In the end we’ll all have to wait and see about ‘The Boy and The Piano’.
Wait until January for the Christmas post mortem. Wait for the full-year results to see if John Lewis recover from the 99% first-half fall in profits. Wait to see how many stores they have open in five years’ time.
Until then it’s open season on the ad itself. That's the price you pay for being the famous advertising campaign in Britain.
If you need one more viewing, you can watch it here.
According to media monitoring platform Meltwater, it notched up 61,438 mentions across social media by late afternoon on its first day of release. 59.8% of them were positive too
Three days later, Socialbakers reported there had been 371,144 ‘interactions’ with the ad on Facebook, of which 27.78% were ‘loves’. So early signs of Marmititis.
As ever, everyone in marketing has approached the campaign with an open mouth.
The praise has focused on the choice of Elton John. Certainly, his performance makes it for me. The story is true, too. He got the piano from his grandma when he was four.
The choice of ‘Your Song’, Elton’s first big hit, is central. Apart from everything else, it has that line: “My gift is my song and this one’s for you.” I love the way the sound of it changes throughout, making the original recording sound small and tentative.
There has also been much admiration for the way the story is told. Working backwards from the opening scene to the Red Piano tour to backstage in a dressing room to a spotlight performance to a stadium show in Portland to travelling on his private jet to a TV show to recording ‘Your Song’ at Trident Studio to performing in the Northwood Hills pub in Pinner to playing at a school concert to opening the gift in front of his mum and gran. And back.
The five actors who play Elton alongside Elton are also uncannily good, especially four-year-old Elton, Freddie Henderson, as he unwraps his present.
Much of the criticism has been the predictable “it’s not as good as Buster, Moz, Monty…”. But there’s been a sharper attack on whether it’s too much about Elton and not enough about Lewis. People have also said it’s not very Christmassy. Mind you, someone claimed it was all about selling pianos. Takes all sorts.
Then there’s the cynicism. Apart from his fee (definitely not £5m, according to Craig Inglis), Elton has got a biopic about his life coming out next year, as well as a continuing farewell tour with tickets to sell. You can even now get his greatest hits on vinyl for £24.99.
Still, Adam&EveDDB may have taken a left-hand turn with the execution, but in strategic terms the campaign is right in that sweet spot. The end-line of ‘Some gifts are more than just gifts’ captures the idea of thoughtful giving as well as any they’ve had.
It’s the Discernment side of Generosity. Any gift says something to the recipient and something about the giver. So any thoughtful gift says you did at least spend some time pondering what they might actually want. A bit like marketing.
And if the recipient then reacts with genuine enthusiasm, as the four-year-old Elton does so perfectly in the film, you get the pay-back you wanted for the thought you put in. All parents want that look.
But there’s another side to that. If you simply go on Amazon a few days before Christmas, make some vaguely relevant choices and get everything delivered next day, the job will be done and dusted and you’ll have saved yourself a whole load of time, effort and money. But there’ll still be an emotional gap.
So maybe the John Lewis campaign is all about filling that gap.
Which means John Lewis know who their competition is and it’s a shaven-headed man in Seattle, not a high street dying around them.
Maybe they now accept where their business is going to end up. I’ve heard online is already over 50% for them.
So maybe the idea behind it all is that by going to John Lewis Online, you get to feel a tiny bit more thoughtful, in some way, just for a moment.
I wonder if that’s where this all started.