Christmas time means big business in UK. As we approach the festive season, big brands and retailers are all set to launch their high budgeted campaigns. In UK, the planning starts months ahead. Brands spend an inordinate amount of time and effort in creative planning, execution, generating anticipation and all of that finally leads to the big reveal. There is huge scrutiny and the pressure to be the biggest and the best is massive. Millions of pounds are invested into these campaigns. According to the Advertising Association, brands are set to spend a record of 6 billion pounds on Christmas marketing in 2017, which is 400 million pounds more than what was spent last year. The race to do something different and stand out is phenomenal. And it all started with one brand – John Lewis. The high-end departmental store launched their first Christmas advert in 2007 and their format of thoughtful gifting challenged brands to not only sell products but also win hearts. This year, it is no different.
John Lewis’ 2017 Christmas ad tells the story of Joe, an eight year old boy and his friend Moz, the monster. A lot of us were like Joe, as kids. We were afraid of the dark and the idea of “monsters under the bed” would send most of us into a panic. The ad immediately revives many childhood memories and beautifully attempts to change perceptions. Not all monsters are scary! Moz is a friendly, clumsy and funny monster who quickly becomes friends with Joe. The ad is an ode to friendship. Good friends do not let their friends miss out on important things, just because they want to have a fun time. Moz realises that Joe remains tired throughout the day as they end up playing games all night and in a thoughtful gesture, he gifts Joe a nightlight for Christmas. When Joe switches on the nightlight, Moz is not there. Moz, the monster, is hence a metaphor for a fear of the dark. Joe was afraid of the dark but eventually learns not to fear it. In a simple two minute story, the advert conveys the idea of brightening up someone’s world and in the usual John Lewis style, there is a heartfelt finish.
This gradually unfolding storyline is what keeps us engaged. The excellent choice of song, a cover of The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers”, performed by the band Elbow highlights the simplicity and innocence of childhood. There is a feel good factor about the overall film and not for a moment, it feels like we are being sold products. Yet, children watching the ad will want their very own Moz the Monster.
The longer, six minute version of the communication has actor, Sally Philips, narrating the entire story. Though this is meant to be an audio version, I quite enjoyed watching it. In the age of shorter story formats, this is a reminder that only a good story matters. There is no ideal content length if the film can hold the attention of viewers.
As for the brand, there is a lot riding on this one ad. John Lewis typically makes more than 40 percent of its annual profit during this season. According to estimates, every one pound spent on advertising delivers a return of five pounds for the brand. Despite uncertainty in the UK economy, the retailer has not shied away from bigger spends – the brand has invested a whopping 7 million pounds on this campaign. However, the stakes are getting higher and so are expectations. Hence, only time will tell if John Lewis continues its winning streak, but if they do, I would not be surprised.