Humanity Truly Is The Killer App -- As John Lewis Shows, Again

How was it for you? The first weekend of the John Lewis ad is now behind us, and it's time to tell whether it's another classic or not. For me, it was an instant hit and for family members and friends it was more of a grower, but after a night watching X-Factor results it had become a hit. OK -- so you have suspend disbelief as a little girls send the man on the moon a gift attached to balloons, but go back a couple of years and how many hares do you think would actively encourage a hungry, hibernating bear to join them for Christmas lunch?

It always had a lot to live up to because past ads have so dominated the runup to Christmas that this year's release even had countdown clocks in the national press, and speculation was rife following a week of teasers of pictures of the moon. For me, it has delivered yet again -- and it's still the only ad each year that people actively wait for, avoid skipping and then chat about. once you accept that the moon is just a metaphor for distance that you should strive to overcome so nobody is left out of the celebrations. A few writers tried to stand out for pointless criticism. I won't share a Guardian article that questioned whether the guy on the moon is supposed to be Hitler -- it was simply pointless clickbait. However, one article in The Independent got it totally wrong, pointing out that there wasn't much to buy in the ad. The writer may not realise they have actually hit on the formula for John Lewis' success. It's not about pushing product.

Once again the takeaway is that we're all emotional human beings who react when somebody shows us emotions on screen. It's how all tv shows and movies work. If we didn't care about a character we wouldn't be bothered whether they find true love, make a million or get shot. It reminds me of the great business saying that all leaders should be taught -- nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. John Lewis strips everything back to a very simple basic emotion that beyond everything else, all everyone wants for Christmas is each other's happiness.

Of the product-filled ads, M&S has certainly come out with all guns blazing with the catchy Uptown Funk song introducing bright colours, quick cuts and excitement that gets your toe tapping but will never illicit a teary-eyed moment or make anyone stop to think. We'll have to see what Sainsbury's come up with this year after wonderful World War I football game ad last year. The supermarket deserves a round of applause for waiting until Armistice Day to be solemnly observed before it talks about Christmas.

A final point worth remembering was that it wasn't until the weekend's coverage of the John Lewis ad that I was reminded of the strength of music in its campaigns. It has two number ones and three top-ten hits under its belt. There is nothing more emotional to us human beings than a piece of music that tugs at the heartstrings. Get the message right, pick an emotional theme backed up by a fitting song and you have marketing gold dust.

The rest of the pack will continue to have stars sampling their festive wares -- maybe with some humour thrown in -- but until national newspapers actually start counting down until you launch a tv spot, you know you have not quite hit the same spot that John Lewis reaches every year.

I blogged a while ago about humanity being the killer app. John Lewis is living proof. In case you are thinking all this emotion is great, but what about the bottom line? Monty The Penguin is credited with lifting sales by 13% last Christmas taking the department store through the GBP100m-per-week ceiling. I bet that led to a few more positive emotions at the store's boardroom.

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