All Monty wanted was a partner to love him. Despite the love and affected from his constant companion, he was getting sadder by the day. As Tom Odell crooned over the top of their story and the two of them watched couples wherever they went, Monty’s friend realised what was the matter with Monty and bought him a partner for Christmas (Mabel apparently, who knew?!).
The 2014 edition of the now traditional John Lewis advert was by far the best the retail giant has ever produced. It was also a massive curse. It set a precedent they’ve spent three years trying way too hard to repeat (and I believe we can reasonably assume four given that 2018’s advert will be well in the works by now).
John Lewis adverts have become the traditional start of Christmas. They drop on twitter (this year they even had a show on Sky dedicated to them) after a few days of hints and small clips. Ideas occasionally leak, but the final product, to the company’s credit, is usually kept in a very tight box. Twitter goes mad with excitement, and John Lewis advert “pundits” pour over them and offer their expert opinions.
The problem is, I absolutely can’t stand them.
Two things: this does not make me a Scrooge and this does not mean I hate the commercialisation of Christmas. You cannot ever accuse me of being a Scrooge. This is simply the greatest time of the year. I love winter, I love cold, I love Christmas films and Christmas music and I absolutely love having a day where you give and receive presents but aren’t the centre of attention. And as for the commercialisation aspect, I work in retail and I enjoy it. This time of year is when working in retail has a tonne of benefits to it. I want the commercialisation to increase, not decrease.
John Lewis adverts have become a parody of themselves. They’ve become predictable, boring and soulless. They’ve turned from nice two minute stories which grabbed you and made you like the characters into re-hash of old characters and story lines with more product placement and more obvious selling techniques. They’ve lost anything that made them unique.
Monty was an amazing advert. I got that they were selling penguin toys, but the message was more about selling love. Monty, and his owner, were both loveable characters who just wanted a Christmas where both of them were happy.
Compare that to this year. Moz is a bed monster who wants to make friends with the child who sleeps on top of him every night. Moz becomes friend with said child but realises the child isn’t sleeping and is therefore really tired (a slight reversal from Monty being sad he doesn’t have a partner – but the same message nonetheless). Moz apparently goes to John Lewis, and God knows how when he only comes out at night and any John Lewis is shut at that point – he could order online but somehow I can’t imagine a bed monster going along to collect it, and buys his new friend a light which will help him sleep.
The kid opens the awfully wrapped present on Christmas Day, John Lewis being harsh to monsters there – for all we know they could be excellent wrappers, and the parents don’t seem to care that they don’t know who their kid has got a present from (10/10 for parenting). The kid then plugs the light in, gets to sleep, only to realise that Moz is still under his bed and presumably will still keep him awake at night.
Monty and Moz. They even have similar names. They were both characters designed to take you into a world of child imagination, convince the children to fall in love with them and beg their parents to buy them one. Except they needed the light with Moz because a bed monster toy just doesn’t quite hit the mark like a penguin does. Monty made sense, the kid imagined his toy penguin was real and gave him human personalities and so therefore bought him (or, more realistically, had his parents buy Monty) a partner. Not a stupid storyline involving at best a bed monster, at worst an actual one, going to John Lewis and picking up a (highly expensive) starry sky night light.
Urgh. The overselling of their products in adverts that I swear never used to before Man on the Moon came along makes me sick. I might be wrong; I’m prepared to be on that one. The point still stands that it’s a stupid advert and a blatant rip off of their own ideas.
Let’s not get started on how much it cost and instead head straight into a discussion of the music.
Traditionally the music has been the one redeeming factor of a bad John Lewis advert. It’s a simple formula – take a famous band (or famous song), strip down one of their songs and let a singer-songwriter sing it in a fashion that sticks in your head and resonates to the more pop-friendly side of us. And, to be fair, it’s worked in the past.
Gabrielle Aplin’s version of The Power of Love is ten times better than the original, Tom Odell did a great cover of Real Love and, as much as I hate it for being awful in comparison to the original, Lily Allen’s attempt at Somewhere Only We Know did do very well in the charts. The most underrated in my opinion was Aurora’s Half The World Away, which overshadows Oasis’ original ten times over. But of course, I hate Oasis so am majorly biased there.
They haven’t always got it right. The version of Please Please Please was less Let Me Get What I Want and more Stop Right Now (thank you very much) and the less said about the terrible Sweet Child O’Mine, the better (seriously, that version is the reason I was always wary of John Lewis adverts).
This year, they haven’t been bold enough to offer the cover version to an unknown artist (like Gaby was at the time, and Aurora – even Odell wasn’t that famous), possibly after 2016’s bomb, and they’ve even chosen a really safe band to cover in the Beatles. Elbow covering The Beatles.
A child could have come up with that, and they wouldn’t have demanded even a tenth of the money.
So, all in all, I can’t stand the John Lewis formula. You could argue it’s tried and tested and well liked but I say it’s tired and boring, and quite frankly over-exaggerated. Whereas it used to be a nice way to start Christmas and a harmless bit of fun, it’s now become an exact parody of why people hate the commercialisation aspect of Christmas.
But I like Christmas, and therefore apparently that means I absolutely have to like the John Lewis advert.
Urgh, better give you another chance Moz.
Since writing this article, I’ve been accused of complaining too much and not offering enough positivity. In light of this criticism, I’m including a YouTube video of how to do a Christmas advert (including some product selling) featuring the grandest grandmaster of them all, Ian Malcolm – sorry, uh… Jeff Goldblum