John Lewis unveils Christmas ad customers ‘have been dreaming of’

John Lewis has launched its much-anticipated Christmas campaign, hoping to give customers the “Christmas they’ve been dreaming of” with an ad featuring the friendship between a young boy and a penguin.

However as winter approaches Monty becomes sad as he longs for a companion. Come Christmas Day, Sam gives Monty the present he has been dreaming of – a female penguin called Mabel.

Craig Inglis, marketing director at John Lewis, says the campaign aims to take people back to their childhood and tell a real story of love and friendship.

“At John Lewis, this time of year is all about helping our customers create their dream Christmas. We hope this uplifting tale of Sam’s love for his friend Monty will remind people of the magic of Christmas through a child’s eyes and inspire them to think how they can make the festive season extra special for their friends and loved ones,” he adds.

As in previous years, John Lewis has been teasing the ad online under the hashtag #montythepenguin and on TV, with idents on Channel 4 featuring a short clip from the full ad using the same hashtag and directing people to watch Gogglebox on Channel 4 on Friday (7 November), when the ad breaks.

It will also be online on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter from this morning as John Lewis looks to “reward” its biggest fans on social media with an early look at the campaign.

The TV spot will be supported by social media activity, with both Mabel and Monty getting their own Twitter profiles. Investment in this year’s campaign will again be around £7m, with £1m being spent on production – including using CGI technology and natural history footage to ensure the penguins look as realistic as possible – and a £6m media spend in partnership with Manning Gottlieb OMD.

“Bringing the ad to life”

John Lewis is also hoping to amplify the ad and add to the shopping experience through a series of in-store initiatives. A spokeswoman tells Marketing Week the aim is to bring the ad to life in the same way that Monty and Mabel are brought to life by Sam’s imagination.

All John Lewis stores – barring its smaller formats at Heathrow airport and St Pancras train station – will offer “Monty’s Den”, a dedicated space where kids can interact with the campaign. A lifesize Monty will be on hand for children to have their photo taken with, while an “Iceberg Station” will give families the opportunity to learn more about the Adelie penguin and the World Wildlife Fund’s “Adopt a Penguin” programme, which the retailer is supporting.

Focus on in-store technology

John Lewis has also made a big push into in-store technology. It will offer “Monty’s Goggles”, a pair of goggles that use virtual reality technology from Google and an app version of Monty’s Christmas storybook to create a virtual world for children to explore.

Monty's Goggles will let children experience the campaign in virtual reality
Monty’s Goggles will let children experience the campaign in virtual reality

John Lewis claims to be the first brand to use the technology, dubbed Google Cardboard, in a marketing campaign.

The retailer has also worked with Microsoft on “Monty’s Magical Toy Machine”, which will be available at its Oxford Street store. Children will be able to bring in their toys and have them scanned by photogrammetry technology so they appear in screen as a moving 3D image.

Microsoft’s motion-sensing technology Kinect will then scan the children so they can be pictured dancing alongside their toys.

John Lewis will also bring the campaign to life in its shop windows, bringing it “to the forefront” for the first time. All John Lewis shops will feature penguins alongside products to reinforce the brand message while the Oxford Street store will feature a colony of penguins interacting with home, fashion and technology products.

John Lewis is bringing its marketing campaign to the forefront in its window displays for the first time
John Lewis is bringing its marketing campaign to the forefront in its window displays for the first time

As with last year, there will be a range of merchandise, from cuddly Monty and Mabel toys, to a Christmas story book, umbrellas and onesies.

The John Lewis ad buzz

John Lewis was one of the big winners over the festive period last year, with sales up 6.9% to a record £734m. It credited its marketing activity, which featured the animated “The Bear and The Hare” story, for playing a role in its success.

The launch of the John Lewis ad has become an event in its own right, rivalling Super Bowl ads in terms of expectation, hype and social buzz and chatter. The retailer has hoped to make the most of this by boosting merchandising and launching integrated campaigns that shift seamlessly between online, broadcast media and stores.

All the ads since John Lewis made a return to the small screen in Christmas 2007 following three years away tread a similar path, eschewing celebrities, glitz and glamour to focus on telling a story that reflects its brand position around “thoughtful giving”.

Take a look at its previous ads below:

2013 – The Bare and the Hare

John Lewis’ first move into animation, the ad featured a hare waking up his hibernating friend the bear so he could experience Christmas. Lily Allen sang the son while the retailer has to get Simon Cowell himself to sign off a deal with ITV to take over a whole ad break of the X Factor to premier the ad to the waiting public.

2012 – The Journey

This was the year of the 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 singer Gabrielle Aplin’s version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “The Power of Love”.

2011 – The Long Wait

The year the buzz really began. 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.

2010 – Your Song

Craig Inglis took over as marketing director and his first Christmas campaign  depicted people trying to wrap and hide presents for loved ones. 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.



Despite the attention on Monty the Penguin, the rest of the marketing mix will be as responsible for John Lewis’ fortunes this Christmas

Sarah Vizard

The annual launch of the John Lewis Christmas campaign has become something of an event in its own right. No other ad causes such anticipation, so many column inches or such a reaction in the UK. But while the ad is important for John Lewis to ensure it’s front of minds as consumers head off to do their festive shopping, its just one cog in a well-oiled marketing machine, all the parts of which need to work together to ensure the retailer has a sparkling Christmas.