Countdowns were set, teasers released, speculations rife – and this morning, the advertising campaign of the commercial Christmas period was launched: The John Lewis Christmas advert. For many, like myself, this marks the time we can begin to look forward to the big day, humming the odd carol and twitching at the tinsel until Advent begins.
Over the years, we have seen a variety of offerings from the John Lewis campaign. From a little boy who is overwhelmed by a desire to give to others, to the story of a little girl who reaches out to someone who is lonely at Christmas time.
What distinguishes these advertising campaigns from others is that they aren’t selling products – they’re not even selling lifestyles. They’re selling feelings and values; giving, sharing, friendship, love, joy.
The team behind these adverts undestand the mind-set of their audience and targeted their message accordingly. Christmas is a time when we look to family and friends, and spend time with those we’re closest to – which is the only idea that’s being sold, an idea that we already understand.
So what can we learn from these adverts?
– Playing on the heartstrings works. Aristotle stated that an appeal to emotion was one of the three canons of rhetoric – and it works. When our hearts are involved, we engage much more actively with a campaign.
– Wait for the opportune moment. In the words of Captain Jack Sparrow: “If you’re looking for the opportune moment, that was it”. Waiting until there is enough buzz around a campaign before launching means that the reach is extended, and more people get involved.
– Make the campaign an event in itself. The reason that #ManOnTheMoon is trending on twitter is that The John Lewis Christmas Advert is a staple feature of our Christmas preparations – publicising campaigns creates more interest than just letting campaigns find their own feet.
– When running a campaign, whatever its purpose, you need to consider these lessons. It’s easy to assume that the human impact of your proposals is implicit, but this is hardly ever the case, and a carefully organised campaign with a clear set of messages underpinning all activity is much more likely to be a successful campaign.
In the case of the John Lewis advert, we can also learn that people still have faith in the qualities that define human nature, in spite of Grinches, Scrooges and cynics. Maybe the Christmas spirit is alive after all.