John Lewis leverages television with style.

The new John Lewis TV spot has managed to get a great deal of coverage over the last few days; this advertising is beginning to become an ‘event’ and no doubt the Christmas spot will be eagerly anticipated. It’s a tough path to tread for any agency as the inevitable comparisons are made, a bit like the latest album from Coldplay.

Asking around over the weekend with people I imagine are the target audience – early forties with young children, professional people, proud owners of a nice house in SW something. The INXS track is again perfectly picked; the original was released in 1988 when a 42 year old was 18 and in to his or her music. Nostalgia rules with the JLP work and why not?

The reactions on my random, small sample was very polarised. In the blue corner the view was ‘what a self-indulgent ad’ through to ‘it’s so John Lewis and I love it’. Interesting interpretations.

I get the prima facie reaction of self indulgent as it is 90 seconds of glossy, beautifully art directed film, all set around a boy/girl romance with the thought of some things don’t change. It is easy to say ‘so what?’ and also ‘what’s the relevance to JLP and me?’ Fair enough and that may well be the reaction of some John Lewis loyalists.

What struck me though was a deeper thought and I have no idea whether this was or wasn’t intended.

Occasionally television advertising can express the culture of a brand, almost wearing their hearts of their sleeves. It doesn’t happen too often. I have often experienced advertisers shying away from doing so; almost a stretch too far. Mostly the reverse happens where an advertiser will express what they want to be rather than what they are. In my book M&S is a good example of this camp as the advertising has little to do with the experience of their stores.

My take out of the latest John Lewis spot was one of comfortable reassurance. In a world of constant change, new on-line brands popping up all over the place, different ways of accessing music, the disintegration of established institutions, etc., etc., it is good to know some things stay true to their principles and ethos. Is this reading too much in to the advertising?

I hope not because I would also hope the advertising for John Lewis is signed off by the top management as a statement of their beliefs and principles.

The very difficult trick to pull off is converting an internal philosophy in to a tangible and motivating customer benefit. Nike manage it due to their wide ranging sponsorship, they put their money where their advertising mouth is; Virgin Atlantic pull this off too as the experience of travelling with them is a seamless journey so to speak. John Lewis via adam&eveDDB have elevated the brand in to the same hollowed space.

If this is an accurate reflection of the truth it does then provide the brand with a trajectory that isn’t reliant on one-off ads. David Abbott once said something like ‘it takes time to get in to the groove of a brand’s communication style’ – he wouldn’t have used those words by the way and having bumped in to him over the weekend I know he didn’t! However the point is it doesn’t really matter if one ad doesn’t get 10 out of 10 because the chances are the next one will; they all act in a cumulative feeling about the brand because the core thought remains consistent.

There are some outstanding examples of this, one notable one was the great campaign BBH produced for Levi 501’s in the ’80’s/90’s.

As a final comment I also applaud the outstanding use of television by John Lewis when a popular view is it’s all about on-line these days. That’s probably we see less and less quality work on television these days.



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