John Lewis ends the summer with viral success for pre-Christmas warm-up ad

Social video expert Unruly reviews John Lewis' 'Tiny Dancer'

John Lewis: ad promotes home insurance
John Lewis: ad promotes home insurance
‘Tiny Dancer’ is no more or less than it claims to be: a simple, charming concept executed with love and a director’s attention to detail. 8/10

John Lewis: 'Tiny Dancer'

There’s a new John Lewis spot doing the rounds, but don’t worry, you haven’t fallen asleep and ‘Rumpelstiltskined’ through until Christmas.

While the British retailer may be best known for its festive ad output, as well as bringing wistful tears to offices around the country, it hasn’t been resting on its laurels for summer. The rest of us may have been sipping cocktails and sitting in paddling pools, but John Lewis got its head down and produced its latest ad, ‘Tiny Dancer’ – and the results are pretty great.

Anyone familiar with the online advertising landscape knows that genuinely good, narrative-based video spots are few and far between. With the rise of vastly cheaper production methods and clickbait genres such as ‘listicles’, much of online advertising has veered toward documentary techniques. Meanwhile, the only fictional, narrative ads to truly make an impact online are typically schmaltzy. In the race for viewer impressions, more subtle, clever work is sometimes squeezed out.

It is commendable then that John Lewis’ ‘Tiny Dancer’ is no more or less than it claims to be: a simple, charming concept executed with love and a director’s attention to detail. Opening on a shot of a kitchen radio playing (what else?) Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, the camera follows an adorable little girl in a tutu and Ronnie Corbett glasses as she prances her way around the house. On the way, she wanders into various vases, tumblers, lamps and chandeliers, and it swiftly becomes clear why this is an ad about home insurance. While there’s very little parental influence in the clip, besides a short snippet at the beginning, you can practically feel parents cringing at the potential carnage.

This is where attention to detail comes in – a quality that makes John Lewis’ sterling reputation thoroughly deserved. While the camera sweeps past the domestic scene, nearly every possible household item is slanted askew or spinning in place. As our protagonist bounces around, carefully piled papers flutter to the floor and curtain rods strain under pressure. There’s even a beautiful little sequence involving a high-powered lamp that recalls classic Hollywood musicals. While more involved, narrative ads may be trickier to produce, when done to this level they can really show you something special.

That shouldn’t suggest that ‘Tiny Dancer’ presents only a creative achievement. On the contrary, John Lewis’ ad is among the top 10 most-shared ads of the past month, racking up nearly 90,000 shares across various platforms since its release. Amid a torrent of high-profile stunts and celebrity cameos, the success of ‘Tiny Dancer’ demonstrates the ability of narrative advertising to stand out from the crowd. Of course, John Lewis brings its own cachet with it, as does the eponymous Elton John song, which hasn’t been used so well since Almost Famous.

‘Tiny Dancer’ has a contained, cinematic aspect that truly sets it apart, from the graceful staging to the tidy visual gag of the final shot. While John Lewis’ seasonal work will likely always garner a response, the enthusiastic reaction to ‘Tiny Dancer’ means the brand should be able to continue to push the envelope. And, while the details for its next Christmas campaign are likely under lock and key in a nuclear bunker somewhere, you can be assured we’re looking forward to it.

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