Has TV Advert for Commercial Property John Lewis Saved Christmas?

Posted on 13 December, 2011 by Neil Bird

Having reportedly spent between £5 and £6 million on its Christmas TV advertising campaign John Lewis must be delighted with the attention it has received. To date it has attracted over 3 million YouTube views and had acres of column inches devoted to it in the national press. The campaign has been acclaimed as everything from the advertising equivalent of The King’s Speech to a message of hope in the depths of recession. Some commentators have gone as far as to ask if the one and a half minute piece of film has saved Christmas. But is this goodwill translating into sales and is TV advertising still the most effective method of attracting consumers to a particular product or commercial property?

The Christmas TV advert is a beautifully realised piece of marketing from the Adam & Eve agency in which we see a young boy impatiently counting down the days until Christmas to the soundtrack of a 1980s Smiths song covered by vocalist Slow Moving Millie. Many viewers are happy to admit that it brings a tear to their eye but others are less easily moved. Some Smiths devotees are unhappy to see the band’s lyrics used in this way while Charlie Brooker, writing in the Guardian, reminds readers that it’s only an advert for a commercial property. “Is this really what we’ve become – a species that weeps at adverts for shops?” he asks. A spokesman for Adam & Eve says they wanted to build on the success of previous campaigns and that it’s simply a story about the joy of giving. So is it bringing joy to John Lewis this Christmas?

The John Lewis Partnership is the third largest private company in the UK recording a turnover of £8.2 billion and pre-tax profits of £431 million in 2010. It has a chain of successful commercial properties across the UK from Aberdeen to Southampton headed by the flagship Oxford Street department store. The supermarket chain Waitrose also belongs to the partnership giving it a further 259 commercial property branches nationwide.

Sales figures from the partnership are always eagerly anticipated as they are seen by many analysts as an indicator of high street trends. In the current economic climate they are being watched carefully so the latest figures showing a 9.6% rise in year on year sales will bring some joy despite the fact that the corresponding week last year saw heavy snowfall that kept shoppers at home. John Lewis reports that in the week up to December 3 sales in its commercial properties rose by 15.1% on the previous week to reach £113.6 million. The figures also show that online sales remain strong.

A company spokesman expressed the partnership’s satisfaction with the figures and predicted more good news in the run up to Christmas. While these figures are encouraging it’s far too early to say with any certainty what impact the popular advert may have had, but in the long term, there is concern over the future of TV advertising and its ability to attract customers to a specific brand or commercial property in a rapidly changing market.

Reports from within the industry suggest that the effectiveness of TV advertising in 2010 was only a third of what it was 20 years ago despite a 40% increase in spending on campaigns. This is believed to be due to channel fragmentation and changes in lifestyle. Today the internet, social media and other distractions are all vying for our attention which has had an impact on television viewing patterns particularly among younger viewers. Consequently analysts believe that, in the long term, advertising budgets will increasingly shift towards online campaigns. In the meantime the millions of viewers who have enjoyed this year’s festive commercial can look forward to John Lewis tugging at the nation’s heartstrings again next year as television is set to remain the dominant platform for advertisers for some time to come.

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