The John Lewis Christmas Ad; Monty Penguin’s Media Circus

7 November 2014
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monty-the-penguinIt’s already had over four million views on Youtube and the John Lewis Christmas commercial hasn’t even been aired on terrestrial TV yet. Boy’s best friend is outed as a stuffed toy just as his BFF buys him a Mrs Monty for Xmas. Poor Monty fails to p-p-pick up his Penguin, no wonder we’re all crying. Talk about not being allowed to spread your wings. Monty is a star – more of a star than the previous JL ads (bear, bunny, cameo by a reindeer) and as a result, the Monty Merchandising Machine is motoring. Already the Monty stuffed toy, priced at just under a ton (yes, £95 a pop) has flown off the shelves – which is more than a real penguin can do – and sold out in JL stores. John Lewis has 39 separate items of merchandise planned for release for Christmas. How long before he gets his own TV show? In no time fame will have gone to his furry head and he’ll be arrested for racing his Lamborghini under the influence in South Beach, if not the South Pole. Let’s hope he doesn’t buy a camera with his 25% JL staff discount (actually with electrics you only get 12%) and do a J Law. It doesn’t bear/bare thinking about.

Monty is one of a long line of animals exploited in the name of product or brand promotion: Meerkats (comparison website, natch), Squirrels (beer), Gorilla (chocolate), puppies (loo roll), and a bear who does what he does best in the woods (loo roll again) are just a few that come to mind. The reason is they’re funny, cute, memorable, disarming. Using an animal to front an ad campaign doesn’t come across as a cynical selling tactic, but of course it is. The very fact that they are disarming makes them all the more manipulative or powerful depending on your perspective or job role.

west-highland-terrierYet one of the most manipulative ads I have ever seen actually flips the convention on its head, using a human (and his dead wife) to sell a product aimed at animals. Get the tissues ready: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu9sWjnJFHU


Like the Cesar ad, the John Lewis Christmas commercial is beautifully conceived, observed and executed and works because it taps into the human spirit of love, friendship and giving. Manipulative or not, the John Lewis Christmas ads are an event that is embraced by the nation. I’m already wondering how they’ll top this one next year?

I’ve got this great idea about a big-eyed stoat fighting with a cuddly baboon under the Christmas Tree over a £95 penguin toy. I must get in touch with Mr Lewis…

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