In the UK, the annual John Lewis Christmas ad is something of a national event. To me, it marks the start of the festive season (which seems to be earlier with each coming year) and brings the promise of wholesome, sometimes tear-jerking festive feels – but this year things are a little different.
The retailer has just launched its annual advert, complete with a fresh tone that's a welcome change (you won't be needing the tissues for this one). Working with a brand new agency, the ad is certainly a shift from what we're used to, but I think it's about time we welcomed some diversity in Christmas messaging. (For more advertising inspiration, check out our collection of the best print adverts).
Partnering with a new creative agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, the ad appears to follow the same emotional beats of years past, as a young boy discovers a mysterious box containing a seed to "Grow your own perfect Christmas tree." A gentle piano score chimes as we watch the tiny seedling grow until, in an unexpected twist, the tree is revealed to be a Venus flytrap – a surprising delight for any Little Shop of Horrors fans.
After attempting to make the feisty flytrap into a suitable Christmas tree, it's eventually evicted and left to mope longingly outside while it's replaced with a traditional tree. But fear not, the plant (affectionately named Snapper) eventually joins in on the Christmas spirit, spitting out presents for all the family.
While the latest ad is certainly not a feature for the John Lewis Christmas ad purists, it marks a brave subversion from the saccharine Christmas narrative that's been permeating our past festive seasons. Directed by French collective Megaforce, the ad embodies a playfulness that's welcome in our current climate – it's not just out of the box, it's devouring the whole thing and spitting out something delightfully refreshing.
Perhaps the most striking difference is the soundtrack, a rendition of Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Festa’. The rock-opera hybrid is not the most festive soundtrack (I'm yearning for some Christmassy bells at least), but the building tension and subsequent ending crescendo give the ad a certain grandeur that feels suited to the uplifting theme.
It's great to see John Lewis taking its ads in a new direction, as another sickly sweet campaign could certainly be a jarring emotional ploy for many this year. Breaking new boundaries, the retailer shows that Christmas is no longer an icing sugar-dusted diorama and as a Christmas campaign frontrunner, I think John Lewis' latest ad will mark a welcome contemporary era of festive marketing.