What John Lewis’ Christmas ad looks like in the time of Covid-19: Retailer ditches traditional tearjerker because viewers want to ‘escape’ as uplifting animated film on spreading ‘a little love’ aims to raise £5M for charity
- This year’s John Lewis Christmas advert has been unveiled and it is far from the traditional tear-jerker
- Instead it shows the power of small acts of kindness through nine, inter-connected vignettes
- From delivery groceries to sharing a Christmas cracker with a neighbour, each moment shares a little joy
- Viewers are also invited to ‘give a little love’ and help the retailer raise at least £5million for two charities
- For the first time, the advert is set to an original song, A Little Love by Brit Award-winning soul singer Celeste
John Lewis has unveiled its hotly-anticipated Christmas advert – and it is not the festive tearjerker viewers have come to expect.
Set in a Covid-free world, the campaign hopes to raise a smile with light-hearted scenes of magical flying snowmen, supersized Christmas crackers and a hedgehog who dreams of being a pigeon.
The two-minute commercial, released on social media at 7am today and premiering on TV this weekend, shows how small acts of kindness can alleviate loneliness and bring joy to people who are quietly struggling.
Told through a series of nine interconnecting vignettes, the advert follows a chain reaction of good deeds that change someone else’s life in small but meaningful ways. Each scene is done in a different style, from hand-drawn animation to claymation and cinematography.
In a first for the retailer, this year’s soundtrack is an original song, A Little Love, by Brit Award-winning soul singer Celeste. Part of the proceeds will go towards two charities being spotlighted by the campaign.
There are no direct references to the pandemic like face masks or social distancing, but the advert still aims to ‘talk to the mood of the nation’.
Helping hand: The advert with a little boy whose football has gotten stuck in a tree and is helped by a little girl in yellow
Sharing the love: The girl opens up her heart-shaped umbrella, which will be on sale via John Lewis, and it floats up to the tree
Touch of magic: In a moment, the little girl and boy are turned into animated versions of themselves and the story continues
Passing on the kindness: After one last look at each other, the little girl and boy go their separate ways
I snow just what to do! Seeing a snowman in trouble, the little boy produces a heart-shaped balloon made of snow
Up, up and away! The snow balloon is enough to lift the melting snowman out of his puddle and carry him into the sky
Claire Pointon, customer director for John Lewis, said: ‘We deliberately said “let’s not take it too close to the real world”. People don’t want to look in the mirror and see what we’ve been going through.’
Instead the focus is on giving back, inspired by the ‘spontaneous acts of kindness in our communities’ at the start of lockdown.
Viewers are asked to ‘Give a Little Love’ and help John Lewis & Partners in their mission to raise at least £5million for two charities, Home-Start and FareShare, which support thousands of struggling families and help put food on the table in homes across the UK.
The advert opens with a boy whose football is stuck in a tree. He is approached by a little girl in a yellow raincoat, who releases her red heart-shaped umbrella and in a moment the two are transformed into animated versions of themselves.
The young boy goes on to present a heart-shaped balloon made of snow to a melting snowman, who uses the balloon to lift himself from the puddle and fly into the air.
He lands in the middle of a busy town centre, where he sees a couple of snowmen struggling with their car and promptly produces a heart-shaped wheel to help get them on their way.
The car trundles down the road and drops a bundle of Waitrose goodies at the door of an elderly man, who promptly unpacks them in his vibrant kitchen with the help of his wife.
Next stop: The animation changes and the snowman (left) lands in the middle of a busy town and sees a couple in trouble
On their way! The snowman makes a replacement wheel out of snow and watches the car trundle away
Special delivery! The car stops outside a front door and the snowmen leave a bag of Waitrose goodies, also in a heart shape
Christmas at home: The elderly recipient takes the groceries into his vibrant kitchen and begins to unpack them
Table for one: Through his binoculars, he spots his neighbour sitting at his kitchen table all alone and decides to help
Festive cheer: The man produces a supersized Christmas cracker that extends all the way from one house to the other
Explosion of colour! The neighbour pulls the Christmas cracker, sending a heart-shaped cloud of confetti into the air
Noticing his next-door neighbour is feeling lonely, the man extends a comically long Christmas cracker for him to pull. He does, and in an explosion of confetti comes across a joke that keeps him laughing for hours – right up until he turns up at work the next day at a barber shop.
Full of festive cheer, he gives a red-headed boy a heart-shaped haircut. The character transforms into a real-life boy, who opens up a John Lewis Christmas decoration and tops the tree.
Outside a pigeon dressed in a denim jacket and jeans watches the festive family scene. He joins his friends, a group of similarly dressed pigeons, and takes kindly on a hedgehog who is so desperate to join the group he has stuck feathers to his quills.
After giving the hedgehog the hat off his head, the pigeon and his friends make their way to an airplane marked ‘X Mas’ and jet off into the sky. They release smoke and draw a heart in the sky.
Back on the ground, a bus drives past the heart. On board is an elderly woman who helps a little girl fix her broken glasses using the sticker from her apple.
As she steps off the bus, the little animated girl turns back into the girl seen at the beginning of the commercial.
