Why do we care about the John Lewis Christmas Advert?

It’s Christmas. How do I know it’s Christmas? Because the John Lewis advert is out. How do I know it’s out? Because it is all anyone is talking/tweeting/writing about. Including me, here.


So why do we care so much about it? It’s an advert – a thing we are bombarded with thousands of times every day. Yet somehow, this one is different.  

When I clicked play to watch it myself, I had to sit through an advert before I could see it. Something about cereal I think, I can’t quite remember as I wasn’t really watching it. I was just thinking how annoying it was to have to watch an advert for 30 seconds before I could see what I wanted to watch – which was itself an advert. #meta

The reason we care is because it’s not an advert. It’s a story. The former, we tolerate as an intrusion into our lives. The latter is ‘the currency of life’ – a thing we want to hear, remember and pass on.

Our inherent fascination with stories is the reason why film stars are elevated to the peak of society. Only PR people care about PR awards – and only some of them. Yet an awards do for actors is a global television event.

Whilst the John Lewis advert itself always tells a strong emotional story, other brands create ads that are on the same level – Boots or M&S for example. But we don’t get as excited about those.

That is because the real genius of John Lewis’ approach is that their advert has itself become part of the Christmas story. Not in a biblical way, but in a cultural way.

It has embedded its advert into the cultural rhythm of Christmas – whether you love it, or hate it because “living on the moon is impossible”, you have to have an opinion on it.

It has become the starting gun for people to think about present buying, holidays, family celebrations, Christmas jumpers, Santa.

The strength of the story is also the reason John Lewis’ festive endeavours have usurped Coca-Cola’s ‘holidays are coming’ as signalling the start of  Christmas. The trucks had a jolly jingle and bright lights, but the story is essentially a convoy of articulated lorries marauding through a quiet village. The residents must be up in arms.

By creating a strong story at Christmas, John Lewis itself has become part of the Christmas story. That is why all anyone is talking/writing/tweeting about is the John Lewis advert. As I said, #meta.