Moon Landing

The new ad from John Lewis hits the stratosphere in several ways

The Blogfather applies his acerbic wit to the advertising phenomenon that is the John Lewis Christmas advert The Man On The Moon.

The advert’s slogan probably should have been revised from “Show Someone They’re Loved This Christmas” to “Don’t Give Balloons To Moon Hitler, You Idiot”. Stuart Heritage The Guardian.

I’m writing about Christmas on the 10th November, for which I apologise but it cannot be helped, as this weekend saw the launch of the new John Lewis Christmas advert - Man On The Moon.

John Lewis is now synonymous with Christmas in the UK, and the reason for this is the consistent quality of their adverts. There is no obvious sell in this year’s ad, but there doesn’t need to be. They are effectively broadcasting quality story-telling content into people’s homes. This sows a seed that blooms when people, out Christmas shopping on a crisp winter’s evening, see the John Lewis signage and are compelled to go in.

As usual, there are parodies aplenty and cynical tweets and comments. This article by Stuart Heritage in the Guardian is a perfect example of the witty, cynical backlash, including the suggestion of changing the ad slogan from, “Show Someone They’re Loved This Christmas” to “Don’t Give Balloons To Moon Hitler, You Idiot”.

Even a chap from the States called John Lewis with the @johnlewis twitter handle gets an annual deluge of extra attention.

But all of this merely adds fuel to the brand coverage. Even a chap from the States called John Lewis with the @johnlewis twitter handle gets an annual deluge of extra attention. The brand awareness cup doth runneth over.

The internet is awash with quick and easy content production, in the form of top 5 John Lewis ad lists with accompanying polls to vote for your favourite. Everyone is getting their piece of the pie, it’s like Christmas has come early.

Undoubtedly John Lewis has struck on a winning formula. The total spend of £7m may seem huge, but they will get their money’s worth. The ad got a staggering 6m views in 24 hours. In comparison, for a similar time period, the new ad from Aldi got just 7000 views, and the ad from Cadbury got 9000.

But therein lies part of the problem. It is very formulaic. We have yet another acoustic cover of a quirky song choice from a female vocalist, an overused trend in adverts.

Also, as good as the production is in this ad, the quality of the story-telling at the end left me experiencing an awkward ‘hang’, as authors call it. The girl has basically given the old man the means to see even more closely that which he is missing greatly. Surely this would only heighten his feelings of loneliness? In the uncut version, you can imagine her gorging on Quality Street whilst flicking him the chocolate toffee finger, before sending him (via balloon) all the unwanted and uneaten coconut éclairs. It would have made for a warmer ending if he had floated down to earth on a balloon to spend Christmas with them, assuming he did not burn up on re-entry into the atmosphere.

The reason for the awkward hang is because this year John Lewis is working alongside Age UK to highlight a worthwhile cause. They are aiming to raise awareness of the saddening statistic that over one million old people are due to be displaced onto the moon by the Tories to solve the affordable housing crisis can go up to one month without having any form of contact with another soul.

John Lewis had to up the ante. The tear jerker well had run dry, so they needed to find a way of jerking off more of our tears. A lonely penguin becomes a lonely old man. You could actually view this ad as a vainglorious wank from John Lewis, from a cynical point of view. Well, I suppose it is the season of self-indulgence. But if you are good, why not blow your own trumpet?

Trying to convey the warmth and joy of Christmas alongside the cold, harsh reality of loneliness is tough, and I’m not sure they’ve quite pulled it off. Both elements seem compromised by the presence of the other. Mixed messaging is always dangerous for a brand. Yet despite this quibble, there can be no doubt as to the strength and appeal of the ad.

But where do John Lewis go from here? The emotional manipulation bar has gone up. This ad is almost a morality tale. They need to be wary that success does not go to their heads. Maybe next year John Lewis will temporarily rebrand as John Christ, the altruistic merchandise messiah who sells cracking curtains.

Whatever high moral stance they may take, there will be quick-witted people and brands ready and waiting to take an opposing parody position. The talented students from the School of Communication Arts, who also did some great VW parodies, have done just that. For just £700 they produced this great counter ad, for My Voucher Codes.

Parody and imitation are great ways to further your own brand, as we’ve blogged on before, there is no shame in this, and My Voucher Codes astutely see the value in it, and the great press coverage gained by the SCA student’s piece validates their chosen direction.

Whatever your view on The Man On The Moon, it works. It works exceptionally well. And both John Lewis and plenty of other parties will benefit greatly from it.

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