Latest John Lewis and Elton John Christmas Campaign Feeling the Blues!

It’s that time of year again when the John Lewis advert comes out and creates a huge talking point around Christmas, which is precisely why we decided to delve into the success of this year’s release. We looked into the public perception of the highly talked about John Lewis’ latest Christmas advert using our highly regarded AdProbe approach to advertising evaluation. As readers will know, John Lewis became a cultural zeitgeist with their Christmas advertising in recent years, as well as being the benchmark for most Christmas advertisers; it always produces a catalyst of debate regarding its success. 

The Plot

This year’s advertising created a huge talking point with the help of musical icon Elton John in a starring role. We are taken through his life in reverse, with fleeting memories of sold-out tours back to his childhood when he received his first piano. In addition to the AdProbe study, we have also put the advertising through iVision (Vision One’s state-of-the-art Eye-Tracking service).

The Findings 

Whilst John Lewis often achieves some of the best results over Christmas, the latest offering is a little disappointing achieving little above average ratings and so was only awarded the 3* rating (52%).  Below you will see an infographic which you can download the PDF format by clicking on the image. This will give you an insight into some of the strengths and weaknesses of the execution, along with a comparison of the previous year’s advertising.


One of the major issues of the campaign is related to ‘branding’. Not so much whether people know it’s for John Lewis, but rather how the advertising is remembered. It is interesting to note that many people spontaneously refer to it as the ‘Elton John’ advert – rather than the John Lewis advert. This is reflected in some of the AdProbe results, which show that only 6% claimed the brand name was the main thing they would remember about it. This is one of the lowest scores we have ever recorded on this metric.

Many of the key impact and engagement metrics also point to the idea that advertising doesn’t really engage. Whilst it is beautifully crafted, it seems that either the storytelling or the characters are failing to engage the audience. On a positive note, some emotion is created and 30% claim to have experienced ‘Joy’. The key emotions are probably triggered around the moments of the proud mum watching Elton John play as a child or when young Elton first sees his wrapped-up piano.

Overall, the advertising seems to work by playing it safe – as recorded by a good deal of Reassurance along with relatively high amounts of Intrigue. However, it does little in terms of Creativity and Passion. (See the Emotional Intensity Index on the PDF for more detail).

But one of the major flaws of the advertising is that it leaves many unaffected. A surprisingly high number of respondents claimed it had ‘no impact’ on them. By the same token, very few felt that it had changed or enhanced their perceptions of John Lewis or was likely to affect their purchase behaviour.

For more information on AdProbe and our advertising and tracking research services please call us on 0203 693 3150.