Communicator of the Week: John Lewis

Do you remember the time when Christmas was heralded by trees being erected and the first carol singers knocking on your door? Me neither. In my youth it began with giant tins of chocolate being stacked high in the corners of shops like Woolworths or Tesco not long after Guy Fawkes Night. In these days - 30-odd years ago - Tesco was still in the High Street of my hometown long before they went all out of town and many years before they moved back onto High Streets with their Express stores.

So Christmas has been a commercial beast for as long as I remember. Now though Christmas is heralded by huge tins of chocolate hitting the shops before Halloween (Guy who?) but perhaps above all by the launch of the John Lewis Christmas TV advert. For a High Street brand to have managed to make their Christmas campaign such an important event in the TV and advertising calendar deserves recognition. They have left their rivals trailing as, each year, they move the bar of expectation a little bit higher. Each year other stores try to create a "John Lewis style ad" but John Lewis themselves have moved on.

I'm not too butch to admit that the Christmas advert which has made me a bit teary is Tesco's home movie style ad following a family from the 1980's through to present day. It's a great ad but the problem is John Lewis got us all blubbing three years ago with their own home movie, the "Always a women to me" campaign.

So how do they do it? First John Lewis has been consistent. They have a strong and inspiring umbrella marketing message of “stories around thoughtful giving”. Second, they use stories. Stories grab us, appeal to us, move us and keep us interested. Whether in PR, advertising or any other type of communication using story telling helps you to get your message across and makes great content. Third, this has been backed by a coordinated PR and social media campaign which has helped to share that content, highlight it to those who don't watch X-Factor where the ad premiered, and make thousands of ordinary people brand ambassadors for John Lewis.

On Friday morning last week, over 24 hours before the advert was first shown on TV, John Lewis had three of the trending topics on Twitter as well as coverage in most national newspapers and online. The ad itself - an animated story of a friendship between a bear and a hare - cost £7 million to produce but I would estimate that the return for John Lewis will be many times that come January. That is why John Lewis is my Communicator of the Week. 

Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite

Creative Moment Awards 2020