Does Moz The Monster hit the mark?

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Date: 10th Nov 2017

John Lewis is no stranger to TV advertising but this year’s advert has had a mixed reaction, writes Vic Davies, Senior Lecturer in Bucks Business School at Bucks New University.  Does this reflect the challenges of retail?Picture of Vic Davies

For many people the Christmas season begins, not when supermarket shelves fill up with tins of Quality Street, or department stores start playing old Christmas hits, but it's when the festive ads hit our screens.

The countdown to Christmas starts when they see the high street retailers’ TV ads. In the emerging consumer society of the late 20th century, often deemed the American Century, this used to be the famous Holidays are Coming Coca Cola ad, with its red truck, and white bearded, Coca Cola red-coated Santa.

But many of us now look to an ad for a brand that’s much more aligned with values closer to home, namely the John Lewis Christmas TV ad - accompanied with quirky covers of popular songs.

The launch of the Moz the Monster ad today (10 November), set to a cover version of The Beatles' song Golden Slumbers and performed by Elbow, seems to have moved away from the 2007-2013 themes. And the immediate social media reaction to this ad is mixed.

Craig Inglis, John Lewis Customer Director has said that this year's campaign ‘brings to life the power of children's imaginations and the joy of great friendships’.

John Lewis is no stranger to TV advertising, but the current phenomenon that is ‘the John Lewis commercial’ saw its origin in the year of the financial crash of 2007.

Crafted by John Lewis’ then agency Lowe London, the Shadows (2007) ad shows presents being stacked into shapes that resemble the people they were for, with an end line of ‘whoever you’re looking for this Christmas’.

Unlike many other Christmas retailer ads, the visuals did not seek to display an endless parade of goods you can buy at the store. Rather the emphasis was on giving, which aligns with the ‘it’s better to give than to receive’ sentiment of Christmas.

John Lewis is unusual because its ads need to appeal to not only its customers but also its staff - their partners, whose money is actually being spent on the campaign.

They have a clear and direct interest in the ads, because they are the ones who have to deliver the brand and its promise, of the highest level of customer service, at a time when existing customers come back expecting the service they have always received and new ones venture in and the organisation hopes will come back again and again.

All the ads, from Lowe London agency’s Shadows (2007) ad through to the Adam& Eve/DDB agency ads until 2015, have implicitly shown this act of giving as core to the message, with Long Wait (2011), Snow People (2012) and Bear and Hare (2013) ads being clear examples of this.

This implicitly puts those in the stores at the heart of delivering organisation’s success, which in turn mirrors the founder John Spedan Lewis’ aim. He instigated the changes which saw staff become partners in the business and saw this as a way to set the company apart from its rivals.

The retail sector is faced with massive challenges from many areas, from the implications of Brexit, to the growth of online shopping and the rise of new rivals such as Amazon.

John Lewis has appeared to weather this storm as its online sales have grown, but this then raises the issue of exactly what is the role of the shop in the growing world of online retailing?John Lewis Moz advert

Are they shops in the old sense, or showrooms and exhibition spaces? This in turn raises issues over the role of those who work on the shop/showroom floor.

This may be reflected in the TV ads over the past two years, where there appear to have been a shift away from themes which ran through the ads between 2007 and 2013.

The launch of this year’s ad seems to be following in this shift.

The proof of whether John Lewis’ iconic ad status as the start gun for Christmas still correlates with people buying from the store will only be seen in January when it releases its festive sales figures. Only time will tell.

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