John Lewis has become synonymous with Christmas. Since launching their first TV ad in 2007, each year, they find new ways to tug at our heartstrings.
In a country as grey and rainy as the UK, some would even say it’s the emotional peak of the year, closely followed by the time KFC ran out of chicken (we still get a bit teary just thinking about it). As a homage to their top-tier advertising efforts, we’ve rated their Christmas adverts from the past six years…
2023: “Let Your Traditions Grow”
“Let Your Traditions Grow” begins with a young boy called Alfie asking if he can get a “Grow your own Christmas tree” kit. Quickly after planting, the seedling grows on to become a ravenous Venus fly trap. Set to the soundtrack of “Fiesta” by Andrea Bocelli, the advert follows the unlikely friendship between Alfie and his plant.
However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The plant is suddenly exiled from the Christmas festivities (pretty understandable as it tries to eat the family’s dog), leaving Alfie distraught. Naturally, the advert ends on a positive note; the family and the dog (unharmed) gather outside and watch the plant eat their wrapped presents and regurgitate them back out unwrapped. Equal parts gross and equal parts cute.
Unlike previous years, it’s not so much a tearjerker, and we can’t say we’ll be thinking about it for very long, but it’s a sweet story nevertheless.
Total rating: 11/20
2022: “The Beginner”
“The Beginner” sees a middle-aged man learning (and failing) to skateboard. He’s living and breathing skateboarding. Practising under his desk at work, flying off ramps, and watching countless videos, all while driving his body to the brink of destruction.
As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that the man is about to become a foster parent and is learning to skateboard in an attempt to find common ground with his soon-to-be foster child.
At the end of the advert, we’re hit with the shocking statistic that over 108,000 children in the UK are in the care system. With the message that “kindness can make someone else’s life”, John Lewis reveals they’ve partnered with organisations such as Action for Children to help children within the care system.
The simplicity of the advert is really heartwarming and takes an original approach, setting itself apart from generic Christmas adverts. We’re 98% sure this will make even the most pathologically unemotional person well up a little.
Total rating: 16/20
2021: “Unexpected Guest”
“The Unexpected Guest” follows the story of a young boy who discovers an alien who has crashed her spaceship in a nearby forest. Framing the ad as a ‘first love’ plot line, the boy attempts to teach the alien about Christmas.
After a few days, the alien manages to fix her spaceship, gives the boy a kiss on the cheek and sets off to return to her home planet. With the message, “For a Christmas as magical as your first”, the advert aims to highlight themes of acceptance, love and friendship.
To sum up, this advert was completely reflective of the whole of 2021: confusing, a bit unnecessary and seemed to drag on for a hundred years. With high expectations, it sadly just didn't quite hit the mark for us.
John Lewis, if you’re reading this, we know you could’ve done better.
Total rating: 6/20
2020: "Give a Little Love"
“Give a Little Love” was inspired by the sense of community spirit during the Covid-19 pandemic. Spotlighting several creatives and illustrators, the advert centred around little acts of kindness and helping one another in day-to-day life. Unlike previous John Lewis Christmas adverts, this one doesn’t focus on one protagonist but a number of different characters.
With the running theme of a heart, the characters and animals are shown as different art forms, such as claymation and CGI. As the ad is centred around giving, John Lewis and Waitrose partnered with two charities, FairShare and Home-Start, who help those facing food poverty and families in need. Although collectively, the era of Covid was a write-off, this advert showcased the good in humanity, as well as supporting creatives too.
Overall, it was an interesting and innovative campaign, albeit not a tearjerker, but we’ve marked it as 5 anyway because Covid drove our sanity into the ground. In between banging pots and pans, we probably did cry at this one, just not out of choice.
Total rating: 15/20
2019: "Excitable Edgar"
“Excitable Edgar” tells the tale of a young dragon/ accidental arsonist who struggles to control his fire-breathing whenever he gets excited.
The poor guy is just trying to live his best life, but ends up melting a snowman and an ice rink, annoying everyone and anyone in his vicinity. The tip of the iceberg, however, despite his best efforts, was accidentally setting alight to the village Christmas tree.
Feeling ashamed, Edgar isolates himself and locks himself away to avoid causing any more problems. Days go by, and Edgar’s friend waits outside for him to appear, but nothing. Eventually, his friend has a brain wave on how to get the town on his side again. He appears in the dining hall, lights a figgy pudding on fire, everyone cheers, and everything is forgiven.
This advert was a nice story from start to finish, and with Edgar being superficially adorable, it’s hard not to let it pull on your heartstrings a little. His wide eyes rival that of Puss in Boots from Shrek. “It’s just hayfever” we hear you cry as you reach for a tissue or three.
Total rating: 15/20
2018: “The Boy and the Piano”
“The Boy and the Piano” tells the story of none other than Sir Elton John and his lifelong love for music. The advert begins with Elton John playing the piano in his living room and being taken on a nostalgic journey through his iconic performances and pinnacle moments in his career, all starting with his grandmother gifting him a piano one Christmas.
The message of the advert is that one gift can single-handedly change your life. Although not everyone is destined to become a global musical icon, it made for an original Christmas advert, and it certainly had a high production value - the attention to detail and costumes were a huge highlight.
It was the first Christmas advert that John Lewis chose to include a celebrity, and is still a memorable ad to this day.
Total rating: 14/20
Over the years, John Lewis’s Christmas adverts have really taken our emotions on a ride. After reviewing, we can conclude that “The Beginner” is, in fact, their best work of the past six years. Closely followed by “Excitable Edgar” and “Give a Little Love”. Got a favourite John Lewis ad from over the years? Drop into our DMs on socials and let us know what you think!
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