John Lewis Xmas ad: the gift of fresh consistency

John Lewis is set to enjoy the benefits of fresh consistency with its latest Xmas TV advert, which aired for the first time last week. “Monty the Penguin” is creating even more “word-of-mouse” than last year’s “Bear and the Hare”, being shared 202,953 times in the first 24 hours, up 2% on last year according to Marketing. Youtube views are already at 11 million, versus a total of 13.7 million for “Bear and the Hare” one year post-launch.

The new ad features a boy buying a mate for his imaginary penguin friend (really a toy). You can watch it below on the blog, or here.


Here is why I think this is a great example of fresh consistency.

1. Consistent story

Even if this year’s ad looks different from last year’s and the year before that, there is complete consistency in terms of the story. The endlines vary slightly from year to year (see below), but the story in all three cases is “Give a little more love this Christmas, by shopping at John Lewis for your gifts”. This year’s ad (“Give someone the Christmas they’ve been dreaming of”) is very close to 2013 (“Give someone a Christmas they’ll never forget”).

The focus on the joy of giving makes the brand distinctive versus other Xmas communication that tends to focus on the receiver of the gift.

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2. Consistent execution

In terms of execution the ads look different. But look closer and there’s a lot of consistency. Since 2010, the commercials have a similar narrative structure, with a focus on the gift giver, building up to a climatic and tear-jerking “reveal” at the end. Importantly, the focus is on the product/gift and the giver as joint heros. So we have emotional “sizzle” but also some product “sausage”:

Second, the music is different, but the style of music is similar. All three songs use slowed down, accoustic cover versions.

Third, the ads all have an emotional pull on the heartstings, with an “Ah” factor.

3. Adding freshness 

There is of course plenty of freshness to keep viewers anticipating what this year’s ad will be like, and rewarding them when they discover it. (Indeed, is each year’s new ad almost like a little gift in itself?). Each year we have a different leading character, a new song and sometimes a change in execution style. Last year it was animation, whereas this year we’re back to real life, but with an imaginary penguin.

John Lewis should benefit from this fresh consistency in terms of effectiveness, by building on and amplifying memory structure. The other big benefit of this approach is that John Lewis and their agency, Adam & Eve, already know what 2015’s ad will be like, in terms of story, structure and style. This means that can start work on the communication already if they want to, maximising the creative firepower they can put behind it.

In conclusion, John Lewis is a great example of the power of fresh consistency, the gift that keeps giving.

To have fun watching all their previous Xmas ads, click here.