It’s that time of year again, and as the Christmas ads start rolling in, there’s one in particular that has become a key cultural event for all of us in the UK. With the release today of ‘Buster the Boxer’, we decided to take a look back at John Lewis’ previous Christmas advert instalments, to examine how they have developed over the years. Previous efforts have taken us to emotional extremes with fantastical storylines, but the emotional narrative appears to be changing, and taking a much more subtle approach.
The Long Wait
The first of John Lewis’ Christmas ads to take us on an emotional journey, this ad borrowed from the traditional cultural notion of Christmas being a time of excess and flipped it on its head. With Morrissey’s lyrics swirling ‘Please, let me get what I want’, the young boy subverted expectations by enthusiastically presenting his parents with his hand-wrapped gift for them, instead of rushing to open his own. John Lewis refocused Christmas on the idea of giving, and the emotional resonance surrounding that – something they have carried through their subsequent Christmas campaigns.
The Bear And The Hare
A magical fairytale offering, this ad transported us away from reality and showed how Christmas is celebrated by all the creatures of the natural world. The form of this advert shifted to an incredibly high quality and was praised for its cinematic style and feel. However John Lewis were careful not to lose the emotional journey, reminding us that Christmas is for sharing and creating new memories with our nearest and dearest.
The Man On The Moon
Last year’s advert took the idea of an emotional journey to its extreme limit. A Christmas ad with a conscience, the reminder to not forget our loved ones during the festive period was overtly communicated. With many claiming it was the most tear-jerking advert ever, the image of a lonely man on the moon brought home for many people the feeling of abandonment that some people feel at Christmas.
Buster The Boxer
This year’s advert sees John Lewis taking a decidedly different approach. Especially compared to last year, this ad celebrates the joy of Christmas and the happiness that gift giving can bring – even if it is felt by an unintended recipient! John Lewis is maintaining the narrative of creating an emotional journey, but seem to have realised that that journey doesn’t necessarily have to be a sad one. Playing with humour is new territory for their Christmas campaigns, but considering the year we’ve had, it feels very much welcome.