The PR effect on the nation’s favourite Christmas advert

29th November 2016

By Angela Gallen

The John Lewis Christmas advert is now so embedded in our national consciousness that it’s as much part of the festive season as a jolly man in a red suit.

Whether it’s a snowman making an epic journey to delight his beloved, a heartwarming tale of friendship between a boy and a penguin, or a cartoon hare persuading his hibernating bear pal to wake up, the department store’s seasonal offering has grown into an institution that marks the start of the British countdown to Christmas.

Like many, I found last year’s tearjerker Man on the Moon, about a young girl trying to contact an old man living alone, a little sombre. It wasn’t cheap though, costing £7million – £1million on production with a further £6million on television slots. But with a record breaking 23,000 social mentions in the two hours after release, it could be argued that it’s money well spent.

This year, we are treated to the cheery story of bouncing Buster the Boxer who eventually fulfills his passion for jumping after being forced to watch behind closed doors as all manner of woodland animals enjoy themselves on a trampoline Christmas present in the garden.

Looking back at how the John Lewis yuletide advert has become such a success since the tradition began in 2007, it’s clear a key factor is the PR effect.

The theme of the first three years of 2007-10 was products as presents, and this now feels rather two dimensional.

Since then, editorial hooks have been built into the narrative, each featuring an emotional denoument – the boy giving his Mum and Dad a gift before opening his own, the old man spying a waving girl through the telescope she has sent him, the dog achieving his trampolining dream.

Cultivating these big annual moments on television has whetted the appetite of the press, which eagerly anticipates every launch and gives widespread media coverage, thus amplifying the advertising spend.

In this way, there has been a blurring of the line between advertising and earned (non-paid for) media.

Additionally, with PR now far more involved in the initial creative development, a well-thought out social media strategy makes the most of all channels.

For the first time this year, the full advert was published on YouTube with bespoke social channel support, including a filter on Snapchat. This was done at 8am on November 9 and the advert was broadcast on ITV that evening.

Previously, content was teased online before the launch of the full version of the advert on television.

And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then look no further than how media student Nick Jablonka's homage to the John Lewis Christmas ritual, The Snowglobe, went viral with people thinking it was the real Christmas advert.

A nice PR touch too from the high street store to invite Nick behind the scenes to see how their iconic adverts are made after his video hit the headlines.

Take a look back at John Lewis Christmas campaigns here:

2007 – Shadows 

2008 – From Me to You  

2009 – Sweet Child o' Mine 

2010 – A Tribute to Givers 

2011 – The Long Wait 

2012 – The Journey

2013 – The Bear and the Hare 

2014 – Monty the Penguin 

2015 – Man on the Moon 

2016 – Buster the Boxer 

Want to discuss the power of PR a bit more? Why not drop into Cobb HQ for a coffee or give us a call on 01273 208913 to find out more.

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