‘Tis the season to be jolly… well, almost. As we begin the run up to Christmas, anticipation is beginning to build for the event that heralds the real arrival of the festive season- the release of the John Lewis & Partners Christmas advert, slated to take place later this week.
Rumoured to be worth £10 million this year (with £5 million of that reportedly going to Sir Elton John), the much-loved adverts have changed the way in which many retailers promote Christmas, with ad campaign launches now considered events in their own right.
Take Sainsburys, which hired the director of The Greatest Showman, Michael Gracey, to direct their seasonal offering. This Hollywood element represents how adverts have changed: whereas previously the focus has been on selling a particular gift, they now sell sentiment. They also have longevity, and are talked about in their own right, with comparisons inevitably drawn from one year to the next.
Perhaps there is a particular importance on Christmas campaigns this year. Christmas can always make or break a retailer’s year; no doubt they will be looking to attract sales in an environment where the high street is perceived by many as failing. The ‘season of giving’ offers retailers an opportunity to remind customers why they should be shopping in their stores (see Visa’s offering), and acts as a way to brand a business through the storytelling behind an advert. Stepping into a physical store will allow you to share the Christmas spirit, and partake in the emotion that the season brings – and the vision for Christmas that the retailers have set forth.
But not all adverts present a nice, warm image of Christmas. The traction that adverts gain, particularly around social media, allows them to share messages that will be spread everywhere. You’ll no doubt have seen that this year’s Christmas Iceland advert has been banned for breaching political advertising rules. Over 670,000 people have now signed a petition to get the advert – which focuses on the impact of palm oil on rainforests and orangutans – shown on TV, and it continues to be widely shared on social media. The advert is timely as our focus on climate change and the damage being done to our planet begins to grow.
It also raises an interesting point about the power of modern communication, as the ‘ban’ has in fact spread its message to an ever-greater catchment, a very important message amongst all of the Christmas sparkle. We might wonder if that reflects canny advertising in its own right – after all, when was the last time you talked this much about Iceland?
So, with Christmas adverts already dominating the headlines, what will John Lewis & Partners offer us this year? As the excitement continues to grow, we all wait to see if this will be accompanied by the sounds of Sir Elton. One thing is for certain: we will all be watching it when it makes its debut.