launch this morning (10 November) there have been 61,000 mentions of the ad on Twitter. The ad’s dog has generated 48,234 mentions – under the #BusterTheBoxer hashtag – while mentions peaked at 8.31am with 390 mentions per minute.

“In 2014, Monty the Penguin made 14,000 people cry, this year they’ve made 82% of people who are discussing it on social media in the first two hours very happy,” summarises Will McInnes, CMO of Brandwatch.

Earlier this year, Dixons Carphone CMO Gary Booker claimed the “weepy” John Lewis approach was showing signs of fatigue and just this week Argos CMO Stephen Vowles suggested sentimental ads were now seen as “samey”.

However, the senior marketers Marketing Week caught up with gave the brand’s latest Christmas ad the thumbs up.

Peter Markey, brand communications and marketing director, Aviva

The new John Lewis advert is a masterstroke. It’s a campaign that’s designed to keep in step with the nation after a challenging year. By changing gear to drive more warmth and humour it is, I believe, going to be more entertaining and shareable than last year and more in tune with the Christmas the nation wants and needs to have in 2016.

It’s hard to maintain this momentum but I think John Lewis changing gear is exactly the right approach to keep everything fresh. It will be another campaign hard to beat this festive season.

Kristof Fahy, chief customer officer, Ladbrokes

I loved it as it is a great mix of emotion and humour – it’s an evolution not revolution and I think that’s a good thing. You want brands to deliver the expected and a bit of the unexpected. It keeps them fresh.

There is always the chance that John Lewis could be beaten but the standard they set is so high that it’s once again going to be tough.

Kevin McNair, GB marketing director, Britvic

As a dad, I love it. There’s some great insights in there around prepping for Christmas, excitement in the morning for a child and how some people will take over other people’s gifts! So, I actually think it is emotional. It is a different emotion to before but it makes me smile and reminds me of Christmas.

I think it is possible to maintain their past festive momentum if you continue to tap in to culture and continue to be culturally relevant. That’s the key to success.

Could it be pipped? It depends on what you see as success criteria? Are you thinking about views, shares, likes or a sales uplift? Of course John Lewis could be pipped. There are some great brands and businesses who see Christmas as the marquee time to showcase their brand. It is becoming the Superbowl equivalent for the UK and, as a marketer, I love that there is excitement around the UK and I am sure we will see some examples that get close to John Lewis or even beat it this time around.

Xenia Xenophontos, head of communications, Cath Kidston

Given national sentiment, most will have dreaded another tear-jerking, over sentimental Christmas ad. John Lewis’s decision to turn away from ‘sadvertising’ was somewhat expected this year given recent world events.

Their turn to positivity and optimism with Buster the Boxer is one that is very much welcome.

John Lewis’s ads have come to signal the start of the festive period, much like the Coca-Cola truck or Starbucks red cup. Given the outcome of the recent presidential election and Brexit, I don’t think any more tugging-at-the-emotional-heartstrings will have quite cut it. So what if the cynic in me is thinking ‘clever John Lewis for making a much higher price point item the subliminal star of its campaign?’. The ad makes us feel good – and we could all do with more of that right now.

Richard Blake, international marketing director, Yahoo

These ads are close to self-parody now – cute animals in wintry scene, small wide-eyed child, gorgeous cover version all present and correct – and you wonder how long they can continue in this vein. That said, it made me laugh out loud and that will make me share.

In the dark tail end of a year that gave us Brexit and Trump, who doesn’t want to see trampolining animals? I remain impressed by John Lewis’ commitment to execution across every channel, from the Snapchat lense, to behind-the-scenes content and in-store VR. This all-in approach means the return will surely follow. Especially when each year your audience boosts your media spend with such an incredible groundswell of earned media.

Michael Magee, VP marketing, Mars Chocolate Europe and Eurasia

It is a far more practical but no less involving retail ad that we can build our family dreams around with a little help from John Lewis. I think it is brilliant.