John Lewis Unexpected Guest Research Vision One

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John Lewis "Unexpected Guest"

Christmas Advertising – John Lewis “Unexpected Guest”

We have all grown accustomed to seeing John Lewis' TV advertising every Christmas, but have you ever asked yourself how good they are or if they really make a difference? Since 2007, the advertising has been making waves, particularly in 2013 being their breakout "The Bear and the Hare" which won the hearts of the nation.

John Lewis's Christmas advertising is always highly anticipated amongst the British public and the media alike, with this years advert being no exception. The high street retailer has returned to its more traditional formula of emotional advertising and likeable characters, previous examples include "Excitable Edgar" and "Monty the Penguin". Last year saw a change in direction. 'Give a Little Love' incorporated multiple forms of art and focused on kindness and inclusivity (but there was no clear hero to speak of). In truth, our research last year suggested the execution wasn't quite up to standard - but the good news is that this year's advertising shows significant improvements across the board.

Using AdProbe, Vision One's advertising pre-testing research method we conducted a monadic test on the execution via an online survey amongst a nationally representative sample.

Focusing on a story of friendship to celebrate the magic of Christmas moments experienced for the first time. This year we see the journey of Christmas through Nathan, a young boy and a space traveller called Skye.


Our Results

The findings were really positive and it was clear that this year's advert had significantly outperformed last year's "Give A Little Love" on virtually all metrics.

The overall score is a full 10 points higher than last year, rising from 102 in 2020 to a splendid 112 (in 2021) - which makes it one of the strongest Ads we have ever tested.

Despite the great score, it has still not managed to outperform John Lewis’ 2016 advert featuring ‘Buster the Boxer’ - which still holds the top spot of all John Lewis adverts we have tested.

The John Lewis team's objective was to engage and elicit a response from everyone, stating that; ‘If we can make every person who watched this have a little smile or shed a little tear or feel something then everyone is going to have a 1% better Christmas’. The strong Emotion score of 112 helps to demonstrate that John Lewis has achieved this year's goal. Joy is the main emotion that most people claimed to have experienced, albeit accompanied by some sadness!

Despite the subtlety and minimalism of John Lewis branding, the brand recall of this advert still exceeds the normative average. This could be due to the high memorability of the advert - we found that 70% of respondents agreed that this advert was memorable. It is also likely that the anticipation and press surrounding John Lewis Christmas adverts makes both the advert and brand memorable and salient for consumers despite John Lewis’s branding being minimal throughout.

John Lewis Advertising Research Evaluation Unexpected Guest Vision One
John Lewis Advertising Effectiveness Scores - Unexpected Guest

The two metrics showing the greatest improvement from last year are Fascination and Action, both increasing by 20 and 26 respectively. These two metrics indicate that people have reacted well to the advert and that John Lewis should see a stronger return on investment.

Overall, the power of this execution probably stems from the strong storytelling and the high production values with its almost cinematic experience. Indeed, this year's advert is rumoured to have cost £800,000 on the development alone! £5million when you add in promotional slots on tv).

Sentiment Analysis

Our Sentiment Analysis allows respondents to record how they feel when watching the advert, such as like and dislike and interesting or boring. Overall, we have seen enjoyment building throughout the execution to very high levels.

The Best John Lewis Advert?

So, which is the best Christmas advert from John Lewis? Well according to our metrics these indicate that Buster is the most effective (maybe we're a nation of dog lovers!). You can read up on our analysis of that advert here.

What we will say, even though it didn't win the award for best John Lewis advert of all time, Unexpected Guest is a hit, and clearly deserves a place in our Hall of Fame.