John Lewis: The Christmas ad is our most profitable ROI

The ‘creative sprinkles’ amplifying the Christmas campaign are delivering for John Lewis’s bottom line.


John Lewis’s Christmas TV ad campaign is the department store’s most profitable return on investment, validating its continued investment in creativity.

Speaking at the IPA Effectiveness Genesis Conference today (2 November), John Lewis head of marketing Rachel Swift argued that creativity has never been more important for marketers, emphasising how creative thinking drives commercial success by delivering brand fame and an emotional connection with consumers.

“Our TV campaigns at Christmas are our most profitable ROI, which demonstrates that when you invest in creativity and in creating memorable brand building campaigns you not only create short term commercial success, you build the brand over the long term,” she explained.

“We don’t just do it for the sake of it, we do it because it actually gives a return to the partnership and makes it more profitable.”

Swift acknowledged the commercial advantages of amplifying marketing around the Christmas campaign, going beyond the TV advert to enhance the storytelling element. “Those amplifications have been incredibly successful in providing a return on investment. Those creative sprinkles on the top have actually been really positive for us,” Swift added.

Unwilling to be drawn on the content of the 2016 Christmas advert, which is rumoured to be released next week, Swift described taking a step back during the planning phase to ensure the campaign was the “most creative manifestation of the strategy”.

“We still had a great response for Man on the Moon, but there were a few murmurings about it being a bit sad and did it touch people in slightly the wrong way? So we’ve been really thinking about that,” Swift added.

Creativity drives long-term gains

Short-term thinking in marketing is shifting the emphasis away from creativity, argued Unilever global director of creative excellence, Dan Izbicki, who told the audience to channel their analytical side, but also trust their gut.

“We’re increasingly becoming short-termist, which is driven by our own behaviours, measurement systems, even our awards. Yet all the evidence shows the power of creativity is a multiplier over the long-term,” he said.

“We’ve become addicted to short-term measures. Shares and likes are very exciting and it’s great when you launch a new campaign to see all of that stuff. It’s not to say that it’s not relevant, but there’s lots of evidence to show it doesn’t have much correlation to a brand’s success in the long term.”

READ MORE: Why the focus on short-term marketing effectiveness is bad for brands

Swift shared a similar concern that creativity was being muscled out of marketing, arguing that the industry should be attracting the most creative people, and increasingly this is not the case.

“Marketing should be about entertaining the nation, changing people’s behaviour and challenging their perceptions. It’s not about click-through rates, likes and shares, it’s about all those really powerful things advertising and communications can do,” Swift added.

Google head of creative agency relationships, Charlotte Morton, emphasised the freedom YouTube offers as a creative platform which rewards brands willing to take an original approach to content, as long as they can capture consumer attention.

“One-in-five video views on YouTube is instigated by search, so you’ve immediately got a mindset of a viewer who is very ‘lean in’ and active. As such brand creativity is richly rewarded on the platform if you can be chosen – and that’s the killer challenge.”