By now you will have seen – or at very least heard about – the John Lewis Christmas commercial.
This is because ad campaigns from the great British retailer are never knowingly undersold. Indeed this year’s effort – a beautifully-crafted cartoon featuring a sad bear and a warm-hearted hare – is already subject to an onslaught of PR and social media optimization.
On Friday morning, the new commercial had three of the trending topics on Twitter, newspaper stories abounded and John Lewis’ Facebook page was throbbing with conversation.
But to be fair this is not only the result of brilliant PR, but of a consistently excellent approach to its advertising.
For the past few years John Lewis has succeeded in making each new Christmas ad one of the major events in the media and cultural calendar. In this sense it has taken on the previous mantle of Woolworths and Marks & Spencer.
Two years ago we had the little boy anxious to find the right present for his parents, last year we had a romantic snowman, and this week we have a Disney-esque piece of animation that continues John Lewis’s inspired marketing message of “stories around thoughtful giving”.
The campaign from leading agency Adam & Eve/DDB - whose key characters include James Murphy (the suit) and Ben Priest (the creative) – has been almost a year in its incubation. The PR machine kicked in a few weeks ago, with a five-second teaser ad emerging last week, a pop-up art installation in London and an interview in the Sunday Times.
One the social media buzz had truly been established, a full-length version of film, was screened in an exclusive break during ITV’s The X-Factor on Saturday night.
Is it as good as last year’s effort? Public response and in-store sales will give us the answer by January.
The ongoing challenge is to keep moving the story along using different creative ideas and fresh media channels. But there’s no doubt that the huge expectation heaped upon John Lewis’ annual marketing drive is a nice problem for its marketing director Craig Inglis and his ad agency to grapple with.
Danny Rogers is editor of 'Campaign'