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07 November 2016

Why John Lewis Christmas advertising works: 10 key ingredients


John lewis

If ever we needed definitive proof that John Lewis has Christmas advertising all wrapped up, it may not come as a surprise to many but John Lewis' blueprint for how to create Britain's most watched, loved and profitable Christmas advertising campaigns was recently awarded the IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix 2016.  

The prestigious prize was awarded to John Lewis’s agencies adam&eveDDB and Manning Gottlieb OMD for proving how their heart-warming Christmas campaigns between 2012-2015* increased sales during the festive season by 16% on average, and produced over £8 of profit for every £1 spent. As a result, John Lewis’s annual market share has increased to 29.6%, its highest level ever. 

The award-winning submission – entitled 'adam&eveDDB, Manning Gottlieb OMD, IPA Awards 2016 – The gift that keeps on giving: John Lewis Christmas advertising 2012-2015' - highlights the importance of the Christmas season to John Lewis’s business: it accounts for around 20% of John Lewis annual sales and 40% of profits, from which staff bonuses are generated. 

To drive this growth, adam&eveDDB and Manning Gottlieb OMD executed a number of Christmas campaigns that created emotional rather than retail messages; ones that provided engaging stories about thoughtful giving set to carefully selected music, rather than overt selling messages and excessive references to the store or its products. 

So what's the secret to its success? The paper revealed 10 key ingredients that make for the perfect recipe of Christmas advertising success. Check them out below:

1. Make stuff people want to watch, listen to and talk about
Advertising can no longer command attention - it must earn it. If ads bore or irritate people, they will block, skip or avoid them. But if you make ads that people love, they will seek out, share and amplify them.
2. Nothing sells quite as hard as emotion 
Most advertising treats emotion as a means to an end – a way of getting the “message” across. Here, the feeling was the message. The profits generated show the power of feelings. 
3. Tell a great story, create a world 
Nothing interests, involves and moves people more than a great story. Media and technology offer new, more immersive ways to tell stories. adam&eveDDB and Manning Gottlieb OMD drew people into the worlds they created, and then into John Lewis’s stores. 
4. Create characters that have a life of their own 
Great stories have characters that live and breathe beyond their creators. The John Lewis advertising characters – such as the Bear and the Hare - came to life, in books, apps, and parodies. And when they came to life in store, they created a new revenue stream from merchandise. 
5. Creativity is not a luxury 
None of this would be possible without great creative. With an ROMI of 8:1, this case proves that creativity is crucial for efficiency. 
6. Scale matters too 
Creativity increases efficiency, but effectiveness is also a numbers game. With over 2.5 billion impressions, the creative got the exposure it needed to create fame. 
7. TV is still indispensable 
Only TV can deliver audiences on that scale. TV remains the core, and continues to deliver outstanding ROI. 
8. Online makes TV work harder 
Online channels extend reach, deepen involvement, and stimulate sales directly. 
9. Fame is a virtuous circle 
The more famous the ads become, the more exposure they get. The more exposure they get, the more famous they become.
10. Dedication to effectiveness and evaluation 
To keep the wheel of fame turning requires the delivery of great campaigns every year. That means continually evaluating what you do, and trying to make each campaign work harder than the last. 

*John Lewis Christmas campaigns between 2012-2015: 
2012: The Long Wait told the story of a Snowman’s epic journey to find the perfect Christmas gifts for his Snowwoman. 
2013: The Bear and the Hare told the story about a Hare who thoughtfully gave his friend, a hibernating Bear, an alarm clock, so that he wouldn’t miss the Christmas fun. 
2014: Monty the penguin told the story of a boy and his toy penguin, Monty. Seen through the eyes of the child, Monty comes to life. But Monty wants someone to love, so the boy gives him a companion called Mabel for Christmas. 
2015: The Man in The Moon tells the story of loneliness. A little girl looking through her telescope spies an old man, living on his own on the moon. Her thoughtful Christmas gift is a telescope, sent by balloon, so that he can see he’s not really alone.


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  • Right Brain, Left Brain sums up the dichotomy of a media business that’s constantly battling with the challenge of delivering a profit and discovering new ways to communicate to consumers. The Cream editorial team combined with a dream team of industry pioneers from around the world share their expert opinions.

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