John Lewis' 'Buster the Boxer' is joyful escapism

Social video expert Unruly reviews "Buster the Boxer", John Lewis' latest Christmas ad.

Buster the Boxer: a light-hearted ad to cheer viewers up
Buster the Boxer: a light-hearted ad to cheer viewers up

John Lewis' latest Christmas ad seems destined to make people smile across the social web.


9/10

As reliable as Santa Claus, Brussels sprouts, or an argument over Christmas dinner, John Lewis is back for this year’s festive ad.

After years of delighting viewers with lush, beautifully-wrought campaigns, the British retailer has learned how to build anticipation for its season showcase. Speculation began early this year as to what John Lewis were keeping up their sleeve.

Well, now we know and the answer is a cute dog, a trampoline and a surprisingly humorous tone.

"Buster the Boxer" is, in many ways, a very simple spot; the story of a lovable family pet who spies his owner’s exciting new present in the back garden and decides he’s going to have a go himself. That is, until Boxer spies the neighbourhood animals (two foxes, a badger, a squirrel and a hedgehog, to be precise) bouncing around on his family’s trampoline first.

With Buster thoroughly jealous, Christmas day rolls around and his owner runs excitedly for the toy in the garden. However, Buster beats her to it, bouncing gleefully on the trampoline to the great surprise of his family. And that’s basically it.

Pretty simple, right? Longtime watchers of John Lewis’ campaigns will recognise that "Buster the Boxer" is certainly a more stripped-back story than what we’ve seen in previous years. Like "Monty the penguin" or "The bear and the hare", it does feature an animal star but this is a very simple narrative, simply told. With only three (human) characters, a single setting and a complete lack of fantastical elements, this is what happens when a John Lewis ad goes right back to basics. And really, what’s not to love about a dog on a trampoline?

From the viewer’s perspective, it’s exciting to see the brand playing with something a little less serious, and a lot more purely escapist. In recent years, another tag that has been associated with John Lewis’ campaigns has been a sort of po-faced sentimentality, so easily parodied for their emotionally-charged acoustic covers of famous pop songs. This was particularly true of last year’s effort "Man on the moon", which was criticised compared to previous efforts for simply being too sad.

Whatever else it is, "Buster the Boxer" is certainly not downbeat and the brand have clearly thought long and hard about the feeling they want to leave viewers with this year.

Less melancholy than joyful, you could easily read the campaign as in part a response to our uncertain, and rather bleak, political climate: a salve of simple, unadulterated escapism in a complicated world.

While some lament the loss of a darker, more layered iteration of the John Lewis, "Buster the Boxer" seems destined to make people smile across the social web.

It goes without saying that the ad’s score has been deftly chosen, with a rather soaring cover of Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away playing under Buster’s journey to the trampoline. Plus, John Lewis has given viewers another reason to love Buster, by teaming up with The Wildlife Trust as part of the campaign. Suitable to a spot overflowing with animals wild and domesticated, the charity’s participation is an indication that the brand is thinking about more than simply entertainment this festive season.

All in all, John Lewis campaigns are always worth watching and "Buster the Boxer" is their simplest, sweetest effort in years. Enjoy.

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