Thursday, November 10, 2016

John Lewis changes direction with new Christmas ad and offers a lesson in retail advertising

I have been counting the days and titillated by the short teaser of the boxer dog panting before the release of the annual John Lewis Christmas ad. I see the John Lewis ad as a refreshing
change from the usual bombardment of sell sell sell ads that sprinkle in a few corny xmas bells or ho ho ho's or star-power hard selling to try to offset their hard hawking of wares.

Most Christmas and seasonal advertising at this time is pretty hardcore selling and not very creative nor very watchable. John Lewis is and has been the exception year after year.

John Lewis ads are known for exquisite production values, great emotive music tracks and of course
heart tugging stories of Christmas as seen usually through the eyes of a child. This year's spot is different. The longing now comes from the eyes of a jowly, young, brindle boxer dog known as Buster the Boxer and the child becomes just an ornament to the storyline.

The music is a powerful cover of Randy Crawford's 1980 "One Day I'll Fly Away" performed by an electronic trio called Vaults. The director is once again Dougal Wilson who also worked on three other John Lewis Christmas spots: "The Long Wait" in 2011, "The Journey" in 2012 and my all-time favorite "Monty's Christmas" in 2014.

In addition to this being the kick-off spot for the Christmas season in Britain, it is like most retailers,
a critical part of the marketing arsenal for John Lewis. The Christmas  season accounts for a crucial 20% of sales and 40% of profits for the John Lewis year. So don't kid yourself, this is all about sales too.

Additionally in the mix this year as part of the John Lewis selling strategy is a virtual trampoline setup at the store where kids can bounce with the animals shown in the TV commercial or if you can't make it to the store a Google trampoline experience can be accessed via or on Youtube as a Snapchat lens transforms users into Buster the Boxer!!!....very clever marketing here.

John Lewis demonstrates the power of spending and producing a single TV commercial that has become anticipated almost as much as the ads at SuperBowl time....with one spot...year after year.
John Lewis creates a spot that has long-lasting watching power. People want to watch this ad.

How many other retailers can make that claim? Certainly none in the U.S. market that I can think of.
But it could be and should be the model for retailers everywhere. The lesson being: you don't have to make bad ads with garish and groaningly desperate sell sell sell messaging.

John Lewis marketing and advertising is a classic case history for all retailers in what you should do to make profits and make the people who shop want to shop at your store and watch your ads which draws them into your store.

John Lewis knows this. They spend for their Christmas season. They plan for this season. And they know how critical the content, production values, storylines, casting, directing, music, pre and post production is to their bottom line. It's a big package that they anticipate a big spend on. And not only does it work it makes $8 profit for every $1 spent....

Plus John Lewis strives to make Christmas a whole lot more fun, enjoyable and anticipated like a child for all of us adults and children alike.

If the U.S. retailers could only follow John Lewis lead, what a wonderful season this would be.