Christmas seems to be starting earlier and earlier these days, doesn’t it? It used to be the Coca-Cola adverts that signalled the start of the festive period but, in recent years, the public’s imagination (and hearts) have been won by adverts from the high street retailer, John Lewis.
The formula for a John Lewis Christmas advert seems simple enough. Take a classic single, slow it down, ask a well-known singer to rework it and put that on top a heart-warming, tear-inducing short narrative about the essence of Christmas.
Here are their Christmas adverts from the last 6 years ranked by Kettle’s readers and writers:
5th 2009’s Remember the Feeling (2.6%)
This is probably in last position purely because we remember it least – it was before John Lewis adverts became the televised spectacles they are today. The 2009 effort uses less of a story-telling approach, making use of kids enjoying the festivities before inviting us all to remember Christmas at that age. Taken by Trees provide the soundtrack with their stripped back cover of Guns N’ Roses classic, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’.
4th 2010’s A Tribute to Givers (7.8%)
Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ is not exactly the most Christmassy number, but Ellie Golding sure put her mark on the much-loved song, even rumoured to have performed it at the Royal Wedding. The advert was a tribute to the people to the unselfish givers at Christmas time who go the extra mile to make it special.
3rd 2014’s #MontythePenguin (15.8%)
This year’s advert gets with the times with a hashtag and the CGI treatment. It tells the story of Monty the penguin who yearns for a significant other. Just when you think the end is nigh, the twist in the final few seconds changes everything and is guaranteed to get those eyes watering if they weren’t already. This was arguably one of the most anticipated adverts of the year, racking up 2.5 million views in its first 12 hours on YouTube (it’s currently on 18 million). Tom Odell provides the music with his cover of John Lennon’s ‘Real Love’.
2nd= 2012’s The Journey (21.1%)
The relatively unknown Gabrielle Aplin launched her career when she was catapulted to number 1 with her hauntingly beautiful version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’ which featured on 2012’s ad. A snowman embarks on a perilous journey to buy a gift for snow-woman. The power of love, indeed, as well as the power of a simple concept and genuine goodwill.
2nd= 2011’s The Long Wait (21.1%)
This one got my vote! 2011 was the year that TV audiences sat up and started to properly take notice of the John Lewis approach to Christmas. A boy waits impatiently for the big day to arrive, only to run past his own presents to give his parents their gift first. Of course no child could afford anything from John Lewis but the powerful message is moving and effective, combined with Slow Moving Millie’s cover of ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’. Even now, watching the advert leaves me with a lump in my throat. Truly heart-melting stuff.
1st 2013’s The Bear and the Hare (31.6%)
Some will say that the John Lewis Christmas advert really secured itself as a media event during its 2013 marketing campaign which included this £1 million animated advert. This emerged as the firm favourite amongst us Kettlers with many of you calling it “perfection” and “the essence of Christmas”. It tells the story of a bear who experiences his first Christmas when he is woken from hibernation by a gift from the hare.
Lily Allen made her chart comeback by providing the soundtrack with her version of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’. It contrasted starkly with her official (and more explicit) comeback single ‘Hard Out Here’ which was released a week later but could not match the dizzying heights experienced by her cover for John Lewis. Interestingly, Allen went on to claim that she only made £8,000 from the single.
So there we have it! ‘The Bear and the Hare’ from last year’s campaign is Kettle’s favourite John Lewis Christmas advert. Since this John Lewis tradition was established, other retailers such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have stepped up their advertising to create similarly heart-warming short films. It will be interesting to see how this competition evolves in the future and to what lengths (and expense) they will go to produce the perfect Christmas advert.
What do you think? Do you agree? What makes these adverts so special? Leave your comments below!