The John Lewis Christmas advertisement features a frightening plant that devours dogs and spits out gifts. Sounds perfect!
For a period of time, it seemed like this year’s Christmas commercials would be unique. One after the other, major companies have opted out of using overly emotional tactics that were common in the past decade. During that time, most holiday advertisements were solely focused on making you cry, forgetting to actually promote their products. Instead, they are choosing to go for a more cheerful approach.
For this year, Argos has chosen to feature a Chucky doll on rollerskates, while Marks & Spencer went to great lengths and expenses to have Sophie Ellis-Bextor use a real flamethrower to destroy the idea of Christmas, possibly as a jab at the infamous headteacher who is often in the news.
John Lewis is under a lot of pressure this year. They have been the leader in creating emotional and expensive advertisements for years. No other company has been able to take advantage of Twitter’s love for heartfelt crying like John Lewis has. Their ads often evoke feelings of nostalgia for childhood Christmases, highlight the loneliness of elderly neighbors, and remind viewers of the mortality of icons like Elton John. However, their ads have become less unique and memorable. So, what should John Lewis do? Should they stick to their usual formula or try to be more playful like other popular brands?
Reader, let me inform you that this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert features a scene where a giant sentient Venus flytrap forlornly paws at a frosted window, watching a family celebrate Christmas, heartbroken at the fact that they have abandoned it. So, you know, it’s probably business as usual then.
The situation is unjust. The main plot is as follows: a young boy purchases a seed from a deceitful store owner who guarantees it will grow into a Christmas tree. However, the seed turns out to be a Venus flytrap. The Venus flytrap attempts to devour the boy’s dog, leading the family to discard it in the garden. Isolated from the holiday celebrations, the Venus flytrap experiences an emotional breakdown. Feeling remorseful, the family gives the Venus flytrap some gifts. The Venus flytrap consumes the gifts and then spits them back out at the family. The advertisement concludes with a tense peace agreement. I cannot remember the exact tagline, but it conveys something along the lines of “Enjoy your Christmas, but beware that I may attack you in your sleep if you cross me again.”
The aspect that is most sad about this is quite small and reminiscent of previous John Lewis Christmas commercials. In fact, the entire thing appears to be a collage of past John Lewis Christmas ads. It features a child eagerly anticipating Christmas (The Long Wait, 2011), a child who befriends an unsuitable companion (Monty the Penguin, 2014), a bothersome creature who causes chaos before being forgiven (Excitable Edgar, 2019), and a monstrous plant that spews gifts onto a terrified family (although this is a new addition).
I would like to note that I have only viewed this commercial on three occasions, therefore it is possible that I may have overlooked any hidden images or accidental shots that could potentially cause an uproar on the internet, leading the company to issue an apology, similar to what M&S did when some viewers believed they were burning the Palestinian flag. Perhaps upon pausing the last scene of the John Lewis advert, we may uncover a message written in the confetti that says “We Love Vladimir Putin” or something along those lines. It is likely that there is something controversial hidden within the advertisement.
Overall, this is a commendable attempt. It’s refreshing to see a John Lewis Christmas commercial that doesn’t try to manipulate your emotions and force you to tear up. Additionally, the products showcased in the ad are actually available for purchase at John Lewis. In fact, at one point, the Venus flytrap even regurgitates a pair of headphones that can be found in the store. This is a positive step forward!
Furthermore, the M&S ad has similarities to this one. They both serve as a reminder to not be limited by traditional Christmas beliefs. Whether it’s setting fires or embracing a frightening 20ft-tall plant that devours headphones, we can still have a joyous holiday season if we find what works for us. Let’s see more of this in the future.