The John Lewis Christmas ad's best feature is also its biggest flaw

As Benjamin Franklin once said, only a few things are certain in life: death, taxes and the John Lewis Christmas advert. (Something like that, anyway.) Well, it's that time of year again – and even the advent of a global pandemic hasn't managed to hinder the inevitable arrival of John Lewis & Waitrose's festive feature. 2020's ad is just as heartwarming as we've all come expect from the retailer. But this year, it's also a little more creative.

The ad (below), named Give a Little Love, features the work of various creatives from animators and illustrators to puppeteers and even claymation experts, resulting in a remarkably varied minute of contrasting visuals. If you're inspired to make your own merry masterpiece, our best laptops for video editing are all up to the task. 

Featuring nine vignettes by eight different artists, the ad by adam&eveDDB explores the theme of kindness, depicting various acts of generosity. From a child using her umbrella to retrieve her friend's football from a tree, to a snowman offering up its head as a spare wheel for a car (not something we'd recommend trying yourself), several acts of kindness are displayed in a montage of different styles – all of them handmade.

"Our story is about passing on the love," John Lewis explains. “The whole ad is made up from different styles of animation, but it’s joined together in the narrative of giving a little love”. Inspired by the "seismic impact" of the pandemic, and the acts of kindness it provoked in 2020, the company enlisted several creatives, from famed directors and animators to university graduates, to create an ad with "real meaning".

John Lewis 2020 Christmas ad

Some of the visual styles featured in the ad (Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

The various aesthetics (above) are a sensory delight, and it's great to see so many visual styles depicted in a single ad. We're particularly taken with the cardboard 222 bus to Tooting, as well as the hand-drawn snowman (reminiscent of a certain famous character by cartoonist Raymond Briggs). John Lewis has also shared a fascinating behind the scenes video (below).

And continuing with the creative theme, this is the first John Lewis ad to feature an original song as opposed to a cover. British singer-songwriter Celeste's Give a Little Love is a new composition, written with songwriter Jamie Hartman.

If we have one criticism of the ad, it's that, while visually stunning, the contrasting styles are a little distracting when it comes to following the story itself. The action isn't particularly easy to keep up with, and we wouldn't be surprised if most viewers need to watch it twice to work out what's happening (which shouldn't be a problem, we've a feeling it'll be shown on TV more than once).  

That said, after last year's lacklustre effort featuring What's-His-Name The Dragon, it's great to see such a creative vision for 2020 – and it's all for a good cause. John Lewis has chosen two charity partners for the campaign, FareShare (helping those facing food poverty) and Home-Start, which supports parents in need. John Lewis is aiming to raise £4m for both organisations. 

Along with this week's Nobody is Normal ad by Childline and Bodyform's taboo-breaking #WombStories, we've seen some brilliant tv spots in this most tumultuous of years. And with Christmas ads now arriving by the bucketload, we have a feeling we could be seeing a few more before the year is out. 

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.