For several years now the ad industry has expressed its jealousy of the John Lewis campaign. initially it simply showered it with awards, then it started to copy it until it was impossible to move for 60-second portions of sentimentality, soundtracked by some soppy git singing an acoustic version of a song you liked until you saw the ad.
The interesting thing about this is the extent which it showed how hard it is to do those things well. If you don’t have a shit-hot creative department and Dougal Wilson to hand it can be very hard for your JL knock-off to rise above 7/10.
However, I kind of hoped we were out the other side of this ‘genre’. Then I saw this:
It’s so John Lewis it might as well be for John Lewis. Little kid? Check. Sentimental expensive song? Check. 60 seconds+? Check. No dialogue? Check.
Alas, it copies the formula but misses everything that makes a JL ad good:
First off, there’s no story. It’s just a little girl walking through an airport. Where is she going? Where is the story going? She’s getting on a plane (yawn) and the story is going nowhere.
Next, the track. I love David Bowie enormously. I got married to Kooks and I even bought the bloody Tin Machine album, but this is not his best track. It’s boring and limp, kind of like the ad.
There are literally no charming or insightful touches (and I include the anvil-heavy swimming-goggles-as-flying-goggles gagette). Check the shot where two people kiss (50″): no emotion, nothing to engage with, nothing for us to take away. She looks in a shop window, she sprays some perfume, she walks about a bit seeing people of no consequence… I’ve watched it a few times just to check I haven’t missed the hidden meaning behind any of this, but I’m pretty sure that’s it: we’re supposed to share in her wide-eyed amazement at visiting an airport for the first time, but like all visits to airports, nothing much happens.
And a owl? A owl?