That’s a good one! Animation style changed again, the neighbour grabs hold of a joke and it keeps him laughing for hours
Making a statement: The neighbour laughs all the way into the barber shop, where he gives a young customer a new look
Back to reality: A real-life boy with the same haircut replaces the animation and tops his family’s Christmas tree
Looking on: Watching on the family scene from the outside is a pigeon, who has drawn a love heart on the frosted glass
Pretty fly: Moments later the pigeon has joined its friends, who are all dressed in trendy tracksuits, hats and jackets
Joining in: Desperate to be their friend, a hedgehog sticks feathers to his quills. The kind pigeon offers up his hat
Up, up and away! Together with their new friend the hedgehog, the pigeons make a dash for their ‘X Mas’ airplane
The vignettes are created by eight different artists who are leading experts in their particular art, including Chris Hopewell, who has created music videos for Radiohead and Franz Ferdinand, and French animator Sylvain Chomet.
At one point the team considered dropping the advert in favour of a straightforward fundraising campaign but decided to go ahead to maximise on the exposure the advert brings.
It now hopes the advert will raise a smile while raising money for Home-Start, which provides volunteers and expert support to families with young children, and FareShare, which redistributes surplus food to charities that turn it into meals. A second commercial focuses on this partnership.
The retailer will match donations of up to £2million made by shoppers and has an additional £1million set aside to put towards local causes. In addition, part of the proceeds from Celeste’s singles will go towards the charities.
John Lewis is also releasing a range of limited edition merchandise, including the heart-shaped umbrella featured in the film, to help raise funds.
It is part of a long-term fundraising plan that will extend beyond the festive season.
Claire added: ‘The ambition for us was to inspire a generation with the simple thought that if you give a little love the world will be a much better place.’
Message in the sky: Off like a flash, the airplane draws a heart against the backdrop of an indigo sky
Quiet sadness: Back on the ground, a bus drives past the heart in the sky – but a little girl is upset she broke her glasses
Quick fix: Spotting the problem, a woman takes the heart-shaped sticker off her apple and uses it to mend the glasses
All better: She presents the little girl with her mended glasses. When the girl steps off the bus, she is the same girl as seen at the start of the advert
Remember these? Edgar the Dragon, Bouncing Buster, the Man on the Moon, Montie the penguin and a star turn from Sir Elton John – EVERY past John Lewis Christmas advert
The eagerly-awaited John Lewis Christmas commercial has become something of a festive tradition.
Every year, fans gather in front of their TVs to watch the latest offering, before sharing it with their friends and family and – in recent years – broadcasting their opinions online.
The John Lewis ads started in 2007 and here you can revisit every single one.
2019: EDGAR THE DRAGON
Last year’s offering starred an excitable and accident-prone dragon called Edgar who lives in a freezing mythical village with his red-headed best friend Ava.
In the heart-warming and funny ad the pair try were forced to quell his disastrous fire-breathing after it threatened to destroy the festive period for everyone as a giant Christmas tree was flamed, a snowman was destroyed and the local ice rink melted.
It marks the first time the department store joined with sister brand Waitrose for a festive commercial. After a mixed response to the 2018 ad, which featured Elton John and charted his rise from childhood, the new ad seemed to be a return to formula.
2018 – The Boy And The Piano
The retailer ended a decade of heart-warming tearjerkers featuring loveable animals and charming children last year when it featured Sir Elton John in its Christmas ad.
It charted the singer’s rise from humble beginnings to fame and fortune.
The mini-biopic, set to his 1970 hit Your Song, showed how one present can change a life and ended with a four-year-old Elton unwrapping his first piano on Christmas Day in 1951.
The £7million advert then cutsto the emotional 71-year-old playing the same instrument while thinking about his mother Sheila, who died in 2017 aged 92, followed by the slogan: ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’.
However, it was panned by some who thought that it focused more on the singer than on Christmas.
Some fans were also disappointed that cuddly stars such as Montie the penguin and Moz the monster were jettisoned for a celebrity-endorsed campaign.
2017 – Moz The Monster
2017’s effort featured the story of a boy who befriends the monster under his bed, with the music a cover of The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers by rock band Elbow.
It left viewers in tears over the mischievous and flatulent monster called Moz and his relationship with a seven-year-old soulmate – with fans comparing it to Disney’s much-loved Monsters Inc.
The giant furry monster with a bulbous nose, wonky teeth and a love of snoring, jumped out from under the bed every night to play with companion Joe in a festive tale making many laugh and cry.
The little boy, aged 7, who is played by young twin brothers from London named Ethan and Tobias, is initially frightened after seeing a pair of enormous eyes peering from the dark under his bed.
But the two unlikely friends are shown sharing games, playing piggyback and Scalextric in his bedroom – all without mum, dad, or older sister finding out.
2016 – Buster The Boxer
Buster the Boxer and his trampoline antics was the star of the 2016 edition.
John Lewis said the advert where the dog, played by five-year-old Biff, beats a young girl to her new toy was their attempt to cheer up Britain after a ‘tough year’.
