Retail advertising and Christmas have always gone hand in hand. Brands are so intrinsically entwined with the holiday that even its most iconic (secular) figure has a brand to thank for his famous red attire.
Similarly, forget the arrival of robin red breast; it is the TV commercials that herald the beginning of the festive season.
Interestingly, Woolworths traditionally used to be the favourite spot to watch out for. The media would be rife with anticipation about what its ad extravaganza might entail, who it might star and what the budget might be. However, much like the brand itself, those days seem long gone. In these days of austerity, the Christmas blockbuster commercials resemble something entirely different altogether.
John Lewis provides the most prominent example of how this particular landscape has changed over recent years. The ad has, as is tradition, triggered a phenomenal amount of buzz. It has filled newspaper columns, sparked debate and even sneak previews on Twitter and YouTube meant that the ‘twitterati’ were twittering at a high volume before the ad aired.
However, the reason why people actually care has altered dramatically. John Lewis is one of those brands that seems to have acquired a uniquely special place in the nation’s heart. It is a brand universally adored by middle England and has become increasingly adept at tapping into the mood of the county.
During a time of economic turmoil, where brands need our custom more than ever, John Lewis opted to produce a heart-warming and emotive piece that contrasts entirely against the commercially focused norm.
The scene this year’s ad portrays a simpler, generous and more innocent time. People repeatedly comment on how timeless it seems, indicating that it appeals to people on a far more human level. In short, it completely abandons any sense of crass commercialism.
This is highly unusual for a high street retailer and it is a refreshing change to see a brand take the moral retail high ground; in fact they seem to have carved themselves a monopoly of being the only brand that can authentically achieve this. This ad doesn’t overtly sell products, but the emotion and spirit of Christmas.
While, there are many cynics who may dispute its genuine intentions, that little boy so excited to give his parents their presents, has created more Christmas joy than all the other attempts by brands put together. Surely, that’s something really worth talking about.
Phil Dean is managing director of creative services at Communisis