John Lewis The Long Wait

Thinkboxes Winner - November/December 2011

The Thinkboxes - 1st

The winner of the November/December Thinkboxes award is John Lewis with ‘The Long Wait’. For Christmas 2011, the retailer wanted to continue its tradition of releasing a big television ad that would touch and inspire the nation.

The film tells the story of a young boy and his wait for Christmas morning. A version of the classic and compelling track Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want, originally by The Smiths, is used on the ad, performed by singer-songwriter Slow Moving Millie.

The thought of ‘gifts you can’t wait to give’ was a heartwarming insight into the excitement of buying a present for a loved one. Craig Inglis, director of marketing at John Lewis, says the aim of the ad was to bring to life the retailer’s
proposition of being the place for buying thoughtful Christmas gifts, in a way that would connect with its customers emotionally.

‘The ad was rooted in a truth about what really matters at Christmas and that resonated with our core audience,’ he says. ‘Our challenge is to build on the success of this and other campaigns by continuing to be true to who we are, but to keep doing so in a fresh and innovative way.’

The TV campaign launched in November and, as expected, created an immediate buzz, in mainstream media and on social networking sites.

The John Lewis spot triumphed in the shortlist of ads shown in November and December, voted on by Thinkboxes Creative Academy of ad industry experts. Barnardo’s ‘Life Story’ came second while Avios’ ‘Fly’ claimed third place.


Sally Abbott ‘The ad was rooted in a truth about what really matters at Christmas and it resonated with our core audience’

Craig Inglis
Director of marketing,
John Lewis

  • Client John Lewis
  • Brief Create an ad that would touch and inspire a nation
  • Ad agency Adam & Eve
  • Creative team Matt Gay, John Long
  • Production Blink Productions
  • Director Dougal Wilson

Other ads on the podium

Barnardo’s Life Story

The Thinkboxes - 2nd This ad demonstrates the impact Barnardo’s can have on a child’s life by depicting five episodes in the story of a man named Michael, who has been supported by the charity through years of abuse and difficulty. It starts with Michael explaining that he is doing well, has a girlfriend and a baby. The ad then cuts to scenes from earlier stages in his development – as an angry teen and, before that, a scared boy. The TV work was supported by outdoor and digital activity and the strategy was to target both existing and new supporters by illustrating the vital role that Barnardo’s can play – showing how a person’s life can be changed by positive intervention. The narrative was crafted for maximum emotional impact, inviting viewers to rethink their attitudes towards troubled children and young people, ending with the line: “It doesn’t have to end like it began. Join us to fight for a child’s future.”

Avios Anything Can Fly 

The Thinkboxes - 3rd Following the merger of British Airways and the Spanish airline Iberia, the familiar and long-established Air Miles brand had to be retired (the name was registered only in the UK) and the travel rewards scheme renamed as Avios. In this commercial, which was the centrepiece of a relaunch campaign, the brief was to show how everyday purchases through Avios collection partners can enable customers to get great-value travel rewards. To a soundtrack of Underwaters, by Leila Arab, we see familiar household appliances taking off and flying. This was achieved not by special effects but by the use of radio-controlled model helicopters (a “making of” video, showcasing the ingenious efforts of the agricultural engineer Rupert Brandon-King, was posted on YouTube). The goal of the ad was to tap into the universal human truth that we associate the feeling of flying with freedom and possibility.

Also shortlisted for November/December 2011

Boots The Ultimatum

Boots continued to develop its highly successful “here come the girls” theme for its 2011 TV Christmas campaign, which highlighted, with customary comedic deftness, the central role that women tend to play in making sure the festive season actually happens. Showcased as Christmas action heroines, the girls are seen combining to form a crack “special ops” team, transforming their neighbourhood from a sleepy suburban street into a winter wonderland with speed, skill, glamour and tongue-in-cheek panache. We also see them on undercover shopping missions to find just the right gift, then throwing themselves into marathon present-wrapping sessions. Boots wanted to celebrate the fact that, whether they’re making the home all Christmassy or simply making themselves look gorgeous, women put the sparkle into the festive season for all of us.

HTC Soundwave

This spot promotes the launch of HTC’s new handset, the Sensation XL, which features the company’s proprietary Beats Audio system – and it focuses on the powerful sound quality that comes from the combination of urBeats headphones and integrated Beats Audio software. The camera follows a girl journeying through a city at night – and, thanks to the new handset, she acquires the ability to make everything she touches pulsate and vibrate in time to the rhythm of the ad’s soundtrack, Holloback by Sebastian. She picks up a glass of water and the liquid’s surface turns turbulent; then a body-builder she sits next to on the Underground finds his muscles beginning to ripple in unusual ways. Even a white rabbit in a pet shop begins to swell and pulse alarmingly. It all combines to illustrate the proposition that, with the Sensation XL, you can “feel every single beat”.

The Thinkboxes November / December 2011

John Lewis’ highly emotional Christmas TV ad, created by Adam & Eve, scooped the last Thinkboxes awards of 2011. The film tells the story of a young boy and his long wait for Christmas morning, not because he wants to open his presents but because he can’t wait to give his parents their gift from the retailer. As soon as the ad was launched it created a huge buzz in mainstream media and on social networking sites. Barnardo’s moving ‘Life Story’, which shows the effect the charity has on changing lives, was runner up; whilst third place went to Avios’ beautifully crafted ‘Fly’. You can watch all these great ads, and find out who made them, right here.