There was a time when the first showing of the John Lewis Christmas ad heralded the start of the festive season. Not any more. Now we’ve got Mariah Carey smashing pumpkins with a giant candy cane.
But they’ve got in there relatively swiftly – even before Bonfire Night – to unveil their latest seasonal campaign. But it’s a disappointing affair. As if it isn’t bad enough that the number of John Lewis department stores has fallen from 51 to 34, we’ve now got to watch as uninspired schmaltz replaces their formerly glorious Christmas ads.
This year’s offering sees a young lad befriend an alien, who has crashed to earth. While she fixes her space ship, her new pal introduces her to the seasonal light-up jumper, a fully lit Christmas tree, and a mince pie. No wonder she wanted to get off back to her planet so quickly. At the end of the ad, the boy gives his novelty jumper to the affable extra-terrestrial and she gives him a peck on the cheek before jetting back to outer space.
Social media users reported that they were ‘welling up’ after seeing the advert… seriously? I realise that we all need a lift at the moment; times are hard indeed. As if anyone needs reminding, we’re living through a pandemic and the earth is dying—and any day now we’re about to be assailed by Noddy Holder screaming “It’s CHRISTMAAAAAAAAS!” for the next six weeks. To be fair, John Lewis had a difficult brief this year. But is this it? Is this what we get? A hybrid Lannister-Malfoy attempting to eat mince pies? Come on, John Lewis. The ad’s only saving grace is that we’ve been spared a rendition of Chris De Burgh’s 'A Spaceman Came Travelling'. Instead, we get the now customary breathily "poignant" reworking of a well-loved song.
Of course, there are the standard complaints of wokeness, which is as depressing as following the progress of Cop26. The knowledge that featuring a black family in a Christmas ad still provokes accusations of "racism" – because the "token" white face belongs to an alien – is vomit inducing and, despite the moral message of the ad, highlights the enduring nasty prejudices that continue to underscore our society.
John Lewis is no stranger to the derision of the anti-woke brigade, though. Their latest promotional campaign comes straight off the back of their controversial ad for home insurance. You know the one, where the little lad in a dress destroys his house while his sensible sister draws a picture and his mum looks on despairingly. In the end, the ad was pulled – not because of its gender representations but because it implied that the insurance would cover damage caused by kids rampaging through the house. It wouldn’t. Never mind though! The ad got so much attention and free exposure on social media that John Lewis probably didn’t need to continue its run anyway.
Maybe we’ll remember 2021 as the year we finally took climate change seriously. Maybe it’ll go down in history as the year we stopped using “woke” as a generic dog-whistle to deride and dismiss anything and anyone that attempts to address or challenge inequalities…. Nah, I don’t think so either.
This year will be the one that John Lewis lost its Christmas ad crown. And they should just stop making them.