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John Lewis Christmas Ad Campaign UK

Price, product and promotion strategy are key for sales success.
Price, product and promotion strategy are key for sales success. | Source

What Makes a Great Advertising Campaign?

A good advert is one that holds your attention. It teases you with information about the product and makes you want to find out more. A bad ad is bland and boring. A great one arouses your interest and makes you want to talk about it to friends on social networks. The product and brand name should be memorable, not just the advertisement. Some brands concentrate on raising general brand awareness rather than specific products.

We make just over £8 [profit] for every pound we spend so the Christmas ad campaigns are hugely profitable. The returns are long term as well; we see the continuing impact. The £7m we spend is dwarfed by our competitors. We punch well above our weight.

— Craig Inglis, Customer Director and Marketing Chief at John Lewis

An advertising campaign is not just about individual paid-for ads. Social networks are increasingly important. Any brand worth its salt now has a corporate account on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and similar social media. Awareness raising campaigns include internet “chatter” as well as free media coverage gained through controversy rather than purely positive reporting.

John Lewis have achieved this with their Christmas advertising. They have created a truly memorable and talked about campaign. YouTube has not only many copies of the original ad, but also has reviews and reactions to the campaign from people all over the world. My favorite John Lewis Christmas campaign reaction YouTube video is the one below from Tom and Sophie. Their laughter and enjoyment of the ad is infectious and is genuine and natural. You can watch the original John Lewis ad further on in my article.

Christmas Advertising Starts Earlier Each Year

The winter holiday break used to be a week at the end of December. Gradually this has extended, so that now the whole of December sees Winter festival promotions in the stores. Retailers make a large proportion of their annual profits during this period. To increase their profits, they need to push us into spending more and buying earlier. The result is more and more Xmas and festive advertising campaigns.

In UK, advertising rivalry is particularly intense between national department store chains and the large food retailers. Each year there is anticipation about who will produce the most memorable ad campaign. In the last few years there has been a twist as spoof video ads have appeared on YouTube. Often these have had a synergistic effect and increased the viewing figures for the original adverts.

John Lewis department store, Oxford Street, London.
John Lewis department store, Oxford Street, London. | Source

John Lewis Christmas Ad 2016

John Lewis plc is a UK department store. Its target market is middle income families. It stocks a wide range of goods ranging from cosmetics to crockery, from furniture to fashion. It has a large budget for advertising and it’s been successful in producing memorable ad campaigns. The brand uses teasers on social media to build anticipation and make the launch of its Xmas ad a “big day”.

The 2016 John Lewis Christmas advert Buster the Boxer cost £1 million (US $1.25 million) to make, but its thunder was stolen by the release a few weeks earlier of a video made by a school student for almost nil cost.

Buster the Boxer and The Wildlife Trusts

This is the story of a little girl called Bridget who loves to bounce. When her mum and dad buy her a trampoline for Christmas, they soon discover that she isn’t the only one with a passion for jumping.

— Buster the Boxer by John Lewis

Linked to a Charity Theme

Big business is keen to show a soft and cuddly side at Christmas. John Lewis does this by supporting a different charity each year. Wildlife (two foxes, a badger, a squirrel and a hedgehog) star in the 2016 Xmas advert, so this year they have chosen to raise money for The Wildlife Trusts. These are non-profit groups that protect and restore wildlife and natural habitat in UK. The 2016 ad campaign has a warm and light-hearted theme in contrast to the advert aired in 2015.

The 2015 Christmas advert featured a lonely old man and the charity chosen was Age UK which supports elderly and vulnerable senior citizens. It was a tear-jerker and garnered some negative publicity. However, there is a twist to this story. A few weeks ago, A level student, Nick Jablonka made a video for a school project. He chose a similarly sad theme, a lovelorn snowman imprisoned in a snow globe. He jokingly titled it the John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 and then put it on YouTube. It went viral and was shared on social media gathering 100s of thousands of views in just a few days. Many people were fooled into thinking it was the real thing. His spoof took him about two weeks of hard work to make and brought him unexpected media attention.

The Snow Globe John Lewis Spoof Ad

Which one is your favorite John Lewis Christmas advert?

See results

John Lewis says its Christmas ad campaigns over the past four years have fuelled an average 16% lift in festive sales. The number of festive shoppers in John Lewis stores has climbed more than 50% from 926,000 to 1.4 million in 2013-15.

— The Guardian newspaper

Man on the Moon and Age UK

Christmas advertising campaigns help raise the profile of their retail client and they undoubtedly increase the store’s sales. The ads are entertaining and most people enjoy watching them. The media eagerly anticipate their release as the adverts provide some heartwarming good news stories. Charities benefit from the money raised by stores selling themed toys linked to the videos. Advertising agencies make money from producing them. YouTube and many independent amateur video makers also get a piece of the action by producing spoof and imitation ads. So, everyone’s a winner!

Did The Simpsons Predict the John Lewis Ad Theme?

Back in 2011, the American cartoon series, The Simpsons, showed their pet dog, Santa's Little Helper, having fun on a trampoline. Could this have been the inspiration for the 2016 John Lewis Christmas campaign? I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine. Whatever the answer, enjoy the winter festive holiday season and the ad campaigns that have become an entertaining part of it.

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