In recent years, it’s become traditional for the John Lewis Christmas advert to herald the beginning of the UK’s festive season, together with the launch of a shopping spree capable of significantly boosting high street profits.

However, as 2020 – a year full of challenges that none of us could have anticipated – draws in, retailers across the board have noticeably shown greater, more appropriate consideration towards the tone and storylines of their seasonal advertising campaigns.

Many of us at McConnells have, historically, had our own particular favourites from the back catalogue of JL Christmas ads, and often expect to feel emotionally stirred when ‘the annual first viewing’ occurs in our design studio.

This year of course, we’re all working from home, and so have shared the ritual ‘JL ad view and review’ virtually. As a set of creatives, we’re bound to have our opinions on the advert’s design concept, which this year has been tagged with the theme, “Give a Little Love”.

Starting with a scene of real-life actors, the advert shows a boy staring up at his football stuck in a tree, hoping that a pigeon will nudge it down to him. As the bird seems unwilling to ‘play ball’, a passing girl throws her umbrella up to the branches to offer a successful dislodging solution. The umbrella opens into a heart, and from here the story continues largely through illustration and stop-motion animation with a hint of human acting in-between, before ending back on real-life footage.

Throughout the advert, a melting snowman is brought back to life, hip-hop pigeons extend a wing of friendship to a hedgehog, and the little girl’s glasses are stuck back together with a heart sticker donated by a stranger on a bus.

There’s certainly plenty going on, and the mixtures of mediums are reflective of this. Strangely for a Christmas ad, you have to pay attention, as by jumping from medium to medium the storytelling isn’t seamless which means you have to put a little more effort into connecting with the campaign.

That said, against the backdrop of the events of 2020, the ad – which arguably, is more demographically inclusive than JL ads of Christmases’ past – is telling stories from different people, age groups and places, and so that mixture of mediums, whilst busy, chimes well with the more inclusive concept.

What the creative also suggests is that multiple creative minds have added ideas to the pot, which in a time when we’re not physically able to work in the same place, demonstrates that we are able to share ideas and contribute to a wider collective, remotely.

Then of course there’s the overall Christmas message of 2020, which simply can’t have the usual heart-melting gooey centre of, ‘we’re all going to be together having fun and playing games so let’s buy some cashmere-blend socks and a top-of-the-range bean-to-cup coffee machine’.

This year we just don’t know what’s going to happen or whom we can be with. We’ve had months of uncertainty, worry and restriction, and whilst the promise of vaccines presents 2021 as having the scope for being brighter… we’re not there just yet.

For now, we’ve got to push-on-through as best we can, and like the ad suggests, show kindness where possible to make this festive season as cheerful as it can be. Afterall, we won’t be forgetting Christmas 2020 in a hurry, so we need to do what we can to make it kind of ok.

(By the way, the ad’s soundtrack is called A Little Love and was purpose-written by artiste, Celeste. Every time the song is downloaded, 10 pence will be donated to the John Lewis Christmas campaign supporting Home Start and Fare Share; charities helping families in need.)

Watch Excitable Edgar from Christmas 2019

The Christmas 2019 John Lewis tear-jerker teams-up with partner Waitrose to tell a tale of a delightful medieval dragon – Excitable Edgar – who, being different from the crowd, possesses fire-igniting traits that are hard to accept in his village.

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