John Lewis and the Christmas penguin that melted the nation’s hearts

  • With Christmas time such a huge proportion of revenue for retailers, the pressure was on John Lewis to ensure a successful festive sales period. 
  • John Lewis turned to immersive marketing, where customers become wrapped up in a story-led by TV, engrossed in a world of activation, and engaged with new depth and feeling.
  • Monty the Penguin and immersive marketing generated record sales, record views, record shares and record returns. 


Christmas is a hugely significant time of year for retailers. Not only does it represent a massive proportion of annual revenue, but also it demonstrates to customers, staff, stakeholders and suppliers the general health of the business and the confidence they should put in the brand. 

In the past, John Lewis has used marketing to good effect at Christmas and their Christmas campaigns are now becoming an integral and hotly anticipated part of the countdown to Christmas. Their challenge was to deliver another market-leading festive campaign and also to remind people that John Lewis is a leading retailer across physical shops, online and mobile sites as well as the mix of the two that is ‘Click and Collect’. 

The Solution

In order to do this, John Lewis and their media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD, sought to create and implement a fully integrated 7-week campaign focusing on emotional engagement, multi-touchpoint activation, social sharing, PR generation, and subsequent commercial success.

Their advertising agency adam&EveDDB created an emotional and powerful TV ad featuring a little boy and his best friend, Monty the Penguin, which followed on from the long standing theme from John Lewis that celebrates those who put more thought into the gifts they give.

In addition, learnings from previous years meant that they understood the value of ‘narrative planning’ so there could be many integrated touchpoints around the TV ad that would extend the campaign, bring it to life off the screen and immerse people in the story. 


John Lewis negotiated an innovative deal with Channel 4 to launch the campaign. This involved two different elements. Firstly, Channel 4’s creative team and adam&eveDDB joined together to create an in-house trailer featuring Monty the Penguin. The trailer featured Monty riding a London bus as the ever-Christmassy Oxford Street Lights formed the C4 logo in the background.  Initially unbranded, this teaser trailer simply included #MontyThePenguin and a call to action to tune into the Friday episode of Gogglebox on screen. 

The second element of the Channel 4 partnership involved launching the full length TV ad during the popular Friday night programme Gogglebox with an exclusive and solus premiere advertising break.   The break was top and tailed with C4 idents and also had a station continuity announcer who voiced over an introduction to the ad premiere.  Following the launch spot, they negotiated a roadblock of the 120” spot across the portfolio of C4 channels.  An additional spot was bought in X Factor – the biggest show on a Saturday night. 

After launch, they used a 90” cut down that ran across the opening weekend with spots designed to access the best primetime shows in order to build fame quickly. After the opening weekend, they used 60” and 30” spots to sustain the campaign.  They strengthened their share of voice by upweighting airtime on the key retail days of Wednesday to Sunday and also upweighted London and South East to deliver a greater presence in their most commercially valuable regions. 

The TV activity was supported with a fully integrated activation campaign. Social media supported the TV ad with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube all allowing Monty to be immediately ‘likable’, ‘commentable’ and ‘sharable’ and even available to follow on Twitter. On digital outdoor, as part of the launch, there were teasers featuring Monty playing hide & seek. 

The final piece of the campaign was the immersion of Monty and Mabel into their stores.  Merchandise and gifts filled the shop floors and in all 44 John Lewis shops “Monty’s Dens” were created for children and parents to enjoy “Monty’s Christmas” in both a free e-storybook app and a hardbound book version. The use of technology was identified as a key component of this campaign and was used in a variety of formats; including an innovative use of Googler Cardboard virtual reality and a bespoke Microsoft technological build, both which brought the magical world of Monty to life.   


  • Monty the Penguin was the most viewed ad at Christmas.
  • Across the 5 weeks to 27th December, John Lewis sales were up 5.5% year-on-year versus a market increase of only 1.5% (as measured by the British Retail Consortium). They also enjoyed a record sales week, taking £175m for the first time.
  • The campaign delivered a profit ROI of £7.44 for every pound spent – a 3% increase year on year. This represents the highest return of any John Lewis campaign and £141m in incremental revenue. 
  • The C4 teaser and exclusive premiere break were  seen by 10.5m and 3.9m ABC1 adults respectively 
  • By the end of the TV campaign 23m (83%) of ABC1s had seen the ad at least once with a further 2.2m views delivered across video on demand platforms.
  • Across social media, the ad generated 349m impressions – up 320% year-on-year and at launch trended globally on Twitter.
  • The soundtrack of the TV ad, Tom Odell’s ‘Real Love’, reached #3 on the iTunes charts
  • The availability of Monty and Mabel merchandise range further engaged consumers with the brand and subsequently generated significant sales – the soft toy of Monty sold out on the very first day!
  • The campaign was the winner in the TV Planning Awards – Best Use of TV in an Integrated Campaign

Each year the bar is set higher, the competition is stronger and the commercial importance grows. However, what we created with Monty the Penguin took bravery, ambition and hard work from our agencies. Monty started on TV, but ended up being exploded and integrated across his own penguin world. The result is our best Christmas campaign to date, undeniably market-leading, and immersive marketing at its best.

Rachel Swift, Head of Brand Marketing


Sector: Retail

Brand: John Lewis

Campaign objectives: To deliver a market-leading Christmas campaign

Target Audience: ABC1 adults

Budget: approx. £6m

Campaign Dates: TV launch Friday 7th November 2014. Campaign ran for 5 weeks

TV Usage: 120” launch spot, 90” spot, 60” spot, 30” spot

Creative Agency: adam&eveDDB and 4Creative

Media Agency:  Manning Gottlieb OMD


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