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John Lewis reaches for the moon

What makes a TV advert ‘work’? If I discussed TV advertising with anyone over the age of five at the moment I could guarantee that 95% of conversations would lead to ‘John Lewis’.

The upmarket UK department store has become the benchmark for Christmas advertising since 2007, with people even putting up their decorations when they first see the ad on their televisions. John Lewis officially triggers the Christmas season*.

How does one ad year on year, with the same narrative built around kindness, hit home with so many people? Especially through an industry that has lived off the phrase ‘sex sells’ since its incarnation… It’s because Christmas is the time of year that people start feeling the love. They want to see acts of goodwill in human beings, and love in penguins.

Take this year’s effort, for example. £7m got the British retailer a 2 minutes and 11 second ad featuring a young girl who discovers a lonely old man living on the moon through a telescope.

Out of the kindness of her heart, and utilising a skill set questionably advanced for her age, she manages to fly a telescope to the moon so he can look down on earth and see someone is thinking of him this Christmas.

A really good advert not only leaves a lasting impression, but it gets people talking and there has been plaudits and controversy alike with this advert. People have been questioning whether the £7m would have been better spent on or even donated directly to the elderly who are lonely during the festive season. But this is not the point. John Lewis claims to be raising awareness. Money can’t buy kindness. It has to come through us.

Now I’m not naïve. John Lewis hasn’t invested this resource in the hope everyone will visit/give to/smile at an old person this Christmas. They hope everyone associates the brand with goodwill, kindness and warmth and therefore spends in their stores. It’s a bit of a bluff but a great one nonetheless. This is why the advert works.

In my cynical opinion, I thought when seeing the advert ‘how mean’!… Because now this man can see what a great time everyone is having on Earth over Christmas and he’s still stuck on the Moon’.

But hey, if the John Lewis Christmas ad was a person, it’d be a national treasure, so who am I to judge?

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