By now you’ve probably already seen this ad. You may love it. You may hate it. You may wonder what all the hype is about. You may wonder who the heck is John Lewis and why should you care?
Since it is getting all the hype (and it made me cry, something very few ads do to me these days) I figure I would break it down for you to show you why it is going viral.
If you haven’t seen the ad, you can watch it below or follow this link here. It is just over two minutes long. (Note: spoiler alerts below.)
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know I teach six principles that anyone can follow to make your ads more memorable and effective. Those principles are:
- Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad
- Tell a Story
- Make Only One Point
- Speak to the Heart
- Speak to the Tribe
- Make Your Customer the Star
Don’t Look or Sound Like and Ad: Check! When I first clicked on a link for this ad that a friend shared with me, I thought I had accidentally linked to a trailer for the new Elton John movie Rocketman. This definitely doesn’t look or sound like any ad you’ll see on television outside of the first Sunday in February—if even then!
Tell a Story: Check! I love how they tell the story in a reverse timeline. Like any good storyteller, they take you from what you know to something you don’t know.
Make Only One Point: Check! I’m sure John Lewis sells all kinds of products and offers all kinds of services. They don’t talk about any of that. The tagline “Some gifts are more than just a gift” is about the thought you give into gift-giving and the thought John Lewis gives into the products it sells.
Speak to the Heart: Check! John Lewis is known for their touching, moving Christmas commercials. This one brought me to tears. Twice. Once at 1:45, again at 2:12.
Speak to the Tribe: Check! If you read the comments below the video on YouTube you’ll notice that not everyone is gushing over this ad. In fact, while 90,000 have given it a thumbs up (at the time of this typing), 8,500 have given it a thumbs down. Several people have written comments that they don’t get it. That, in my humble opinion, is the most telling point of how well John Lewis is speaking to the tribe.
Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, has been teaching for years that, like a magnet, an ad’s ability to attract is equal to its ability to repel. The more powerfully you speak to your tribe—your customers, the people who share your Core Values—the more likely others won’t get it or like it. Roy also says, “Choose who to lose.” Don’t try to speak to everyone, just the most important ones.
This particular ad speaks to several tribes—Elton John fans, Musicians, people with Nostalgia as a character trait, Christmas saps, and people with Giving Gifts as one of their Love Language. I happen to be all of those. If you’re not one of those, you might not get why the rest of us are grabbing a tissue.
Some people loved the ad just because it was Elton. Some felt at the end he was lamenting the loss of his parents more than he was waxing nostalgic on the gift—another tribe. Some were remembering their own favorite Christmas gift that inspired them or that they still own today.
The ad evoked powerful emotions from several groups of people.
Make Your Customer the Star: No Check. I do have to agree with one comment on YouTube where the person said it looked more like an ad for Elton John’s next tour or movie than it did an ad for John Lewis. It certainly did feel that way up until the scene with the little boy coming down the stairs Christmas morning. Prior to that scene it was all about Elton. but in that one moment it was any one of us who has ever come down the stairs wide-eyed and full of excitement on Christmas morning.
That scene at 1:45 was the first part that really got to me emotionally. My first blog post ten years ago was about my favorite Christmas gift—a six-string guitar.
I’m okay that this ad didn’t fully make “you” the star. It works because of the story. The story works because we all know of Elton. You don’t have the budget to get Elton John into your commercials and that’s okay. John Lewis did and it worked for me.
Five out of six boxes checked. That’s why everyone is talking about this ad, and John Lewis.
PS Want to do a fun exercise? Go through all the John Lewis commercials here and write down the different tribes each ad is speaking to. It will help you when you start crafting your own powerful ads like these.
PPS If you didn’t get this ad or like this ad, that’s okay. It just wasn’t written for you. I watch ads every day that make me scratch my head until I remember, they weren’t written for me. Speak to your Tribe with your ads. That’s what really matters.