Claire Beale: Can John Lewis save adland this Christmas?

By Claire Beale, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 17 November 2011 08:00AM

With the deepening economic gloom, it was probably inevitable that those chirpy Christmas ads that have come gamboling on to TV over the past few days have provided some sharp ammo for anti-advertising commentators.

Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign

Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign

The country’s down on its luck, no-one’s got any money and yet the telly’s full of ads that pile on the pressure to go large at Christmas. The media has cracked its knuckles and settled down to pen a series of witty but philosophical texts on what our Christmas ads say about, and do to, the state of the nation.

But I’m not sure many of these Christmas campaigns are really going to get nervous consumers spending in the way the economy needs them to this December. Have you seen any Yule ads (apart from your own) that put you in a warm, fuzzy, seasonal spendthrift trance? Truly, has there ever been a more depressing batch of Christmas commercials? We’re already working out if we’ve got enough issues left this year for all the Turkeys before it’s time to eat one.

Encouraging unnecessary spending is an occupational hazard at this time of year, but it’s usually a little tempered by spreading a bit of Christmassy joy and seasonal goodwill through some lovely, beautifully crafted show-stopper ads.

Unfortunately, beautifully crafted show-stoppers are as thin on the ground as end-of-year bonuses this time round. From Jamie Oliver’s "I really don’t want to be here" turn in the Sainsbury’s panto ad to Marks & Spencer’s embarrassing X Factor effort, the magic’s gone out of Christmas in adland this year.

So thank goodness for John Lewis. Predictably, its new commercial is crafted with real love, by Matt Gay and John Long at Adam & Eve, and gorgeously directed by Blink’s Dougal Wilson; every scene hits a perfect note. It has got more than a million views on YouTube, not because it’s funny, not because it’s a little bit edgy, but just because people love it.

Best of all, it’s not about greed, about measuring your worth by how much you can afford to put under the tree (oh my God, have you seen the Littlewoods ad?). It’s about giving. Which is a lovely way of selling. And that’s never been more appropriate.

Adam & Eve hasn’t missed a beat since winning John Lewis, and the failure of other retailers to meet the tricky challenge of Christmas in a recession only makes the client and the agency look even more assured.

Talking of Turkeys, TBWA will be pleased to see Müller topping the Reality Check charts as the most-liked ad of last month (page 6). It might divide opinion in adland (some rave about it, others are confused), but real people have given it the thumbs up. Though I don’t love it, I’m glad about that. I’ve written a lot this year about the need to be bold and brave and take risks, and it looks as though, in this case, it’s paying off.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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