The Reason Why The John Lewis Christmas Advert Works

john-lewis-man-on-the-moon-05The festive season is upon us once again and with it comes the festive TV adverts from the likes of John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, M&S and Tesco. All the major daily newspapers have commented on the ads, helping to create a huge hype for the associated brands. Behind the hype there is a great video marketing lesson to be had, if we look at the overall viewing figures.

The first to break was the much-anticipated John Lewis film, Man on the Moon. In less than two weeks of its publication on YouTube it achieved over fourteen and a half million views. This is the eighth consecutive year John Lewis has made a festive advert and each and every one of them has been a huge marketing success.

John Lewis was shortly followed by Sainsbury’s offering, entitled Mog’s Christmas Calamity. Asda and M&S came soon after. Search “Christmas 2015 Ads” on YouTube and you’ll be served up a great menu of these and other Christmas marketing offerings.


This year there is a marked difference in the number of views that each brand’s advert has received to date. John Lewis clearly tops the chart, closely followed by Sainsbury’s, both with more than ten million views. The runners-up, brands like M&S and Coca Cola, are relatively far behind with views of under a million.

Why have John Lewis and Sainsbury’s done so well this year? Looking back at 2014 there is a similar pattern, but the numbers of views were higher and there was a larger group at the top of the list, as opposed to this year’s two behemoths.

It’s all down to the art of a well-told story. John Lewis’s little girl and lonely man on the moon creates emotions within the viewer, melancholy at first and then a resounding joyous uplift at the end when there’s a connection between the two. In the Sainsbury’s advert, Mog also engenders an
emotional response, through the calamitous chain reaction he accidentally sets in motion and then the happy ending when all is made good and the cat is perceived to have saved the day.

This year’s poorer-performing adverts simply lack a strong storyline. As viewers, we react to a good story, one that stirs our emotions, one that makes us feel good, one that uplifts us, and maybe even elicits tears of joy. Such reactions reinforce the traditional seasonal message of “goodwill to all”.

John Lewis and Sainsbury’s have captured the public’s hearts by telling a story about people through an emotionally narrative journey.

All successful video marketing is about getting views from the right audience, your audience. The size of your business or brand doesn’t matter, what’s critical is that you appeal to your own audience. Visual stories are a very powerful way of communicating with people. Telling a customer’s story, particularly how your product or service has helped them, is a great way to reach out to your audience of current customers and potential customers alike.

The simple fact here is that in order for a film to be watched all the way through, and, better still, shared, it must have two vital ingredients  it must attention-grabbing and it must cause a reaction.

In the case of the Man on the Moon and Mog’s Christmas Calamity, we experience engagement through empathy, reacting with feelings of warmth and happiness. This is what makes us want to share and talk about the adverts. If big brands can use stories to build their audience, there is absolutely no reason why smaller brands shouldn’t do the same.