The advert told the story of a little girl called Bridget who loves to jump.
Set to a cover version of ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’, her mother and father buy her a trampoline, toiling while she sleeps to build it before hiding it in the garden to surprise her with on Christmas Day. As the snow falls an array of animals start using it as the Boxer watches forlornly through the window.
The next morning Bridget sprints out to use it for the first time but her joy turns to shock as cheeky Buster has the last laugh and uses her new toy before her.
2015 – Man On The Moon
In 2015, a lonely Man on the Moon is shown to viewers sitting by himself on a bench, completely unaware that he is being observed by the youngster back down on Earth
The elderly man, played by a 77-year-old French actor called Jean, gazes up wistfully towards the Earth, as the Oasis song Half The World Away, performed by 19-year-old Norwegian singer Aurora plays mournfully in the background.
She tries desperately to send him a message but all her efforts fail, while he remains unaware that anyone cares about him and sits alone on a bench, wistfully staring up at the Earth.
Eventually, on Christmas morning, a present arrives from the sky, carried by party balloons, and the old man unwraps it to reveal a vintage telescope.
He uses it to spot Lily and, realising that someone cares about him, his eyes fill with tears.
2014 – Monty The Penguin
In 2014, John Lewis hoped the bond between a boy and a penguin would capture the public’s imagination.
The two-minute festive commercial told the story of seven-year-old Sam, played by actor Rhys Edwards from Hertfordshire, and his friend Monty.
The boy gradually realises Monty is longing for a penguin companion. And so on Christmas morning Sam surprises Monty with the gift of a new penguin friend named Mabel.
The soundtrack was John Lennon’s song Real Love, performed by Tom Odell.
2013 – The Bear And The Hare
In 2013, the £7million Disney-inspired advert told the story of a selfless hare who is determined to make sure his best friend, a bear, doesn’t miss Christmas for once.
The commercial features the tale of two good friends, a bear and a hare, who are sad at the thought of being separated for Christmas.
The tale opens as winter is starting to draw in and the fun and excitement of preparing for Christmas begins.
As the first snowflake falls and lands on the bear’s nose, the hare starts to feel sad because he realises his friend will soon go off to hibernate, so – as usual – missing Christmas.
While the bear is keen to join in, eventually he finds he cannot hold off his winter sleep any longer and disappears into his cave.
Viewers see the bear fast asleep while all the other woodland creatures become excited about the big day to come.
However, the hare is missing his friend and finds it increasingly difficult to join in the preparations until the moment he has a great idea for a very special present.
He disappears off in to the wilderness to return with the gift – an alarm clock – which wakes the bear just in time to gather around a beautifully decorated tree to celebrate with all his friends.
2012 – The Journey
The Christmas ad from 2012, called The Journey, shows the extraordinary lengths to which some will go in their search for a gift for someone they love.
The 90-second commercial opens in a family’s snow-covered garden, with children happily making a snowman and snowwoman.
When the snowman mysteriously disappears the next morning, the viewer is transported to a magical world, following him on an epic journey across river, mountain, road and city.
The motive for the snowman’s secret journey isn’t revealed until the last scene, when he returns on Christmas morning with gifts for his wife.
Gabrielle Aplin sings The Power Of Love, the 1984 hit from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, as the soundtrack.
2011 – The Long Wait
In 2011, the John Lewis advert showed a young boy desperately excited about Christmas.
He eagerly counts down the days to December 25 with viewers left to imagine he is looking forward to getting presents.
However, it is revealed at the end that he actually couldn’t wait to give presents to his parents.
It was accompanied by a cover of The Smiths’ Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’.
2010 – A Tribute To Givers
The 2010 offering saw individuals choosing and wrapping their presents in the lead up to the big day, as Ellie Goulding sings a cover of Elton John’s Your Song.
Various people furtively hide the presents they’ve carefully chosen.
Parents sneak a rocking horse upstairs while their children’s backs are turned; a mechanic struggles to wrap a spotted teapot; and a small boy braves the snow in his dressing gown to hang a stocking outside his dog’s kennel.
2009 – Sweet Child O’ Mine
2009 was the first of the store’s Christmas campaigns created by advertising agency Adam & Eve.
It was also the first to feature a musical cover by a current artist, on this occasion a Taken By Trees version of Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses.
The ad shows children opening gifts for adults including a laptop, coffee machine and handbag.
It’s followed by the tagline: ‘Remember how Christmas used to feel? Give someone that feeling.’
2008 – From Me To You
Culminating in the tagline: ‘If you know the person, you’ll find the present,’ the 2008 version shows a succession of characters followed by a matching gift.
The soundtrack is a cover of The Beatles’ From Me To You recorded for the campaign.
It included vocals by Matt Spinner, a member of the John Lewis IT department and its music society.
2007 – Shadows
The first John Lewis Christmas ad shows a group of people stacking a pile of potential gifts including a desktop lamp, a computer and a leather satchel in an empty room.
The finished product ends up creating a shadow that looks like a woman walking her dog through the snow.
It is accompanied by the tagline: ‘Whoever you’re looking for this Christmas.’