Through TV ads, John Lewis reminds its viewers of the comforting feeling of choosing a shop that remains rooted in the ideals of the founders.
John Lewis’s adverts have become must-watch TV. British shoppers, it could be argued, view John Lewis as a national treasure as much as a shop. At the same time as staying at the forefront of digital trends, it maintains a feeling of being reliable and, in the best sense, just a bit old-fashioned.
Its television advertising demonstrates how differently it thinks about things compared with other retailers.
Here’s a look at some of the retailer’s most popular TV ads from the past five years.
Give Someone That Feeling
Hard to believe, but John Lewis only started making Christmas ads in 2007. One of its earlier offerings, this ad marked the start of a beautiful friendship between John Lewis and its newly-retained advertising agency Adam&Eve. It was designed to connect viewers with children’s excitement at Christmas by showing a series of kids opening some very un-childlike presents – including coffee machines, kitchenware and handbags. It began the John Lewis tradition of unlikely cover versions – Swedish folksters Taken By Trees gave a decidedly un-rock’n’roll feeling to Guns N’ Roses anthem Sweet Child O’ Mine.
She’s Always A Woman
Set to a soundtrack of Billy Joel’s She’s Always A Woman covered by Fyfe Dangerfield, this advert pushed John Lewis’s famous ‘Never knowingly undersold’ price promise. It followed a woman in red, from babyhood to her days as a grandmother, reminding viewers that for all of their lives – or at least the past 89 years – John Lewis has been committed to offering the same guarantee and the same reliable service. At the time of its release in April 2010 it was the biggest television campaign that John Lewis had run. Since then, more than 1 million people have watched the advert on YouTube.
The Long Wait
Ever bought someone a present so great that you didn’t want to wait until Christmas to give it to them? John Lewis used a cover of The Smiths’ Please, Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want by Slow Moving Millie to convey that feeling, as viewers followed a young boy impatiently counting down the days until Christmas. The twist in the tale was that it wasn’t his presents he couldn’t wait to unwrap – it was the gift he’d wrapped for his mum and dad. Companies take a risk when messing with anything by The Smiths, but viewers loved it – to date, the ad has had more than 6.2 million views on YouTube.
John Lewis and Adam&Eve were back in 2011 to prove that insurance ads don’t have to be dull or crass. Using stop frame animation, it showed the entire contents of a house in southwest London make their way down the stairs and out the front door. Promoting John Lewis’s home insurance, the ad’s slogan read: ‘If it matters to you, it matters to us’. It took a team of around 50 people three weeks to create the ad – John Lewis challenged viewers to then create their own short animations on the theme of ‘what matters’. The soundtrack was a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Nina Nesbitt.
The Bear & The Hare
Was John Lewis trying to promote Christmas or drive sales of hankies with its most recent Christmas advertising? Many viewers reported being moved to tears by the animated tale of the hare who wanted to give his friend the bear a Christmas he would never forget. It featured Lily Allen covering Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know, which topped the UK charts for three weeks, and at the time of writing the ad has had more than 12.5 million views on YouTube. Not bad for a retailer that only made its first Christmas ad in 2007. This ad was also technically groundbreaking – it was the first time two-dimensional animation was combined with 3D sets in a UK ad.
Never Standing Still
To mark 150 years of trading, John Lewis is launching a mammoth 90-second television ad. Launching online today and during an ad break of Britain’s Got Talent on May 3, it takes a celebratory look at the history of British life, showing how John Lewis remains a constant presence in customers’ lives. It is set to a cover of The Kinks’ This Time Tomorrow performed by former Supergrass singer Gaz Coombes. Will viewers take it to heart as they have with the retailer’s previous campaigns?