The ad, created by Adam&EveDDB is set to Tom Odell’s cover of John Lennon’s song 'Real Love', and is part of a £7m campaign that aims to evoke the "magic of make believe". It kicks off today across John Lewis' social media channels.
The 120-second spot tells the story of a friendship between a boy called Sam and his penguin friend, Monty. The two play happily through the year, but Monty becomes increasingly downbeat wishing for a partner. Sam notices Monty watching longingly as couples pass by so decides to give him the gift of Mabel the penguin. Only then does the ad reveal Sam's friends are in fact toys and live only in his imagination.
The TV ad will break tomorrow (7 November) on Channel 4 during Gogglebox. It will kick off with a full 120-second version, though shorter spots will feature throughout the campaign.
We hope this uplifting tale of Sam’s love for his friend Monty will remind people of the magic of Christmas
The launch follows teaser activity promoted using the hashtag #MontyThePenguin on outdoor advertising sites and on Channel 4, where idents had been transformed to feature the CGI penguin.
"At John Lewis, this time of year is all about helping our customers create their dream Christmas," said marketing director Craig Inglis.
"We hope this uplifting tale of Sam’s love for his friend Monty will remind people of the magic of Christmas through a child’s eyes and inspire them to think how they can make the festive season extra special for their friends and loved ones."
The campaign also comprises in-store experiential marketing, with the creation of Monty’s Den. Designed in partnership with Samsung, the den will enable children to "bring their favourite toys to life" using Microsoft technology and Google Cardboard.
To amplify the campaign, merchandise will be made available, as will an audio app version of the book narrated by Dermot O’Leary.
Inglis added: "I first saw the script back in March and to be honest it blew me away - it's a story of friendship told in a fresh way.
"What excited me about it was the raw emotion that's in it. It's a real story of love and friendship and it's rooted in something really simple and authentic. I think it will take us back to our childhoods and that's something we try to achieve at John Lewis every Christmas."
Pre-empting the hype around the John Lewis campaign this year, managing director Andy Street told a conference last month that some consumers had been turned off by the hype surrounding its festive campaigns, promising for a much more "modest" 2014 campaign.
Last year, the retailer kicked off its 2013 campaign with the animated ad 'The Bear and the Hare'. In 2012, it's campaign featured a snowman on a romantic quest.