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The battle of the John Lewis ads

27th November 2018


It’s not Christmas until multi-million pound companies battle it out to win the hearts and wallets of the public with their festive adverts. And this year, the broadcast industry delivered again.

One of the highlights for me has been the quality and creativity of the John Lewis parodies.

This year’s John Lewis advert featuring Elton John is excellent. Whether spending millions of pounds on his ad, as reported, has sat well with the public, is a conversation for another time.

The Elton John John Lewis Advert 

Two takes on the John Lewis advert I love are The Romans’ Twitter’s UK Christmas ad and the ‘Love is a Gift’ video by Phil Beastall.

The Twitter John Lewis Advert

Phil Beastall's version

What you really want to know is how does the original compare with the parodies? All three drew in audiences, blew up on social and won the hearts of the nation. But let’s face it, no one spends on Christmas advertising to make consumers feel warm and fuzzy…. they want a return on their investment. Or do they?

Over the years, a John Lewis ecosystem has grown around Christmas. Twitter and Phil Beastall won’t be the last to try and recreate the magic of a John Lewis’ advert.

John Lewis’s advert is a traditional TV advert, designed to reach the masses, multiple times. The number of people that would have seen it during one X-Factor weekend is probably more than every person that will ever see The Romans’ and Phil Beastall’s videos put together.

Twitter’s UK Christmas ad – interesting not called a social media video – featuring John Lewis of @johnlewis ‘fame’ is a brilliant piece of timely and creative work by The Romans. Racking up over 3 million views to date, the video has been given the personal seal of approval by Elton John himself. However, it wasn’t cheap, which begs the question, was it worth it?

For the Romans, absolutely. What the advert has done is make The Roman’s more famous within the PR and creative industry – and rightly so – but has it shifted the dial with Twitter’s audiences?

The independent video by Phil Beastall has made the front page of all digital media – and, again, rightly so. If Beastall plays this right, his business is going to take off and we could see him directing the real John Lewis advert next year!

As for the success of the John Lewis Elton John Christmas advert, it will not be measured on social noise or views on YouTube. In the advertising world, the effectiveness of an ad is not subjective – it is objective. It’s all about sales, sales, sales. The John Lewis ad will be measured by the commercial directors to uncover the financial performance ROI. And the added success of the parodies are making those commercial directors very, very happy.

We also need to remember we’re not comparing like for like; there’s no brand associated with Phil Beastall’s production.

Will the John Lewis advert work as a vehicle to sell products as it heads towards 150 million impacts? Most likely. Only time will tell. What we do know though is Elton John’s concert ticket sales are going pretty well.

Will Phil Beastall’s sales go up? Most definitely. Is Mr John Lewis from Virginia enjoying his 15 minutes of fame? It looks like it. Will The Romans get more enquiries from brands looking for creative productions? I’d put money on it. Will Twitter’s user base or ad revenue increase? Probably not. But we’ll never know for sure.

Written by Howard Kosky, CEO of broadcast specialist communications group markettiers4dc



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