John Lewis has a fight on its hands this Christmas
A view from Jeremy Lee

John Lewis has a fight on its hands this Christmas

Was the John Lewis boss, Andy Street, deliberately trying to manage expectations of its Christmas ad campaign with his comments at the recent World Retail Congress? Street - who, later on the train home, managed to offend the French by telling a journalist that their country was "hopeless and downbeat" - said that the new spot would be more modest as social media users had informed him that it was "getting too big for its...

Hmmmm. Quite whether this is the case is an arguable point and I’m not sure it’s one that will be shared by Adam & Eve/DDB and the marketing chief, Craig Inglis – the two have been responsible for John Lewis’ stellar performance on the high street and the consequent bonuses that have lined Street’s pockets. I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks when the Christmas campaign launches but, either way, John Lewis and A&E/DDB should at least be credited for transforming and improving the retail sector beyond all recognition over the years (something that other categories – most notably gambling – are crying out for).

After Sainsbury’s "Christmas in a day" spot last year, there is also much anticipation for what Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO will pull out of the bag once John Lewis releases its barnstormer/modest affair. (Incidentally, I’ve always liked the fact that Sainsbury’s waits until after Remembrance Sunday to release its Christmas activity. A small thing, maybe, but dignified.)

I've always liked the fact that Sainsbury's waits until after Remembrance Sunday to release its Christmas activity

One campaign that will be absent this year is the Argos aliens. Although they were undoubtedly effective and regularly topped the recall lists, it’s unlikely that the CHI & Partners executive creative director, Jon Burley, would like them to be his creative legacy (although I’m sure that they were spot-on-brief at the time for a retailer famous for bolted-down chairs, exorbitant APRs and a thoroughly depressing shopping experience). The ambitious and modern campaign that replaces them, however, is something that both Argos and CHI can be very proud of.

Avoiding the heartstrings approach of John Lewis (and one that is a staple in the retail category), CHI has chosen something more abstract that focuses on bold colours, movement and music akin to a music promo instead of schmaltz, and the result will be a reappraisal of the Argos brand (and customer – perhaps the fat families in tracksuit bottoms have moved on?).

Given CHI was forced to defend the business earlier this year (which must have been a slightly sore experience in spite of the aliens), the replacement is a triumph. And, on this one occasion at least, it seems to prove that not all client reviews are, at best,?a waste of time or, at worst, an exercise in screwing agencies on price.