Holly’s Not Just Jolly

Looking at the hard-headed figures behind soft focus advertising

It was that time of year again when John Lewis leaves aims to leave its mark on the world with its Christmas special advertisement. But it only left me wondering wonder how much profit is being made and who really reaps the rewards.

In November-December 2016 the John Lewis ad starred a Boxer dog named Buster who wanted nothing more than to share his Christmas dreams with his family. With the help of a little girl, some furry animal friends, and a trampoline, Buster helped to show the nation the true meaning of Christmas (some dogs are really clver, right?)

The ad was first aired on ITV1 at 9.15pm on Thursday 10 November – a week in advance of Black Friday. It soon accumulated over two and a half million viewers, although in 2014 ‘Monty the Penguin’ had scored three million. Craig Inglis, the Customer Director for John Lewis said he wanted to bring the sense of “fun and magic” back after last year’s ‘Man on the Moon’ advert was not rated as highly as anticipated.

‘Buster’ cost £1 million to make, plus a further £6 million for advertising slots on terrestial TV. It sounds extravagant but expenditure on the ad serves to confirm the brand and reinforce sales revenue. In the week commencing Sunday 27 November, John Lewis’ sales rose to £194.58m, up from £199.8m the previous week and an increase of 6.5% on the previous year. Waitrose, the John Lewis food partner, also enjoyed a 1.7% increase on 2015 – and across the company sales in 2015 were already 5.7% higher than for 2014.

John Lewis is not penny pinching: the partnership donates 120,000 volunteering hours to various UK charities, and 10% of Christmas-related profits go to a charity related to the theme of the Christmas advert. In 2016, The Wildlife Trust was the recipient.

But don’t be foloed into thinking it’s only about creating the warm glow among viewers at home. While not exactly trading on our emotions (it’s not as cynical as all that), nonetheless in order to continue to expand its trade, John Lewis needs to evoke our emotions with its seasonal advertising – and it works.

So when November 2017 comes round, by which time you will almost certainly have visited the new John Lewis store in Stratford’s Westfield, you have been warned.