It's official: Christmas is coming because John Lewis said so. And this year's £7m festive campaign from the U.K. retailer is a multi-platform effort within which the TV ad itself is only the beginning.
The ad, "The Bear and the Hare," is a 120-second animated tale of what happens to two friends when the first snowflake falls. Hare feels sad because this means winter is coming and for his friend, winter means just one thing: sleep. While Bear snores, Hare leaves him a present. But then on Christmas morning, when all the woodland creatures but Hare are exchanging gifts, Bear suddenly appears—to enjoy Christmas for the first time thanks to hare's gift (we won't spoil it for you).
The film, directed by Elliot Dear and Yves Geleyn through Blinkink/Hornet for ad agency adam&eveDDB, is an unusual combination of hand drawn animation and 3-D sets set to a Lily Allen cover version of the 2004 hit "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane.
"The Bare and the Hare" went live in the U.K. on John Lewis's web site and YouTube on November 8 before its TV premier on ITV with an entire ad break take-over during The X Factor on Saturday night. The strategy underlines a growing trend among British retailers in recent years to approach this coming weekend as the official start of the Christmas trading period—and U.K. equivalent of the Super Bowl.
But it also points to a more integrated, multi-platform approach to Christmas retail marketing promotion in which—for John Lewis, at least—in-store, experiential, and social media are playing an increasingly important role.
So, in the days leading up to the ad's official launch on Friday, a teaser campaign ran on TV with unbranded cut-downs of the final ad featuring the hash tag #sleepingbear. Excerpts were also screened via a special installation on London's South Bank branded with the same hash tag.
Following the ad's launch, an interactive e-book of the ad's story and characters will be available to download featuring touch to activate features and games. The Lily Allen cover will be available on iTunes, and visitors to the retailer's web site will be able to access online additional Bear and Hare-themed seasonal treats—such as a personalized online Christmas card marker and details of the 11 stores where families can take their children this Christmas to visit bear's cave. Meanwhile, the retailer will also be selling specially commissioned cuddly toys based on the characters.
"The Bear and the Hare" is the latest in a series of standout festive campaigns from John Lewis which, since it returned to TV advertising in 2007, have built the retailer a strong reputation for emotive, poignant, and nostalgic advertising.
Last year's offering, "The Journey," featured a love-lorn snowman and generated almost 3.5 million views on You Tube.
In "The Long Wait," John Lewis's 2011 Christmas ad, a boy counts down the days to Christmas so that he can give his parents a present. Within days of its launch it had notched up over 1 million views online (the current tally stands just shy of 5.25 million).
All have so far managed to stand out from the crowd by putting storytelling and emotional connection above the glitz and glamor many other British retailers—Debenhams, for example, and Marks & Spencer—favor for their Christmas campaigns.