John Lewis innovate with on demand advertising


Key Points

  • John Lewis wanted to create the most innovative and impactful launch of their Christmas ad
  • They executed a media first by making the ad exclusively available to download via Sky’s EPG
  • As a result, John Lewis had their best Christmas ever

The Challenge

John Lewis advertising is recognised as signalling the start of Christmas and each year is hotly anticipated. The John Lewis Christmas ad makes national news and captures consumers’ attention and eyeballs. This cultural moment creates a unique environment, blurring the lines between advertising and entertainment with people actively seeking out advertising, commenting and sharing it.

In the past 12 months, retailers have increased their media spending at Christmas by 20% to over £185m. John Lewis’s share of voice is only 4% so they are operating in a highly competitive market. They tasked their media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD to bring freshness to the John Lewis Christmas campaign for 2016.   

The Solution

MGOMD knew that the storytelling style of the Christmases ad would fit well on TV. In addition, they knew that the TV screen is the best for driving an emotional connection with the brand and also that viewers were watching more content on demand these days. So, working with Sky, they created the first ever ‘on-demand’ launch where viewers could watch the new ad whenever and wherever they wanted, as many times as they liked across any device.

There were two key phases:

  • Phase 1: The Binge View - a perfectly synced moment across all devices
  • Phase 2: Catch-up – opportunities to watch additional, behind the scenes content

Sky felt like the right broadcast partner because the John Lewis shopper and the Sky subscriber are aligned and because of Sky’s penetration of VoD services. 

Alongside the ad, additional content was also available in the form of a behind the scenes making of the ad and a mini programme hosted by Sky talent Patrick Aryee looking at the urban living patterns of the animals featured in the ad.

The Plan

Phase 1: The Binge View

On 10th November at 8am, the campaign launched on Sky’s 12 million set top boxes. For four days, viewers accessing the homepage of the EPG were met with an image of the John Lewis Christmas ad in a prominent position. They could then download the ad whenever they wished to see it, in the comfort of their own homes or via Sky Go.

Phase 2: Catch up

After the initial four day homepage placement, the content remained available to search and view within the Sky system until 26th December. From 1st December, the John Lewis content was also made available within the Sky Christmas themed tile across Sky+, Sky Q and Sky Go.

To support the campaign, MGOMD implemented other innovations such as:

  • A special 10 second ‘outro’ bumper to encourage viewers to visit the EPG
  • On launch day, there was a full takeover and roadblock at 8pm. This involved the full length 120” ad (plus a bespoke 10” outro and link to the EPG) being played on linear TV as well as VoD and Sky Go
  • In the second phase, there was a cut down version of the ad, but viewers could press the red button to view the longer ad if they wished


  • John Lewis achieved a 4.9% increase in sales, totalling £998m – their biggest Christmas ever
  • It was the biggest single day download ever with nearly 900,000 downloads
  • John Lewis content was over ten times bigger than the next biggest programme on launch day
  • 679% increase year on year Facebook views, 117% increase year on year Twitter views and 25% increase year on year YouTube views
  • Over 22,000 Buster the Boxer soft toys sold in the first two hours
  • Winner of ‘Best Use of TV Innovation’ in TV Planning Awards

“Every year we try to evolve and innovate in our approach to our Christmas launch. The work with Sky Media for Buster the Boxer was another fantastic example of this and the results were exceptional.”

Rachel Swift, Head of Brand Marketing, John Lewis


Sector: Retail

Brand: John Lewis

Campaign objectives: To harness the demand for John Lewis content and create a new viewing experience

Target Audience: ABC1 adults

Budget: undisclosed

Campaign Dates: The campaign launched on 10th November and ran until 24th December 2016

TV Usage: 130, 90, 60, 20 and 10 second ads

Media Agency:  Manning Gottlieb OMD

Creative Agency: Adam & Eve/DDB

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