With the Christmas season nearly upon us, Mark Sleightholm and Helen Daly take a look at the hugely popular John Lewis advert and decide if its worthy of its hype
Newcastle is starting to get cold (well, colder than normal), the nights are getting darker and the shops are starting to get absolutely rammed every weekend; that can only mean one thing: it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
It’s not even up for debate that Christmas is the best time of the year, with festive cheer spreading like wildfire when George Michael starts crooning about Last Christmas and Mariah Carey sets out every year to finally get that guy - go on, lass, maybe this year.
Now of course, there’s always those Grinches out there who constantly moan whilst donning their hipster garb that Christmas has become too consumerist, especially now we live in a world where adverts become part of the festive tradition. With the John Lewis advert costing around £7 million and actually becoming newsworthy, perhaps the consumerism theorists have a point. But wait, isn’t this an argument supporting the John Lewis advert? Yes, it is, and here’s exactly why we should completely embrace it.
The Man in the Moon, as it is so called, shows a young girl (and future astronomer) using a telescope to look at the moon, when she stumbles across an old man living by himself on the moon. She tries to send him a letter but ultimately fails because obviously, the moon is quite far away. As Christmas takes hold of Britain, she manages to send the man a present through an awful lot of balloons. Yes, I know it’s far-fetched, but stick with it. As he opens the box, he discovers a telescope so he can watch the festive fun and finally get to wave back to that little girl who did her best to send him a present at Christmas.
Whilst, yes, the advert is quite unbelievable and definitely ignores the rules of physics, the sentiment is absolutely there. John Lewis are raising a very valid point, reminding us that we should consider those who might be alone this Christmas. The annual John Lewis advert has become an emotional tradition, with the, churning out arguably the best adverts each Christmas. This year is certainly no exception with the emotion and sentimental value exceeding past offerings from the retailer.
One of the major successes of the advert is that it’s simply a beautiful thing to watch. For a TV advert, John Lewis have gone to cinematic lengths to portray their relatively simplistic narrative, making use of convincing CGI to make an actually believable moonscape. On top of this, they’ve once again found the perfect song to accompany the piece. Oasis’s ‘Half the World Away’ is given the old ‘haunting girl on piano’ treatment and perfectly compliments the old/young binary: ‘my body is young but my mind is very old’.
Alongside the advert, John Lewis have brought out a range of accompanying merchandise, all emblazoned with the main images from the piece, with proceeds (????) going to Age UK to support those who will be alone this Christmas.
With all of this then, it’s hard to read the advert as anything other than a triumph which reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas.
I’ve been a big fan of John Lewis adverts over the past few years, but the man on the moon was a step too far. In fact, the more I see it, the more it irritates me. It’s a lazy, predictable offering, and I’m left wondering if John Lewis have peaked, and are now just descending into clichéd claptrap.
Things got off to a bad start when they released the advert the day after bonfire night – literally the earliest they could start their Christmas countdown without overlapping their celebrations. And the fact that John Lewis adverts are now shared on YouTube before being shown on TV reflects our changing TV-viewing habits, I suppose, but it still seems a bit over the top for an advert. It might have the budget of a small independent film, but it is still an advert, and I don’t really think it warrants quite as much hype when it gets released.
Then comes the advert itself, I’m left with so, so, so many questions. Why is there a man on the moon? Why is there a bench on the moon? Why is the bench so far from his house? I’m not much of a fan of sci-fi at the best of times; this was several steps too far for me. What happened to the gritty social realism of the John Lewis advert where the woman grew up and got old, or the one with the couple that almost broke up but then didn’t? This advert just wasn’t believable enough. Walking snowmen and footballing penguins were endearing, a man/house/bench on the moon is too ridiculous.
If the man on the moon wasn’t hard enough to believe, the delivery service is even worse. I’ve made some pretty impressive paper aeroplanes in my time, but sadly none have quite made it as far as the moon, so I guess that part’s accurate, but I really don’t believe that a dozen balloons could do so much better. Maybe someone should buy the advertising department at John Lewis a physics book for Christmas? Or maybe I’m missing the point/ruining Christmas/taking things literally.
Because ultimately, this is a story about loneliness and friendship, and that’s what Christmas is all about. And of course, this is the John Lewis universe, where everyone buys each other expensive John Lewis telescopes for Christmas, rather than a pair of Christmas-themed socks that were on offer in Primark. That girl battles on, determined to get in contact with the man on the moon – the true meaning of friendship. But therein lies the problem – the whole thing was just way too predictable. Pretty much as soon as the man was introduced, you could see where the advert was going, and his tear at the end was a pathetic cliché. The whole way through I was waiting for the punch line – Monty the penguin wasn’t a real penguin, the little boy wanted to give a present rather than receive one, etc etc, but the punch line never came. It just ended, happily, in the way everyone could see it would – where’s the fun in that?