Ah, the John Lewis Christmas ads. Truly a sign that the festive season is upon us. JL, if I may be so bold as to call them, has managed to create such strong pieces of creative commercialism that they’ve firmly embedded themselves as part of British Christmas tradition. It’s pretty amazing actually, to have a department store’s annual advert become a well loved and anticipated ‘big moment’ for the year is quite an accomplishment. Of course, with films like ‘Home Alone’ and ‘A Miracle on 34th Street’, department stores have gone hand in hand with the jolly season for quite some time, but it’s still an impressive campaign. But the big question is, of the eleven often tearjerking shorts we’ve seen so far, which ones are the most endearing, well put together and best capture the spirit of the season? Well, I’m here to answer that with the definitive ranking of the John Lewis Christmas ads, as of 2017. Quite possibly the most controversial list I’ll ever write, so just remember; this is all opinion based! Let me know your favourite in the comments below.
11. ‘Shadows’ (2007)
JL’s first festive themed advert is also sadly their weakest. There’s some nice imagery, creating the picture of a woman from potential gifts but the message is pretty commercial, without much Christmas spirit bar a mandatory sprinkling of fake snow. It also hasn’t yet adopted what would become standard for future instalments; an emotional cover of a popular song. All in all, pretty dull and forgettable.
10. ‘Buster the Boxer’ (2016)
Quite possibly the laziest and most disappointing of the bunch. While also the most light hearted and humorous, it doesn’t really hit any emotional beats and comes off a bit try-hard and overly silly. Despite a cute, endearing main character and a lovely cover of Randy Crawford’s ‘One day I’ll fly away’, something’s just a bit off here. Lovely dog, lovely idea pairing up with Wildlife Trusts, but without a doubt the weakest of the more more recent ads.
9. ‘From Me to You’ (2008)
Despite getting probably bias treatment from me for including a cover of a Beatles song, this one is again, pretty dull. It’s a stock ad with the cover song being the only thing that makes it feel even slightly reminiscent of its superior siblings. The concept of knowing the person’s ideal Christmas present is nice in theory but comes of cliché with some pretty stereotypical presents; oh the old people need a satnav because they’re old and useless, isn’t that lovely. Skip it if you haven’t seen it.
8. ‘Man on the Moon’ (2015)
A great concept, with a lovely connection to incredibly worthy charity, Age Concern. It also features my favourite cover of all of the songs; rising star Aurora doing a beautiful reimagining of Oasis’ ‘Half the World Away.’ However, the execution this time is a little sloppy and nonsensical. I always thought they missed a trick by not making the ‘moon’ aspect all in the child’s head and have them visit the elderly relative in a retirement home, but ah well, I’m not a creative director.
7. ‘Moz the Monster’ (2017)
This years attempt to capture the hearts, minds and wallets of the British public is a bit marmite. I quite like the practical effects of Moz, evoking qualities of both Sully from Monsters Inc and the Gruffalo and owing a lot to 80’s and 90’s monster effects. The plot is sweet but the ending is pants. I don’t really see the relevance of the lamp being given as a gift as he wasn’t scared of the monster in the first place, rather, he actually got on with him pretty well! The song here is lovely though; Elbow seem like a band made for a John Lewis advert and their cover of yet another Beatles song, ‘Golden Slumbers’ is suitably magical.
6. ‘A Tribute to Givers’ (2010)
Using the massive hit of Ellie Goulding’s cover of ‘Your Song’ was a stroke of genius by the marketing team. This one gets points for being the most Christmasy yet. The image of the mum and dad trying to sneak a rocking horse upstairs without their kids realising is both hilarious and heart warming. The budget had clearly increased by this point as the use of a major artists song and much slicker editing paid off with a tight, if a bit basic, piece.
5. ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’ (2009)
Perhaps it will be a surprise that a relatively down to Earth entry comparative to the later anthropomorphic adventures we’d see from the company, ranks so high on my list. I find it utterly charming in its simplicity and its emphasis on the pure excitement that Christmas brings to children. The message of letting this live on to adulthood (admittedly via buying presents from John Lewis) is wonderful and it was the first Christmas ad from the company to seem less commercially focused and a little more heartfelt.
4. ‘Monty the Penguin’ (2014)
Oh, Monty. The first time that John Lewis had clearly transformed a sweet little ad into a full blown integrated marketing campaign. And it was met with rapturous praise when it launched; Monty plushies, a trending hashtag, the charity tie in; it was all there and it was everywhere. Putting this aside and looking at it critically, Monty is an utterly charming piece. The CGI looks surprisingly strong for a tv advert and Tom Odell’s masterful cover of John Lennon’s (I’m seeing a theme here) ‘Real Love’, fits the sweet tone perfectly.
3. ‘The Journey’ (2012)
Amazingly, this is the only advert from the entire eleven year long collection to actually use a Christmas song. Again, simplicity is key here. We don’t need a man on the moon, or a bouncing dog, just a genius idea of building the same snowman in different locations and editing it to make it seem like he’s moving. Basic? Yes. Effective? You betcha. It put Gabrielle Aplin on the map for her stunning cover of ‘The Power of Love’ and is a testament to the power of great editing and sound design; it warms the cockles of your grinch-like heart.
2. ‘The Bear and the Hare’ (2013)
Who says trying something new doesn’t pay off? John Lewis certainly didn’t think so as they followed ‘The Journey’ with an unconventional, entirely animated piece. ‘The Bear and the Hare’ channels a Disney fable with it’s story of a grumpy bear who nearly missed Christmas and it gets even more props for actually managing to work the John Lewis product into the story without seeming forced. Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere only we know’ seems on paper, entirely inappropriate for a Christmas story, but is simply beautiful and is the perfect accompaniment to this delightful story.
- ‘The Long Wait’ (2011)
The only advert from John Lewis so far to legitimately make me cry; ‘The Long Wait’ is not only the best John Lewis Christmas ad, but may be one of the best adverts of all time. The subversion of expectations and the inspired use of the ‘child can’t wait for his presents’ cliché is so clever, it still gets me to this day. The moment where you realise this boy just can’t wait to give his mum a gift not only melts your heart, but makes you feel guilty for jumping to conclusions earlier. The score this time is the entirely appropriate Smith’s song ‘Please, Please, Please let me get what I want’, slowed down and covered perfectly by Slow Moving Mille amplifying all ‘the feels.’ If you don’t get even a little emotional while watching this one, you have no soul, I’m sorry.