Festive feels: which John Lewis Christmas advert is the best? We look back on the past five years of heartstring tugging
PUBLISHED: 15:36 15 November 2018 | UPDATED: 08:07 16 November 2018
We look back over past John Lewis's previous Christmas television advertisements and give you the chance to vote for your own favourite. Will Sir Elton get your vote or is your heart melted by Buster the Boxer?
The John Lewis advertisement is the UK’s equivalent of the Coca Cola advert in America: the festive season doesn’t start without it - and I should know, I’ve reviewed all of them.
As the department store unveils its latest advertisement, it seems timely to see how this year’s offering from Sir Elton John Lewis compares to previous years - does he stand up to Monty the Penguin or the miserable polar bear who a bothersome hare hassled with an alarm clock?
We’ve had JL staff artfully piling up products to create a shadow that looks like a woman walking her dog through the snow, a cover of The Beatles’ From Me To You illustrating how the store could help you find the perfect present, an ad showing children opening adult’s presents to illustrate how jaded grown-ups are and the first JL tribute to Elton John’s Your Song, heralding the beginning of The Breathy Version of a Classic Tune which had Ellie Goulding murdering the song while we watched the lengths people go to in order to surprise their loved ones.
In 2011, John Lewis found the gold at the end of the commercial rainbow when we saw a little lad desperate for Christmas to arrive (set to a version of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, which is my FAVOURITE song by The Smiths) but not because he was a tiny greedy consumer keen to fleece his relatives, because he couldn’t wait to give his parents their present. As if.
A year later, we had a snowman undertaking a perilous journey to a shop (presumably John Lewis) to buy his snow-girlfriend a scarf to keep her warm set to The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood as breathily reimagined by Gabrielle Aplin. Do snowpeople get cold?
In 2013, we met The Bear and the Hare and learn that the former has never experienced Christmas – sob – because he is always hibernating. The ruthless Hare gives him an alarm for a Christmas present while Lily Allen sang a cover of Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know.
The next year, Monty the Penguin dreamt of love at Christmas time and found it when his owner was given a female penguin toy for Christmas (MERCHANDISE ALERT) as we listened to a Tom Odell cover of John Lennon’s Real Love – by 2015, we were on the moon with a lonely old man banished there by an unknown evil entity and sent a present by a little girl who spotted him with her telescope (tune: Aurora singing Half the World Away by Oasis).
Next was Buster the Boxer in 2016, who could not resist the lure of a freshly-constructed trampoline, taking the virgin bounce ahead of his young owner, who could only watch from the window with pre-tantrum eyes of fury (tune: Vaults’ version of Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away).
Last year, Moz the Monster was JL’s big hitter, a monster who lived under little Joe’s bed and kept him up at night playing games and making him knackered on school days – so he bought him a night light from John Lewis and gave him some peace – after Elbow’s version of Golden Slumbers by The Beatles stopped playing.
And this year, of course, we have Sir Elton John appearing as Sir Elton John singing a song by Sir Elton John.
I don’t have much money, but boy if I did, I’d buy a big house where we both could live – but instead, here are five years’ worth of my reviews of John Lewis Christmas TV ads, from The Hare and the Bear to the Man in the Moon, Monty the Penguin to Buster the Boxer and Moz the Monster as an added bonus – don’t forget to vote for your favourite. Mine would be Monty the Penguin – but don’t tell anyone, they all think I’m hard as nails.
2013: John Lewis: The hare and the bear (2 mins)
“There once was an animal that hadn’t seen Christmas…” Astonishingly, John Lewis isn’t referring to turkeys but rather bears, who very wisely hibernate through the whole thing. Or rather they would, if they weren’t rudely awoken from their evolutionarily necessary slumber by a John Lewis alarm clock bought for them by a hare. In a nutshell – a hare and a bear are friends (maybe more than friends, but let’s not get into that). It’s Christmas and the whole animal kingdom are chummily decorating a tree and preparing for the big day but the bear has other plans – largely involving a cave, some shut-eye and not a single thought for party nibbles. The hare, however, will not let it lie (literally) and delivers a present: an alarm clock that wakes the bear up so he can be part of the celebrations. Hoorah! No one takes a moment to think about what would actually happen if you woke a bear up halfway through its hibernation – I’m imagining a Christmas Day massacre, but that’s probably not the message JL needs to convey at this time of year.
• Attractive women in underwear: no, although there is an owl directing a hedgehog to roll an orange, if that helps
• Winsome female vocal: yes – Lily Allen takes on Keane, and wins
• Actual product shots: does the alarm clock count?
• Helena Bonham-Carter appearing as a giant green wizard like in the Marks and Spencer ad: no, but you do see a fox unwrapping a present.
