In the land of Scrooge, a soft spot for Christmas ads

28 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Aldi spoofs the John Lewis Man on the Moon Christmas advert.

“We stayed in London for two nights and they asked what we wanted to do and I said visit Oxford Street so they drove us there and waited until we were finished shopping.

Just hours after the department store’s man on the moon ad went live the internet was awash with spoofs – from a Star Wars themed number to this darker tale, which likens the ad’s protagonist to Adolf Hitler.Perhaps taking a cue from Asda’s disaster last year, Aldi has shunned Black Friday and used the event to remind consumers of its underlying promise of fair prices all year round.When it comes to Black Friday in the UK, it seems that some of the country’s supermarkets are scrambling to jump OFF the bandwagon rather than on it. It was fabulous.” The advert, a tongue-in-cheek take on John Lewis’ tearjerker, opens with the man comparing the price of telescopes at John Lewis and Aldi, before he spots Jean flying across the sky in an armchair held aloft by a bunch of balloons.

As the Executive Creative Director of John Lewis’s ad agency Adam&EveDDB, he has expectations his shoulders every November when Britain goes wild for a two-minute advert for a department store. It may be short and sweet, but Aldi’s “Telescope Christmas Ad” hits John Lewis right where it hurts: with a price comparison of their telescopes (Aldi’s comes out £40 cheaper, natch).

The discounter posted a cartoon by illustrator Tom Husband on its Facebook page with the caption: “We’re proud to say that we don’t do a #BlackFriday, meaning you get to rest easy everyday that we’ll always save you money.” John Lewis appears somewhat conflicted over Black Friday. Aldi’s offering, which is set to My Favourite Things from The Sound Of Music – recorded by up-and-coming British artist Jade Williams, was watched just under 7,000 times in the 14 hours after it was uploaded. Jonathan Neale, joint managing director of corporate buying at Aldi, said: “Jean quickly became a national treasure for her love of our Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin when she first appeared on screens in 2011.

In the last few weeks the John Lewis phenomenon – the video has been viewed 17 million times on YouTube – has led to a level of attention that Priest is “not entirely comfortable with”. Now, sitting over tea in London’s Groucho Club, he’s like a man discharged from his own space mission. “There’s a lot of expectation and hype around it these days, which has happened by accident and over time. “It’s a lot of work and if I’m honest, the day that it went out, I went back home to Sussex, picked the kids up from school, turned the phone off and spent the weekend in the real world. “There’s a window of the first two or three days where you don’t want to see or hear anything.

But this has confused customers, with several customers pointing out they could still get items like the discounted Fibit fitness bracelet cheaper elsewhere. The secrecy around the advert has reached a new peak, with anyone involved signing a non-disclosure agreement. “It’s crazy now,” Priest tells me. “It used to be just a very simple process, now everybody is NDA-d up to the eyeballs.” The post-production studio where the ad was developed was similar to a war room, he says. “They had all the operators in there at the same time, and no-one could get in or out. “There was a sort of locked-down floor where the door was locked, and all the windows were blacked out so that no-one could see it. Jeep has taken out a print campaign for its Renegade SUV, declaring “It doesn’t have to black, and it doesn’t have to be Friday”, before giving customers a range of options like “Alpine White Monday”. In contrast, Priest’s own kids – daughters aged six and eight – have been “bored by it”, he says. “They’ve lived through every twist and turn.

I probably shouldn’t say this because John Lewis will kill me, but they’ve seen every single advert in development.” “The difficult thing around it is the music to be honest, because we get people to demo,” Priest says. If his agency requests the rights to a song, or meets with a well-known singer, that can be a giveaway to other agencies in the competitive Christmas advertising market. This year’s track, a cover of Oasis’ Half The World Away, was only finalised a week before the ad went out, beating the other option, a new version of Steve Winwood’s Higher Love. His kids laugh at him when he gets emotional about the ads – “They always point and say ‘Daddy’s gonna cry!’” – although his tears are sometimes more connected to the hard work than the ad’s storyline. “I’ve cried during the process. I remember lying in bed with a computer watching the snowman [from the 2012 John Lewis Christmas ad] over and over and over again, thinking has it got that thing?

The key is, is it a good story, is there a truth at the heart of it and is it not to big and bombastic and pleased with itself?” Though the hype has grown, the process of making the ad hasn’t changed. His children already have a telescope, which has been used with limited success: “What happens to us it that it very quickly comes out of the sky and down on to the ground and ‘what’s that over there Dad?’ and it’s all blurred and impossible to see.

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