How to make a John Lewis Christmas Advert

Take one well known rock/pop song, normally between 5 and 20 years old.

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Remix it with new up-and-coming female singers with an acoustic/piano accompaniment.

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Play said song over emotive Christmas themed story with a focus on family.

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Wait for the media and public to lose their shit over it.

This years JL advert is set to ‘drop’ on Friday November 11th, if they follow the pattern from the last few years.  Firm Vouchercloud decided to analyse the music used in the ads from the past seven years and they concluded the tune is likely to be:

  • A slowed-down, piano driven, acoustic cover of a top 10 single, by a British male rock band that’s had at least four number one albums in the UK.
  • The song will be covered by a female, British or Scandinavian indie solo singer who’s released their debut album or EP in the last three years.

JL had stayed away from the TV adverts for a few years in the mid 00’s and even after their return with the ‘Shadow’ campaign it was a full year before they hit on the winning formula above. These adverts have a magical place in the overcrowded holiday season, and they join the likes of the Coca Cola truck in moving from simple advert to holiday advertisement.

2007 – “Shadows”

Christmas 2007 saw the first John Lewis television advertisement in three years, with a six million pound campaign: their biggest seasonal ad spend up to that point. The commercial did not feature the hallmarks of later campaigns such as an emotional denouement or slowed-down cover version, instead using Prokofiev’s Morning Serenade from Romeo and Juliet. It features presents and products being carefully assembled and positioned to eventually create a shadow image of a woman and a dog in the snow, in the style of artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster.

2008 – “From Me to You”

For a second year, Lowe and Partners were the agency behind the John Lewis Christmas ad, creating a montage of people of all ages and their ideal gifts with the tagline “If you know the person, you’ll find the present”. This was the first to feature the now-traditional cover version, with “From Me to You” by The Beatles recorded by unnamed employees of John Lewis. The full track was made available to download for free on the John Lewis website with an encouragement to donate to Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation.

2009 – “Sweet Child o’ Mine”

The 2009 advertisement was the first for John Lewis by agency Adam & Eve (now part of DDB Worldwide), who went on to create the subsequent five Christmas campaigns. Featuring a cover of the Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Taken by Trees, the commercial features young children opening gifts usually given to adults such as a coffee machine and a laptop. With the tagline “Remember how Christmas used to feel”, the final scene shows a girl unwrapping a camera and becoming a woman.

2010 – “A Tribute to Givers”

Ellie Goulding’s cover of the Elton John song “Your Song” was the soundtrack to a collection of images showing people preparing gifts for their loved ones. Most notably, two parents attempt to secretly carry a rocking horse up some stairs whilst their children watch television. The advert concludes with a boy taking a stocking of presents outside to his pet dog in the snow, and hanging it on the kennel. This caused some controversy with animal rights protesters who complained that the animal was left outside in the cold whilst the boy waved goodbye and retreated to the house.

2011 – “The Long Wait”

Featuring The Smiths song “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” sung by Slow Moving Millie, the 2011 advert featured a little boy impatiently counting down the days to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, he wolfs down his dinner and goes to bed early in preparation for the next day. When he awakes on Christmas morning, the little boy jumps out of bed, runs straight past a large pile of presents at the bottom of his bed and heads for the wardrobe. He then wanders into his parents bedroom, waking them to give them the gift he has, for so long, been waiting to give them.

2012 – “The Journey”

Using 20-year-old Gabrielle Aplin’s version of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood classic “The Power of Love”, the 2012 advert showed a snowman who traversed fields, a river, a mountain to obtain a perfect Christmas gift for Mrs. Snowman. The advert was very quickly followed up by a children’s picture book which was hastily written and published immediately after the advert’s first screening. The song was the first song from the John Lewis Christmas adverts to be a UK Singles Chart number one.

2013 – “The Bear and the Hare”

Set to a cover of “Somewhere Only We Know” by British singer Lily Allen, the 2013 campaign featured an array of woodland animals in a classical Disney style and setting. The full advert lasted 2 minutes, and was made with 2D Animation by Premise Entertainment. It told the story of a bear hibernating before Christmas, before being persuaded to wake up by the titular hare to see Christmas in all its splendour. The accompanying music quickly rose to the top of the UK Singles Chart, doing so twice more in later weeks. A portion of the song’s sales earnings were donated to proceeds Save the Children’s Philippine Typhoon Appeal campaign.

2014 – “Monty the Penguin”

In their press release ahead of the 2014 campaign launch, John Lewis stated that the strapline for the advert was “Give someone the Christmas they’ve been wishing for”. They added that “the heartwarming advert tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between a little boy Sam and his penguin friend Monty.”British singer-songwriter Tom Odell recorded a cover for the advert of the 1976 John Lennon song “Real Love”, which was the last official song recorded by the Beatles after being re-released in 1996.

2015 – “Man on the Moon”

Featuring a cover of Oasis’ 1994 B-side “Half the World Away”, sung by Norwegian singer Aurora, the 2015 campaign tells the story of a young girl trying to contact an old man spotted living alone on the Moon. Her attempts to catch the man’s attention fail until she sends him a special delivery of a telescope, via balloon, and the man finally gets to see Earth on Christmas night. The strapline for the advert is “Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”, with the company teaming up with the charity Age UK. The advert is estimated to have cost around £7 million.

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