Marketers offer their views on the John Lewis Christmas ad

John Lewis pulled a surprise twist by launching a joint campaign with Waitrose this Christmas, but has Edgar the excitable dragon managed to win the heart of marketers?

Pete Markey, CMO, TSB

This advert is probably one of the most important in the history of John Lewis and Waitrose given recent trading performance and the tough competitive environment but I think its a winner.

Importantly it takes us back to what feels like a nostalgic, warm and charming Christmas of yesteryear with a centrally cute but misunderstood character at its heart.

It also promotes well the need for giving, hope and forgiveness – three words that we all need to be reminded of at this time of year. And it seems to blend the brands well enough too so they feel like equal partners and not one the poorer cousin of the other which is no mean feat.

Great work.

Tanya Joseph, consultant and architect of ‘This Girl Can’ campaign

I really wanted to like this ad, honestly I did. But I found this year’s offering from John Lewis (and somewhat curiously Waitrose) at best a bit meh.

I know there is huge pressure on the John Lewis Partnership to make something extraordinary to kick off the festive season (pressure of its own making but we are where we are) but this year for me they have failed to elicit any kind of excitement.

Both brands need the people of Britain to shop with them. I am not sure this ad is going to do that.

Tanya Joseph

I am sure they will sell lots of baby dragon merchandise and Bastille’s Dan Smith’s cover of Can’t Fight This Feeling will do well in the charts, but the whole thing is insipid, schmaltzy and derivative.

At the risk of sounding like the Grinch, what is the point? Are the teams at John Lewis and Waitrose just jumping on the table to declare “we own Christmas! We don’t care that this ad isn’t going to drive more shoppers to us – take that Amazon?”

This approach to Christmas marketing is a lonely road to nowhere. It isn’t enough for the people of Britain to smile and think when they see the ad for the first time that Christmas has arrived.

Both brands need the people of Britain to shop with them. I am not sure this ad is going to do that.

Abba Newbery, CMO, Habito

I am a massive fan of the John Lewis Christmas ads and I am not ashamed to say that a belter will move me to tears: snowmen and gloves, little boys who can’t wait to give presents and animals who love to bounce have all hit the mark with me.

I admit it’s an insanely high bar to set, but that’s the question I ask myself – how much has it moved me? Was there a tear?

So to Edgar. It’s a beautifully animated, wonderfully directed story about social exclusion at Christmas and a super cute misunderstood dragon. The track is good, but my eyes resolutely remained dry. Sainsbury’s take on Oliver Twist meets Father Christmas won the tears trigger for me.

I am sure the ad will work hard, I am sure little kids will be clutching Edgars on Christmas Day, and I am sure there are as many people who love it as much as I don’t.

Gemma Butler, marketing director, Chartered Institute of Marketing

It’s clear merchandising is back at the heart of this year’s campaign, making up for last year’s lack of must-have toy. The ad has a family-friendly Game of Thrones aesthetic, while the young girl protagonist reminds us of current on-screen heroines, including Lyra from the BBC’s new His Dark Materials series, to deliver engagement with customers.

John Lewis and Waitrose will be hoping the campaign’s emphasis on social media – introducing new emojis and Snapchat filters – as well as its in-store activations will translate the warm festive feelings from the advert into sales. And drive sales of cuddly dragons.

The brands seem to have played it safe, settling into their role expected by customers to set the bar for Christmas advertising, rather than raising it.