By Katya Spiers, Film & TV Digital Editor
In 2007, John Lewis released their first advert after a three-year hiatus. Since then, the company’s annual festive foray is seen by many as the start of the Christmas season. From a self-professed JL advert aficionado, here is a definitive ranking of them all, from worst to best.
12. Shadows (2007), From Me To You (2008), Sweet Child O’ Mine (2009)
A bit like an embarrassing school photo, the first three John Lewis adverts are only worth mentioning in order to demonstrate just how far they’ve come. Special mention has to go to the From Me To You soundtrack which was sung by John Lewis employers (hence the ‘rustic’ style): I would take that over a wispy Ellie Goulding cover any day of the week.
11. A Tribute To The Givers (2010)
This advert boosted Ellie Goulding’s cover of Your Song to the top of the charts – a bigger deal than it sounds because, in 2010, the charts were actually a thing. This advert is the equivalent of a Christmas dinner without gravy: festive, but bland.
10. Moz the Monster (2017)
With Moz the Monster following Buster the Boxer, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the days of the John Lewis tear-jerkers were over. Look, I get what they were trying to do here, with a twist on the classic monster-under-the-bed story, but a two-minute Christmas advert was not the time nor the place. Not even Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry could stop this one descending into chaos.
9. The Journey (2012)
Something about this advert just doesn’t sit right with me, but it’s hard to put my finger on. Perhaps it’s the snowman’s beady, expressionless eyes, or maybe it’s just the general lack of energy. One thing’s for sure, this unflinching snowman is much less relatable than any of the later incarnations of the anthropomorphised animal/snowman that John Lewis have become so good at over the years. That being said, I do like the beret he brings back for his wife, très chic.
8. Buster the Boxer (2016)
2016 was a bad year. Trump, Brexit, David Bowie’s death and all manner of other atrocities pervaded the country. Buster the Boxer wasn’t sentimental, but it’s all the better for it. I don’t think we could have handled it.
7. Give a Little Love (2020)
This year’s advert was an accurate representation of the year we’ve had: chaotic, confused and nonsensical. It was supposedly inspired by the acts of kindness between strangers during the pandemic, but there is nothing more impractical and frankly, unkind, than the heart-shaped wheel that the snowman bestows on the couple with a broken-down car.
But, after having to cut thousands of employees loose this year, a foray into John Lewis’ usual star-quality advertising would have done more harm than good. Instead, the company chose to support eight independent artists and an industry that has had a rough ride. All in all, an understated splash of optimism that will help to propel us through Lockdown 2.0.
6. The Bear and The Hare (2013)
Recorded entirely in stop motion in vintage Disney style, the only problem with this nimbly crafted advert is that it’s too short. That being said, the real magic of the ad is whoever had the foresight to ask Lily Allen to cover Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know. Genius.
5. Excitable Edgar (2019)
Edgar is an adorable animated arsonist who deserves a feature-length adaptation. But you can’t blame the townspeople for fearing him – they live in a Winter Wonderland that Edgar destroys, albeit unintentionally, at any chance he gets. It’s not a tear-jerker, but the sad twist is that there’s no easy fix for this freaky-firestarter. It turns out that all he’s good for is setting a Christmas pudding alight. Where’s the Christmas spirit in that?
4. The Boy and the Piano (2018)
This touching story of how ‘some gifts are more than just a gift’ could bring a tear to even the harshest sceptic’s eye. That’s not to mention the call back to 2010’s Your Song cover, and the retailer’s humble roots, bringing the ad delightfully full circle. I don’t know why they even bothered releasing Rocketman (2019) after John Lewis dropped this bombshell.
3. The Man on the Moon (2015)
The only bad thing about this advert is that it brings out the worst kind of people. The people who say things like ‘a telescope like that would never be able to see that far’ or ‘the air pressure would have popped that balloon way before it reached him’: the kind of people who’ll correct you on your grammar or complement your outfit in a way that seems like they’re doing you a favour.
Nonetheless, The Man on the Moon is everything a John Lewis Christmas ad should be – a cover of an Oasis song at 0.7 speed, a lonely old man and a heart-warming story of how even a small present can speak a thousand words. I’m not crying, you are.
2. The Long Wait (2011)
This advert is proof that real Christmas magic is something that high production value or big-name directors can’t replace. An adorable little boy can’t wait for Christmas. But – twist – he’s actually excited about giving, not receiving. Beautiful. This 90-second ad is more powerful than a lot of 90-minute films.
1. Monty the Penguin (2014)
By 2014, John Lewis had their recipe for the perfect Christmas ad down to a tee. A melancholic cover, an adorable anthropomorphised animal and a strange child. Monty the Penguin is simply a perfectly executed version of what they do best. No weird bouncing dogs, no obnoxious, stagnant snowmen. 2014 really was a glorious pre-pandemic, pre-Trump and pre-Brexit year, and it shows.
Featured: John Lewis & Partners
What's your favourite John Lewis advert?