From Humble Beginnings To National Event


It might still only be November, but Christmas is in full swing in television advertising land and John Lewis kicked off the festive period again with another cracker! Social media was awash with posts in anticipation of what has turned into a national event, and #Manonthemoon didn’t disappoint. From the lonely penguin to the love struck snowmen, the company has won Christmas for the seventh year in a row.

The company started the tradition back in 2007 with a TV advert entitled ‘Shadowy Past’. At the time it was the department store’s biggest-ever seasonal campaign, estimated to cost up to £6m. The ad depicted presents (presumably from John Lewis) being stacked in such a way that they created shadows in the shape of the people for whom they were intended and ended with the message ‘whoever you’re looking for this Christmas’. It wasn’t an ad I can remember, so nothing notable.

Fast forward a few years, coming more into my more recent memory and 2010 was the year Ellie Goulding recorded a cover version of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’. The advert showed the lengths people go to surprise their loved ones with even the trickiest of Christmas presents. It was entitled ‘A Tribute to Givers’ begun with two parents sneaking a rocking horse upstairs while their children watch television, cut to a man struggling to wrap a pair of candlesticks and a young boy hanging a stocking on his dog’s kennel, ending with the message “For those who care about showing they care”.

The Long Wait’ in 2011 was arguably the company’s best TV ad and propelled John Lewis’ name to the top of the pile in the competition to win Christmas advertising. This was also the first time that the retailer used its ad spot to tell a whole story, without featuring any John Lewis products at all. Set to an acoustic version of ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ by The Smiths, it told a story of a young boy waiting restlessly for Christmas, trying to use magic to make the clock move faster and wolfing down his peas on Christmas Eve so he can get to bed as early as possible. The big, twist came on Christmas morning when the boy runs past all of his presents left at the foot of his bed to give his parents their present from him with the message ‘for presents you can’t wait to give’.

Somehow John Lewis manages to raise the bar even higher every year and 2014’s introduction of ‘Monty the Penguin’ was no different. Monty was accompanied by John Lennon’s ‘Real Love’ and told the story of a penguin who dreams of love at Christmas time. Monty, in the end, turns out to be the imaginary character a young boy has built up around his stuffed toy and under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning? A female penguin toy.

This year’s hotly-anticipated advert told the tale of a girl who, through her telescope spots a lonely old man on the moon. ‘Half the World Away’, originally by Oasis, which famously was also used as the theme tune to The Royle Family, was the song of choice for ‘Man on the Moon’. The advert serves a double purpose, as this year the company also decided to use its position as king of Christmas to spread some good will and raise awareness for the charity Age UK. Seeing as the YouTube video has over 12 million views and endless tweets, I think it’s pretty safe to say they achieved this.

It’s not just John Lewis that has seen the value in going all out on their Christmas campaigns. More and more retail stores and supermarkets are getting involved and trying to knock the department store off its perch and last year Sainsbury’s attempt arguably did just that! However, I’m a traditionalist, give me Coca-Cola’s holidays are coming advert over John Lewis’ any day of the week.