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Has this year’s John Lewis ad lost its Christmas sparkle?

Abi Allard Associate Director 16 December 2021

For many households around the UK, Christmas adverts signal the start of the festive period and arguably, John Lewis has become the pinnacle of all Christmas adverts.

It’s hard not to ask, have John Lewis lost their way with this year’s Christmas campaign?

The brand gets people talking all around the country; with the soundtrack often featuring in the UK Top 40, merchandise being a sought-after Christmas gift and millions of views on YouTube, it’s clear to see the impact that the much-anticipated advert has each year.

Not only are the John Lewis adverts hotly anticipated amongst consumers, but brand, media, PR and research agencies as well as many others, eagerly await to see the impact it has on the overall brand each year.

This year, through Savanta’s daily brand tracking tool, BrandVue, we’ve taken a deep dive into John Lewis’s brand performance. Not only has it allowed us to evaluate the impact of the advert on consumer perceptions this year, but we’ve also taken a look at how they compare to previous years, identifying which advert has driven the biggest uplift.

John Lewis released this year’s advert ‘Unexpected Guest’ on Thursday 1st November, much earlier than usual. After a year of turmoil in the retail industry, it was intriguing to see that John Lewis released the ad around a fortnight early and the decision was met with mixed opinions online.

The Independent reported that ‘this year will be the one that John Lewis lost its Christmas ad crown’ and with Marketing Week reporting that the MD of Hill & Knowlton described ‘it as a creepy rip off of ET with a dollop of Stranger Things on the side’ it’s clear that it didn’t land as well as hoped by many in the industry.

However, there were some positive reviews with The Independent reporting that the advert drew praise for its message to show kindness to strangers this festive season, and the MD of Little Moons describing it as a ‘story of open hearts and open minds at a time when living on our island can feel small and closed’ (Marketing Week).

However, are these views reflected in consumers perceptions of, and behaviours towards John Lewis according to our BrandVue data?

By using BrandVue we have been able to analyse the data in a number of ways to see the effect that the advert has had on perceptions and behavior towards the brand both this year and in the previous two years.

Whilst BrandVue provides us with a wealth of data and brand metrics that we can evaluate, we use following framework to measure the impact of advertising:

1. Does it command attention (i.e. awareness)?

2. Does it forge associations (i.e. brand image)?

3. Does it influence decisions (i.e. consideration)?

By exploring these three metrics, in conjunction with preference, we can assess how well the advert has performed when we set it into context of the previous year’s adverts.

Firstly, if we look at advertising awareness on a 14-day average and compare it with the data three days before the release date, the day of the release, 1 week after, and then two and three weeks after, we can see how well the advert cut through. Although advertising awareness drops ever so slightly on release date compared to last year (Give a Little Love), we saw an uptick when we compare it to 2019 (Excitable Edgar). This demonstrates that despite the earlier release date, it still garnered strong cut through and was able to command attention, which is impressive when you consider that it launched the same day as the M&S advert, and a day after Boots released its #BagsOfJoy.

Despite a lot of noise across these three big releases, John Lewis was still able to gain traction and although we see advertising awareness begin to decrease after two weeks, it doesn’t drop as much as it did in 2019 – suggesting that this year was a strong year for awareness.

Consideration provides an interesting story, whilst it peaked one week after the release date, indicating that the stronger cut through was helping to place John Lewis strongly in the consideration set, it does start to drop off at the week two point and falls to its lowest levels by week three. This year’s advert doesn’t seem to be impacting consideration in the same way that it has in previous years where we’ve tended to see an upward trend, which could be impacting on purchase decisions.

However, the story for John Lewis gets even more interesting when we look at preference. Amongst those who are aware of John Lewis’s advertising, we see preference towards the brand start to dip almost as soon as the advert is released, which is at odds with the data seen last year. Although the preference did drop at the week one point in 2019, it then saw a strong uplift. Whilst it’s unlikely that the advert is purely a driver behind the drop in preference this year, it does provide some indication towards consumers thoughts towards the brand.

Finally, when we look at brand image in the month of November when the adverts are released, we see an interesting picture when we compare this year’s data with last. Across the board this year, results remain pretty flat compared to last year where we saw stronger perceptions of quality, premium, product range and value. Not only are behaviours around the brand decreasing this year, but overall perceptions of the brand are failing to see strong uplifts too, suggesting that this year’s ad has struggled to convey key brand metrics.

Revisiting our framework, we can see that the campaign doesn’t tick all of the boxes necessary to be classed as an ‘effective campaign’. Whilst we see a greater uplift in awareness relative to the last two years, it doesn’t forge associations as well as last year, and although it appears to be influencing decisions upon initial release, they’re not consistent. This supports the wider viewpoint that this year’s advert has created a lot of polarization amongst consumers. Whilst the positives can’t be ignored, it is clear to see that behaviour and perceptions towards the brand aren’t as strong as they once were during the Christmas period.

It’s hard not to ask, have John Lewis lost their way with this year’s Christmas campaign?

Get in touch here to speak to one of our media experts and find out how Savanta can help you understand more about your brand using our BrandVue data.

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