Last year, Sainsbury’s came under a lot of criticism for their World War II-inspired Christmas ad. Some agreed that it was a tear jerker, while others – in spite of the great attention to detail in terms of period costume accuracy and so on – thought it was an overly chocolate-boxy approach to a very delicate subject (even if it was advertising chocolate): mainly because the soldiers on both sides were gunning each other down the day before and after Christmas, despite the football match which may or may not have happened. That didn’t sit well with a lot of people.
Tear jerking and heartstrings
That’s not to say, though, that tear jerking is out of place. Far from it, in fact. It has become the norm over the last few years that major retailers do not ostensibly fight for market share per se, or cajole us into buying particular items – although there is emphasis on the idea of giving to make someone feel loved. But even more than this, retailers try to out-emote each other.
John Lewis have the heartstring-tug down to a tee – or rather ad agency adam&eve/DDB do, who have made their Christmas ads for the past few years. Never mind the “why doesn’t the bear eat the hare” comments from 2013 (and who doesn’t love a penguin? – 2014), the 2015 offering is a stroke of genius. Because if there’s one thing most people can’t bear the thought of, it’s an elderly person (or any person, really) spending Christmas all alone. So to that end, this ad is bang on the money.
Now, I’m not suggesting for one second that it’s insincere. On the contrary, I actually think it’s a laudable idea. And the two-minute ad is also supremely well executed. It has been made specifically to support Age UK, with the profits from some John Lewis gift items going directly to the charity. Cleverly (I assume, rather than coincidentally), the ad’s strapline is, “Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”, tying in very nicely with Age UK’s own related campaign, “No-one should have no-one at Christmas”.
So, here’s the premise: Lily, a little girl, has a lovely big telescope in her bedroom. Through it, she spies the Man on the Moon – a lonely looking little old man who lives all alone in a shack and who looks wistfully down at the earth. Lily’s attempts to attract his attention, waving at him from behind her telescope, are fruitless. She tries to fire him a Christmas card using a bow and arrow, she throws a paper aeroplane, all to no avail. But then, in a last-ditch attempt, she ties some balloons to a gift which floats gently into his hands on Christmas morning.
Must we be all Dr Sheldon Cooper about it?
I’ve read a handful of snooty comments on social media today about helium balloons and the laws of astrophysics, but frankly, that’s just people being snooty and a bit pseudo-clever for the sake of it. You might as well ask how the old man can breathe or how the telescope can pick out one person on a planet. The fact is, it’s pretty much a perfect Christmas ad: it’s beautifully made, it’s emotive and it just might actually do Age UK some good.
Rachel Swift, John Lewis’s Head of Marketing, explains why the connection with Age UK was so important: “The charity really resounds with people at this time of year, and the ad...lends itself to thinking about someone who lives on your street that might not see anybody.”
If you haven’t seen it, take your first look here. Oh, and no, that isn’t Lily Allen crooning away à la “Somewhere Only We Know”, though you’d be forgiven for thinking so. No, it’s actually Norwegian teenager soon-to-become-megastar Aurora Aksnes singing a cover of Noel Gallagher’s beautiful ballad “Half the World Away”. For my money, this is going to take some beating in the Christmas ad stakes:
Ashley is a copywriter, blogger and editor