john_lewis_journey_snowman

John Lewis, Snowmen and how to have your viral cake and eat it

The Christmas TV Ads are here with a vengeance. It seems everyone decided to launch their Christmas television promotionals this weekend. Whether it was “Holidays are coming” the recycled Coke spot – which is now such a Christmas schedule classic that they are happy to put a non widescreen ad up for nostalgia’s sake rather than update it. The big talking point for the last couple of years has been John Lewis’ ads which have featured some evocative music and virally watched narrative video clips. Ellie Goulding’s 2010 spine tingling version of Your Song is matched this year by the haunting rendition of “The Power of Love” by Gabrielle Aplin.

Visually the John Lewis Snowman Odyssey reminds me of my favourite Dr Who episode “Blink” where weeping Angel statues move when you close your eyes, so the rogue snowman travels the land to find his nearest John Lewis. There’s a cute surface level reading which speaks of a snowman willing to travel far and wide to make sure his beloved has gloves and a hat to ward off the cold. But the Christmas Consumer myth that love is best expressed through purchases is the real message here. The guardian reported this was a multi million pound ad campaign and so the endless cycle of the consumerisation of Christmas takes another rotation this season. But there’s a subtle twist this time.


The John Lewis group know there’s another side to the story and have launced an “anti-ad” for their Waitrose stores. They feature celebrity chef’s Delia Smith and Heston Blumental. Who argue earnestly that Waitrose want to give more back to their communities and so haven’t gone for a fancy ad. But aren’t these guys the same group – so happy to pay a lot in one campaign and then try and market their anti ad with the other. It all seems strange to me. Maybe it’s an attempt to have your (Christmas) cake and eat it….

4 thoughts on “John Lewis, Snowmen and how to have your viral cake and eat it”

  1. Agreed.
    Also important to note the gender dynamics at play as well – I vividly remember Littlewoods’ Christmas advert last year (http://youtu.be/qGIN_SbjtYA), which basically demands that all mothers/wives/women-generally have to justify their existence by buying expensive electronic gadgets and toys for their whole family (and have to buy themselves jewellry – apparently they don’t get given gifts). As if this didn’t put enough pressure on, there’s also the ‘helpful’ reminder that interest-free credit is available.
    I was reminded of this by this piece in the New Statesman (http://www.newstatesman.com/broadcast/2012/11/why-every-christmas-tv-advert-nail-gun-tearducts), which shows similar themes at work this year too, complemented by the ‘all men our incompetent buffoons’ idea too.

    All that to say, while these ads are all very sweet on the surface, underneath there are some very ugly dynamics at play.

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