Pop quiz. Name the last three John Lewis Chrimbo ads?
Consensus at Tin Man Towers is… Elton (clean, sober) and his piano, Monster Munch Moz under the bed and vermin on a trampoline.
Are we close? I’m pretty sure the first two are right. But I’m less confident about whether a garden fox is technically vermin or not.
What this all signals is… Yes! It’s that time of year again!
The advertising equivalent of the X-Factor, which everyone from jealous brand managers to your mother-in-law has an opinion on. Almost.
Or, as one punter (@Woza_2015) commented on Twitter (via The Sun Website which is where I read it), Today, Christmas officially started!
Thank goodness. Especially if you are a beleaguered retailer!
Tough trading conditions aside, the annual discussion re our favourite Christmas ads is as important as the films themselves; real people talking about how much they like actual adverts; for FREE.
Which I am assuming is A) an exciting time of year for the brand and ad teams that worked tirelessly on them and B) the ultimate ‘North Star’ of the brief for those agencies involved. Making the clear winners and losers relatively easy to identify.
But, are John Lewis and Waitrose actually pinning their partnership bonus hopes on flogging a shed load of dragon plushies (£15.00 RRP) and luxury Christmas puds (400g, £8.00 RRP), courtesy of its latest festive schmaltz-fest?
Will it really make a difference? Maybe.
The Big Idea
Take a cute kid (Ava) and a cute animal (Excitable Edgar), add a wholesome, heart warming story with a sprinkling of humour, laughter, tears then laughter again (in that order) and some subtle product placement all wrapped up in a John Lewis (and Waitrose) shiny red Christmas bow.
Oh, and don't forget the music - Ballad. Emotion.
And that's a wrap.
To assess their chances properly, we need to look to their well-trodden Christmas ad ‘FORMULA FOR SUCCESS’ for answers.
One assumes ‘reach’ and engagement is covered thanks to paid and, crucially, earned mass media coverage ;-)
So what about sentiment? What say you, formula?
Well. Lots of adults like Game of Thrones a lot. Tick!
And kids, when they look up from circling toys they want in the Argos catalogue and/or Snapchat, like 'How to Train your Dragon'.
Boom! Inter-generational appeal and audience covered.
It’s fair to say they are off to a decent start.
Next up, the all-important ‘tear-jerk-test’. I wonder how the ‘formula’ fairs on this one?
@smurflady40 (The Sun, again, sorry) provides us with some much-needed evidence that things are on the right track. Apparently, Edgar’s antics successfully reduced her 19 year old daughter to tears (positive sentiment from Gen Zers? This just gets better for the evaluation team). Meanwhile, @Sazlife (you guessed it, The Sun) reveals she was a - crying emoji - waiting at the bus stop on her way to work and this is her favourite John Lewis ad, ever!
Nice one Edgar! You’ve officially smashed Moz to pieces in the all-important cute character stakes. Powerful stuff.
Which, I imagine, was also the brief to the music department.
Which tenderly re-imagined 80s rock classic, could be the next Don’t Stop Believing?
Hmm. Good question.
I imagine the ‘formula’ is less clear on identifying the actual answer on this one.
But whether or not you saw Dan Smith from Bastille’s thoroughly competent, middle of the road interpretation of REO Speedwagon’s ‘Can’t fight this feeling’ coming or not, it will surely shift a few downloads.
And make the first dance short list of a few hundred weddings next year (yet more engagement! How do we measure that? Another one for the evaluation team).
Food Glorious Food
A lot more measurable is the central role played by food in this year’s offering.
This integrated the brand merger with Waitrose pretty seamlessly and without a mis-step, bar the pyrotechnics.
However, despite the product diversity at the banquet table, the make-up of the made-up fairy tale village didn’t fair as well.
Which seems a real shame, for Edgar.
Unfortunately, there weren’t any tweets about this on The Sun website but I’m sure this won’t be lost on some viewers which does potentially take the feelgood shine off a few baubles.
So, where does all this leave us, the week after Bonfire Night?
Assuming the ‘formula’ is always right, one can only assume Elton and his piano was too much of a departure and it was back to the relative saccharine safety of a cute kid plus character.
Which feels a real shame. Because I liked that one.
And I’d probably say to @Sazlife it was my favourite to date.
And for those wanting a little break from the ‘FORMULA’, there’s always D-Double E and Ikea’s absolute masterpiece. I can’t stop watching or talking about it. And by the end of this week I promise I’ll know all the words.
Merry Christmas everyone. Bu Da Bup Bup.