This year, like every year, the John Lewis Christmas advert received the usual overly dramatic and unnecessary build up. People have been speculating for months about what the advert might be – from creating their own (better) fake versions to connecting a seemingly unrelated (but actually very related) monster-themed Twitter account to the chain. John Lewis, the person, received his usual barrage of tweets and handled them hilariously as ever.
The store itself has been working very hard – since January in fact – to bring the British public this two-minute clip. It hired well-established director Michel Gondry, opted for complicated methods of production – including putting two men in a monster costume rather than using CGI – and spent the usual millions of pounds.
And now the over-hyped ad is here. Not heart-wrenching like the man on the moon, not heart-warming like the one with the snowmen, not even cute like Monty the penguin or funny like the dog on the trampoline. The monster under the bed is unremarkable and unrelatable. Watch it if you don’t believe me, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same dull disconnect that I did – and maybe a bit of confusion.
The truth is, it doesn’t really make much sense. Why does the monster have a football sticking out of its side? Why does the ad suddenly cut to the young boy getting his hair cut? Why on earth would the kid want to get rid of his new found friend – what kind of a Christmas gift is being able to make a loved one vanish at the flick of a button?
The ending, where the boy makes the monster disappear, would have seemed mean – except I didn’t actually care. I didn’t connect to the characters and I didn’t “get” the story. And when the ad came to an end I felt – and this was probably not John Lewis’s intention – nothing much.
The only thing I enjoyed, honestly, was the music – a pretty OK cover by Elbow of The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers”. But any joy I might have had from listening to it (or the original, sadly) will likely be ruined by it being overplayed and competing with some cheesy song off The X Factor for Christmas number one.
I must confess I did have low expectations. I’ve never really been a fan of John Lewis’s ads. Call me a cynic – but I fail to see how any of their Christmas ad campaigns are in any way, well, Christmassy. Take Moz the Monster – not only is he the character in John Lewis’s ad, but he’s also a soft toy, the subject of his own book, a collection of downloadable gifs, the face of a Facebook filter, and centre of the “world’s first farting and snoring window display” (John Lewis’s words, not mine). He is – in short – a PR prop and one that will make a lot of money for the company.
This year John Lewis has teamed up with Barnardo’s, and will be making a donation amount to the charity with the sale of each Moz soft toy and mug (note that it won’t be making donations from the sales of any of the other products in the range).
Charitable? Maybe. Personally I think the company would be better off saving the £7m on the ad campaign, and giving that money directly to a charity (or struggling grassroots campaign) instead. It could skip the good PR and the merchandise sales and just give without receiving – isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be about?
This year, like every year, domestic violence will spike over the Christmas period, many older people will freeze to death because of not being able to afford to turn the heating on, and thousands of homeless people will be given a warm meal and a bed on Christmas day, then left to struggle for the rest of the year. There’s all this frenzy over an advert – a two-minute clip used as a marketing tool by a retail chain – and little fuss over the things that matter.
There are 45 days until Christmas. Maybe we should spend that time thinking about what we can do to make a difference, not just what we all think of a silly ad.
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