The John Lewis Christmas ad - a simple truth or overly self-serving?

By Alison Lowe | 12 November 2015
John Lewis says the 2015 ad is about “showing someone they're loved this Christmas”.

Once again UK department store John Lewis has gone straight for the feels.

Its Christmas 2015 ad aims for an emotive note with a spot featuring a little girl, Lily, who spies a lonely, grey-haired man on the moon through her telescope. She becomes determined to get a gift to him for Christmas by hook or by crook, to show someone is thinking of him. John Lewis says it's about “showing someone they're loved this Christmas”.

If views alone are anything to go by, the 2015 spot is a winner. In just a week it has been watched nearly 12 million times on YouTube – half as much as the previous year's ad, posted a year ago.

But what do creatives make of #TheManOnTheMoon? Can the ad sell the UK department store as the go-to for Brits this Christmas?

Two top creatives believe John Lewis may shot itself in the foot by setting the bar so high in previous years.

“John Lewis have set the benchmark for great emotive brand storytelling for some years and to do that year in, year out is bloody hard. The new spot in isolation is still a beautifully crafted piece of comms and great in its own right, but in comparison to any of the previous work from John Lewis it doesn't hit the same emotive high notes and leaves you feeling a little flat,” said Nick Garrett, Clemenger BBDO CEO.

Nick Cleaver, 303Lowe CEO, agrees. Though the ad did trigger an emotional response, he says it's unfortunate that it fails to resolve that in a positive way. Instead, by suggesting “the cure for loneliness is buying someone a gift from John Lewis”, it comes across as overly self-serving, Cleaver laments.

“Alas when you set the bar so high its difficult to keep topping it and this year unfortunately they have fallen well short. The ad simply isn’t that engaging. Indeed its all rather sad and dark. The poor chap on the Moon is weepingly lonely and left that way at the end of the commercial.”

But Andrew Holt, Clemenger BBDO managing director is an unadulterated fan, as is David Barton, a copywriter with George Patterson Y&R.

“Appropriately for an ad about showing someone they are loved, I love this. I love it because, like all great ads, Man On The Moon is a simple truth, beautifully exaggerated. I love it because John Lewis has made the Christmas ad an appointment to view moment to rival the Super Bowl. I love it because like Bear and Monty before, it makes adults remember the childlike joy of Christmas,” Holt told AdNews.

Throw in the Oasis backing track and “what's not to love?” he adds.

Barton, too, compares the ad to a “Superbowl” moment. For him, it pulls off what it sets out to achieve and lives up to expectations.

“Every year John Lewis sets an incredibly high standard and this year is no exception. Whereas last year’s ad focused on the child like wonder of Christmas this year’s ad deals with some pretty big themes of loneliness and isolation in a very heartfelt way.

“You can feel them tugging on your heart strings and you know what they’re doing but they do it in such a good way that you don’t really care. It’s advertising like this that doesn’t really sell anything but it sure as hell makes people want to buy.”

R/GA executive creative director Gavin McLeod also applauds John Lewis' audacity in creating a "Superbowl moment" around their Christmas campaign.

"By investing hugely in production, sticking to a long-term plan and freeing their agency from the typical restraints that come with advertising in the retail space, they have created a content phenomena that gets global attention," he says.

But never fear, if all of this industry discord leaves you wondering how to feel, McLeod has an answer for that: the ultimate takeaway is the fact we're even talking about it at all.

“At this point it’s almost irrelevant whether people like this particular execution, the bigger win is that they were actually eagerly anticipating it, discussing it, sharing it and parodying it.”

On which note, McLeod adds that his favourite outcome of the ad is the Darth Vader parody, which you can see here:


The creativity of the 2014 John Lewis Christmas ad featuring Monty the Penguin was richly rewarded both in muffled blubbing and industry awards. It won the Cannes Lion Grand Prix for agency adam&eveDDB and the hearts of millions.

So what do you think? Will this year's entry get love at Cannes? Let us know your thoughts below ...

Here's the 2014 and 2013 ads for good measure:


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