For their Christmas advertising campaign, John Lewis is asking for the help of an operatic superstar and a cheeky carnivorous plant.
The department store chain has reverted to its tried-and-true formula of a heartwarming story featuring a child and an unusual friend, with a twist from some catchy Italian rock opera sung by the tenor Andrea Bocelli, following last year’s low-key charity-linked clip featuring a skateboarding foster dad.
With proceeds going to charity such as Action for Children, the song—which was specially commissioned from obscure Italian electropop artist Le Feste Antonacci—will be released as a single.
It deviates from John Lewis’s custom of having a young musician rework an iconic pop song.
The John Lewis Christmas commercial has gained national attention
Over the past ten years, the John Lewis Christmas advertisement—whose 2023 version will premiere on Thursday—has evolved into a national icon that heralds the start of the holiday shopping frenzy.
A cover of The Smiths song “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” was used in the promotion back in 2011. Buster the Boxer and Monty the Penguin starred in other productions.
But after many years on a similar theme and with competition from other retailers trying to take the show, the magic might have worn off a bit.
This year’s Sainsbury’s ad features actual employees, and the Morrisons campaign creators opted for singing oven gloves, while the Marks & Spencer clothing and homewares ad features a series of celebrities breaking away from unwelcome traditions.
After 14 years with Adam&eveDDB, John Lewis, which is having trouble negotiating a turnaround after suffering a loss, has moved to a new agency and hired Saatchi & Saatchi despite claiming to have spent no more than usual on the campaign.
What’s in John Lewis’s Christmas commercial?
The commercial, which debuted on Thursday online and on Channel 4’s Gogglebox this Friday, centers on a young child named Alfie who, upon purchasing a seed at a market to grow his own Christmas tree, discovers that he has instead planted a gigantic and cunning Venus flytrap.
In a scene straight out of the campy 1980s musical Little Shop of Horrors, the plant is banished to the garden when it gets out of control. Despite the family’s reluctance, Alfie remains loyal to his new friend and places his gift beneath it. The plant amazes them by snatching up the gifts and then passing them back while erupting a fountain of wrapping paper.
Charlotte Lock’s take on John Lewis
According to Charlotte Lock, customer director at John Lewis, the advertisement was meant to illustrate how families modify traditions to fit their needs and were inspired by a desire for something positive and enjoyable. “Traditions become more meaningful when you personalize them,” the speaker stated.
Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor torches Christmas cards in an M&S clothing ad that sparked controversy, but Lock claimed John Lewis could only produce content that was “true to our brand research” and could not completely control social media reaction. “We are proud of what we have created, but everyone is free to have their opinion,” she stated.
The commercial, which features the tagline “Let Your Traditions Grow,” is accompanied by at least six brief clips that highlight different products, such as a perfume, a Nespresso coffee maker, and a hair styler.
The advertisement will link to the largest range of related merchandise ever, including a soft toy version of Snapper the Plant for £18, children’s pajamas for £19, and venus flytrap plants for £10. Shoppable versions of the advertisement will be available on YouTube and Google.
Snapper will also be featured in the London Kew Gardens Christmas lights display and as a five-meter-tall structure that climbs the front of John Lewis’s Oxford Street store.