John Lewis: Making the nation cry...and buy

Story of the film

Few people would dispute that today John Lewis is one of the most talked-about and admired advertisers in the UK. But it’s easy to forget how recently that wasn’t the case and how rapid the turnaround in the brand’s communications effectiveness has been. This film tells the story of how brilliant emotional advertising, particularly on TV, drove fame and profit, and at the same time, propelled the brand into the nation’s hearts.


In mid-2009, John Lewis was struggling in a very challenging financial climate. Recent advertising investment had been ineffective and a new approach was required. A bold decision to use highly emotional advertising, particularly on TV, generated a huge amount of interest in the brand that resulted in more visitors, coming more frequently, who spent more money. The campaign earned £1,074 million of incremental sales and £261 million of incremental profit in just more than two years. Thousands of partners also benefited, as the probability of John Lewis communications enhanced the annual bonus that they share.

This film, based on the 2012 IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix winning paper, explores the developments of John Lewis’s emotional communication strategy and their two main strands of communication: ‘Christmas’ and ‘Never Knowlingly Undersold’. We hear from the key players behind the success of the brand, including how client and agencies worked together to deliver brilliant, multi award-wining and highly effective creativity, led by TV ads such as ‘Remember the feeling’, ‘For those who care’, ‘The long wait’, ‘Always a woman’ and ‘Through the ages’.  This is emotional advertising that has directly enriched the lives of thousands of people, and brought a tear to the eye of millions.

The film also demonstrates the power of acknowledging and rallying other audiences behind the brand, including employees and stakeholders, to really shift consumer behaviour and perceptions.

Appearing on film:

Titles were correct at the time of publish date

  • David Golding, Founding Partner, Chief Strategy Officer, adam&eveDDB.
  • Craig Inglis, Marketing Director, John Lewis
  • Paul Knight, Executive Director, Operations, Manning Gottlieb OMD       
  • Ben Priest, Creative Director, adam&eveDDB

With addition al effectiveness insights from:

  • Marie Oldham, Chief Strategy Officer, MPG Media Contacts; Convener of Judges 2012
  • Nick Southgate, IPA Behavioural Economics Consultant


This film is based on a Grand Prix award winning IPA paper. Here the details.

Campaign: Making the nation cry…and buy 

Brand/ Client: John Lewis

Entrants: adam&eveDDB, Manning Gottlieb OMD

Principal Author: David Golding adam&eveDDB; Helen Weavers, Real World Planning; Paul Knight, Manning Gottlieb OMD

Contributing Authors: Sam Veitch, Lesley Turnbull, BrandScience

Credited Companies: Creative agency: adam&eveDDB; Media Agency: Manning Gottlieb OMD; Production Company: Blink Productions; Research Agencies: Neuro-Insight; Client: John Lewis

Media used: Direct marketing, E-mail marketing, magazines, mobile marketing, newspapers, online display, out-of-home, PR, SMS, search, social media, TV, website/microsite, word-of-mouth

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