There's enormous pressure on John Lewis and adam&eveDDB to deliver an incredible Christmas ad every year—Christmas, after all, being Britain's version of the Super Bowl when it comes to advertising.
This year, they've waddled in and scored a major hit.
The new spot, "Monty the Penguin," which broke online Thursday and will air on British TV starting Friday, is almost perfectly constructed. It tells the story of friendship between a little boy, Sam, and his penguin friend, Monty. They play together all year, but as the weather turns cold, Monty starts to get sad—and only Sam realizes what the problem is.
The ad really has everything—a wonderful premise; a character that ties perfectly into the season; great CGI that brings Monty to life; charming and hilarious vignettes that develop the story line quite impressively; a fantastic soundtrack (John Lennon's "Real Love," as sung by Tom Odell); and a lovely ending that really caps things off.
The spot cost £1 million (about $1.6 million) to make, John Lewis says, and is part of the company's overall £7 million ($11 million) investment in the Christmas campaign. And it's worth it. This is John Lewis's most heartwarming Christmas spot since 2011, when the retailer set the bar for holiday storytelling with this 90-second gem.
As is required these days, the campaign is way more than the spot. Merchandise will include a children's book called Monty's Christmas (with a portion of proceeds going to Barnardo's, the children's charity); an audio app version of the book narrated by Dermot O'Leary; the "Real Love" single by Tom Odell; and an in-store space called Monty's Den, created in partnership with Samsung.
"At John Lewis, this time of year is all about helping our customers create their dream Christmas," said Craig Inglis, Marketing Director at John Lewis. "We hope this uplifting tale of Sam's love for his friend Monty will remind people of the magic of Christmas through a child's eyes and inspire them to think how they can make the festive season extra special for their friends and loved ones."
By the numbers, last year's extravagant animated John Lewis film, "The Bear and The Hare," has been its most popular. But "Monty the Penguin" looks set to easily surpass it. Within 24 hours of launch, last year's ad clocked up 200,000 shares. The new spot, within just four and a half hours of launch, has generated almost half of that, with 73,871 shares in total, according to Unruly Media.
UPDATE: You can often gauge an ad's broad popularity by how quickly the parodies start coming out. In this case, we got the first spoof within hours—and it's painfully hilarious.
Client: John Lewis
Agency: adam&eveDDB, London