Forget the power of love… it’s the power of storytelling that hits the spot

Written by Kaia Vincent
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Well! Christmas must be truly upon us because John Lewis have revealed their latest festive TV advertisement.

But why has the annual launch of this TV advert become so cherished by the Brits over the last decade?

Everyone loves a good story

Stories have always been an engaging advertising tool. A cleverly-crafted TV advert uses universal emotions to draw us right into what’s happening on screen, forming a connection with the brand in our hearts and minds. Whether is tugs at our heart strings, stirs nostalgia or makes us smile, that emotional connection stays with us long after the typical 30-second ad slot.

Melting our hearts

Can you believe the John Lewis’ snowman advert was launched back in 2012! It’s definitely a firm favourite at our marketing agency. Let’s look back on that emotional rollercoaster…

Two children build a pair of snowmen in an idyllic cottage garden, twinkling with frost. Well, a snow man and a snow lady to be precise. Looking warmly into each other’s stone eyes, the snow couple start to look distinctly alive; straight twig mouths turning into coy smiles. As night draws in, Mum calls the children inside and we watch as the sunlight disappears, leaving a romantic glow around the silhouettes of that happy snow couple. Ah.

The next morning, the sun is burning brightly in the winter sky, heating up the snow-filled garden. We feel our hearts sink as snow and sun aren’t exactly a great mix, are they? The girl opens her bedroom curtain to greet her two new snow friends, but her face drops…

There’s the snow-lady, head down, looking upset. Mr Snowman has disappeared. What tragic fate has befallen her dear companion?

We’ve all been there

That childhood disappointment, the heartbreak of a lost love. We share those feelings, they’re raw emotions experienced by all of us.

Cut to the snowman walking a long and frosty, isolated road. He bravely traverses steep, icy hillsides. We feel his desperation and loneliness as he hovers, shy and lost, by busy roads and in bustling towns. What’s going to happen to him? Will he ever return home to his snow lady love? Shivers engulf our body. Not just because it’s cold; we’re hooked into watching this advert because we want to know how the tale of unrequited love will end!

All the while, that song takes our heart in its grip: “The power of love, a force from above, cleaning my soul. Flame on burn desire, love with tongues of fire, purge the soul. Make love your goal.”

It’s positively Shakespearean.

Drama and suspense

Now, it’s the final scene and we’re back in the garden. The girl opens her curtains in anticipation. We can hardly bear to look!

Thankfully we see the beam on the girl’s face and we’re left feeling joy and relief. The tale ends happily ever after as the snowman is reunited with his snow lady.

Not only that, he’s bought her some gloves and a hat from John Lewis!

This advert makes clever use of a classic storyline:

  • ‘A meet cute’ where boy meets girl (sorry we stole that from another Christmas classic – The Holiday)
  • A beginning, a middle, a backward step and an end
  • Fine blend of intrigue, fear, suspense, tearjerkers and joy
  • Recognisable emotional backing music

Incorporating childhood wonder and the magical mystery of a snowy night, the humanisation of the snow couple delivers the frosting on the storytelling cake.

Keeping it real for Christmas 2022. 

For Christmas 2022 John Lewis have chosen to use their business as a force for good.  Partnering with charities Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland  their festive advert showcases the importance of actions over words and brings attention to the more than 100,000 children in the UK who will spend Christmas in care this year.

If you want to be a force for good, you don’t need to have the production budget for a John Lewis advertisement.  Action for Children, for example, are running a donations campaign which allows you to contribute to children in care in meaningful ways such as: donating funds for a trip to a pantomime or simply the money to buy a Christmas gift.  Take a look at their campaign here: Donate to Action for Children