Best ads in 50 years: People love John Lewis because of its advertising

As part of Campaign's 50th anniversary, we asked the industry to look back on the best ads of the past 50 years. We are revealing one a day for your viewing pleasure...

Best ads in 50 years: People love John Lewis because of its advertising

'Always a woman' and 'The long wait'

Adam & Eve / 2010 and 2011

Cast your mind back to 2010. The strains of Fyfe Dangerfield singing Billy Joel’s Always a Woman was pouring from the headphones of every iPhone.

In this spot, nine different actors play an unnamed everywoman, from birth to old age. The editing is seamless, giving us a glimpse of her significant life events (and John Lewis’ products throughout) – birth, school, university, boyfriend, marriage, pregnancy and motherhood (and the delivery of a new sofa). The line is "Our lifelong commitment to you", making it totally personal to the viewer. The writing, craft, cast and editing was enough to make a nation cry.

Watching it now, obviously it’s a particular take on womanhood. But when put with the brand, and handled this brilliantly, you forget (and forgive) that.

"The long wait" – the 2011 Christmas spot that, for me, is still the best of a brilliant bunch, because it’s so strategically on point. "John Lewis is the home of thoughtful gifting." In my mind that’s the strategy, and this spot nails it.

The Smiths’ Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want is inspired as a track: melancholy yet uplifting. The story of a little lad who is over-excited for Christmas but at the end we find out why: he is looking forward to giving his parents a present – rather than receiving presents from them. Cut to a nation in tears again.

That’s why we all love John Lewis, because of its advertising; there’s no higher praise than that in our business.

Mark Elwood is executive creative director at MullenLowe London

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