• Conclusion: Watership Down for the consumer generation. Quite sweet. Not enough David Gandy
2014: John Lewis: Monty the Penguin (1 min)
New from the manipulative masters of heartstring plucking is the tale of Monty the Penguin and his human master, an unusually perceptive lad who worries about his playmate’s lack of female company rather than the usual things six-year-old boys think about, like flatulence jokes, Wotsits and dinosaurs. Monty doesn’t do the revolting things penguins usually do, like regurgitating fish, he’s a right laugh, what with his sledging and frolicking and what-not. But it’s a Tears of a Clown situation as secretly, Monty yearns for the soft touch of a woman.
• Anthropomorphism: In buckets. The penguin is CGI, you know. And Father Christmas isn’t…I’ll stop there.
• Winsome female vocal: No, Tom Odell sings John Lennon’s Real Love. Tune!
• Actual product shots: No. But dear Lord you should see the accompanying Monty product range.
• An inter-species friendship involving a hare and a bear: No. That’s SO 2013.
• Conclusion: Never read George Murray Levick’s Natural History of the Adelie Penguin – the section about the bird’s bedroom antics was deemed so shocking in 1913 that it was removed to preserve decency. No wonder Monty shares the same name as the incorrigible uncle in Withnail and I.
2015: John Lewis: Man on the Moon (two minutes)
Heartstring-pluckers John Lewis have ramped goodwill to all mankind up a notch by reminding us all how thoughtless and hateful we are to older people. For us in Norfolk, it is even more poignant because, thanks to the nursery rhyme, we know that when the man on the moon ends his mini-break in space he’ll come tumbling down and will ask his way to Norwich. HE’S OUR OLD PERSON AND HE IS TRAPPED ON THE MOON. Frankly, I will buy any amount of telescope-related merchandise to end his imprisonment (and to help Age Concern, to be fair to John Lewis).
• Anthropomorphism: No. Although if there was an old man on the moon without the benefit of a spacesuit, he would have bloated to twice his size and died in agony within five minutes. Merry Christmas.
• Winsome female vocals: Standard.
• Conclusion: Be nice to old people. Question the motives of any children who send people trapped on the moon a telescope so they can see other people enjoying themselves rather than a space rocket home or something properly good, like chocolate.
2016: John Lewis: Buster the Boxer (two minutes)
Last year, heartstring-pluckers John Lewis ramped goodwill to all mankind up a notch by reminding us all how thoughtless and hateful we are to older people – this year, it realises 2016 has been a disaster and that we all need a laugh: enter Buster the Boxer. Buster, like his young owner, likes bouncing. So, it seems, do all the woodland creatures that live near his house. I laughed out loud when Buster beat the kid to the trampoline.
• Anthropomorphism: Yes. Dogs, badgers, squirrels, foxes, they’re all a step away from getting off the trampoline and sharing an egg nog.
• Winsome female vocals: Standard.
• Conclusion: Yes, the world has gone to rack and ruin. But look! Here’s a bouncing dog!
2017: John Lewis: Moz the Monster
• What happens? He had hinted at it in recent single Spent the Day in Bed - former Smiths frontman Morrissey waits under a child’s bed to lecture him about the evils of meat, the Royal family, Elton John, Madonna, Canada, birthdays, journalists and rollercoasters. Oh hang on that was draft one. Seven-year-old Joe is kept awake by a snoring monster, Moz, who is living under his bed. Joe can’t sleep and is annoyed, but then the pair become insomniac buddies and stay up all night seriously putting Joe’s SAT results in peril. Moz finally realizes his friend needs some serious zzzs and disappears on Christmas Eve leaving a badly-wrapped present under the tree: a night light that scatters stars across the sky (which sold out within minutes). As the ad closes and the stars glitter, Joe hears a snore and realises he can summon his intergalactic pal whenever he thinks of him.
• Is Moz better than Paddington? No. Paddington isn’t squatting under a child’s bed and keeping them up all night so they fall asleep during the day, he doesn’t look a bit like Eric Pickles and nor is he flagrantly flatulent. His only bad habit is breaking and entering houses with a burglar.
• This year’s Christmas advertisement creatures aren’t really setting children a good example, are they? It depends if you want your child to develop a sudden fear of monsters under the bed who may be benevolent but may be malevolent or yearn for them to grow up to be a career criminal.
• Is the ad backed by a breathy ballad? Are Elbow breathy? They sing the Beatles classic Golden Slumbers, but we’ve known this for days thanks to the internet.
• So: are we going to remember 2017 for terrifying monsters? Yes. Just not the John Lewis one.
• Best bit: That night light - £15, too. Bargain.