John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners worked together to create their first joint Christmas campaign ahead of a merger of the brands’ marketing teams.
"Excitable Edgar", which stars an overeager dragon called Edgar, is a significant turning point in the brands’ integration, because it progresses the John Lewis Christmas ad, which has long been a highly anticipated cornerstone of the festive season.
John Lewis Partnership confirmed in October that it will merge the marketing departments of John Lewis and Waitrose, with Paula Nickolds becoming executive director of brand. Craig Inglis, customer director at John Lewis, will take a customer-facing general management role, while Martin George, his counterpart at Waitrose, will take over as senior marketer. Both will report to Nickolds.
This is not the first time the brands have partnered in their marketing campaigns. In 2018, their first ad together featured schoolchildren performing an epic rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. At Christmas last year, Waitrose referenced its sister brand with a spot showing a family fast-forwarding through John Lewis’ festive ad starring Sir Elton John.
This year, the retailers’ brief to longtime agency Adam & Eve/DDB was to "show how much you care", which is used as the tagline in the campaign. The theme that links the two brands is thoughtfulness, a John Lewis spokeswoman said.
The ad’s tone integrates the emotional storytelling that has become so integral to John Lewis Christmas films, as well as the humour that has been used in previous Waitrose campaigns, such as last year’s spots about people rushing through festivities to get to the food. It features a heartwarming animal character and a child, also common elements in John Lewis spots, but weaves in shots of food, such as the baking scene and when Edgar unveils the pudding.
The marketers also introduced some new elements that would be "ownable" for both brands, the spokeswoman said. For example, the ad takes place in a fairytale medieval world that neither retailer has used as a setting in previous ads. The track, Can’t Fight This Feeling, was re-recorded by Bastille's Dan Smith, when traditionally John Lewis has featured soundtracks by female vocalists (except for last year).
The marketing departments, which began collaborating on the campaign in January, developed a theme that is just as relevant to themselves as they build on their partnership: bringing people together and accepting each other’s differences.