John Lewis presented with 'Advertiser of Excellence' Award at the British Arrows 2015 - a tribute by Lindsey Clay, CEO, Thinkbox.
Between Christmas 2009 and today, a quiet revolution has been taking place in TV advertising, led by John Lewis. They’re a surprising revolutionary. They’re a naturally modest and reserved organisation. They only appointed their first ad agency in 1996. They didn’t even make a TV ad until 2003.
But it was with the arrival of Craig and his subsequent appointment of Adam & Eve in 2009 (then a little known agency of 18 people) that the revolution got going.
John Lewis has since become synonymous with a particular style of TV advertising; beautifully observed emotional stories, often accompanied by a soulful soundtrack and told at a relaxed pace over longer time lengths; stories which speak to us about love, friendship, family, home, the spirit of generosity and the way we would like life to be. In pitches now, clients often tell agencies that what they are looking for is a “John Lewis”. That’s a great compliment.
Awards have flowed from all directions. At the British Arrows alone, John Lewis have taken home Gold for 6 consecutive years, including commercial of the year for the Long Wait.
They have regularly achieved what many advertisers never manage in an entire career which is the triple whammy of critical recognition from the creative community, huge popularity with the public and, most important of all, transformational business success. This advertising has contributed to the 3 biggest Christmases in the company’s history and John Lewis is only one of two brands ever to win the British Arrows Grand Prix and the IPA Effectiveness Grand Prix for the same work.
The anticipation and excitement amongst the UK population for the arrival of the John Lewis Christmas TV advertising would give Father Christmas a run for his money and I don’t know any other TV ads that have inspired Radio 4’s Thought for the day and been used in school assemblies across the country to teach kids about the true spirit of Christmas.
To create this work, the team has worked with a small number of top directors: Benito Monitorio, Ringan Ledwidge, Eric Lynne, Elliot Dear and Yves Geleyn. But, it’s the relationship with Dougal Wilson that has been a particularly productive and fruitful one: Always a woman, The Long Wait, The Journey and Monty the penguin. Consistency works for this team. The 6 Adam & Evers who pitched for the business in 2009 still work on it today.
Ben Priest describes the relationship with John Lewis as like a good marriage - open, honest, passionate, with much plain speaking and the occasional humdinger of a row!
And this is the way it has been from the start. The work that emerges may look effortless and refined but it’s delivered though blood, sweat and sometimes tears. And, in all that time, John Lewis has never researched a single word of the work written for them. Craig’s point of view is a simple one “if we don’t know our brand, our customers and our own minds, then what on earth are we being paid for”?