The Silver Bauble #6 - 18/11/18
Now That The Shock Has Passed…

Ah, what a disappointment. All that anticipation. All those leaks. All those "leaks". The John Lewis ad has arrived, and it’s all rather deflating. If you haven’t seen it yet (and welcome back from your trip to the Moon - did you stay with the old man from one of the previous John Lewis ads?), here it is.

OK, so you can’t fault the production qualities. Elton John has star quality - although this smacks of self-publicity for a forthcoming farewell tour - and a race through his life story is well-staged. The message is a popular one this Christmas Run-Up, and that is that gifts can have a profound effect on someone’s life. However this lacks any depth as it really is a just reverse biography. Not only is the Christmas link rather tenuous, but this lacks sophistication and charm, with only the sight of a very young Elton at the end of it vaguely tugging at the heart-strings.

This came as a surprise to us at the Christmas UK Cavern. Admittedly, we haven’t been fans of the John Lewis ads since Monty The Penguin way back in 2014 - they seem to have become more abstract, blander and broader with each passing year. The Boy And The Piano, as this year’s ad is titled, lacks so much depth that it really is little more than moving wallpaper. It’s the sort of video shops would put on in the background so that you’re not too distracted from what’s on the shelves. When John Lewis and Waitrose rebranded earlier this year, the advert they used had so much going for it on so many levels - take another look at it:

It had heart, it had soul, it had cuteness, it had humour. Above all, it had a very appealing and original concept - the school play given astronomical production values. The advert was incredibly eye-catching, and extra details would reveal themselves with each watching. This was an advert with so much depth and detail that you could tell it was lovingly crafted. The Boy And The Piano feels like a one-note performance.

It’s a shame they went back to using Elton John’s Your Song, too. This was used in one of their earlier Christmas ads from 2010 to great effect as Ellie Goulding’s cover version soundtracked a montage of very sweet heartwarming scenes. As you can see here, it’s eye-catching, interesting, and whilst not too adventurous, it hits home. The Boy And The Piano is so unremarkable that it just doesn’t compare to John Lewis’ earlier work.

The John Lewis Christmas Ad has lost the crown of being central to the Christmas Run-Up. Admittedly it’s status had been overblown by the media - it’s had its hits, but most of them just do not rate well when compared against the competition. If you follow our annual King Of Christmas league table update, you’ll see that at the end of last year John Lewis’ position was artificially high on the back of a few very good adverts. Now the competition has caught up you can be guaranteed it will drop a few places this year. The Christmas adverts may be somewhat underperforming this year, but there’s still more than enough quality ads to knock a weak John Lewis down a few places.

Our advice to John Lewis? Go back to the unique twists on original concepts. If we had to pick our favourite John Lewis advert today, it would have to be The Snowman’s Journey from 2012. The story was an original one, and the decision to tell it through live-action scenes but with a static snowman in each was a spark of sheer genius. But maybe John Lewis are being a little more cynical than they used to be: the blander the advert, the broader appeal, and the wider the impact on the audience. With John Lewis in trouble, then they needed to widen its appeal as far as possible. "The Snowman" melted away a long time ago, and may not ever return for John Lewis.

We have another article from our friend Colin McGregor, and beware: this a bit of a tear-jerker. Spending Christmas alone can be tough for the first time - Colin has an insightful tale showing that spending it alone really isn’t all that bad. Over to Colin...

A "Loaded" Christmas
by Colin McGregor
Or, how the once infamous lad’s mag helped me get through the most difficult Christmas of my life.

Christmas 2001 was always going to be difficult. Mum had lost her battle against leukaemia in May and I was living and working in Scotland while my dad and brothers remained in our native Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Mum was the glue that bonded Christmas together for us while looking after Dad who had been ill for many years. Even as an adult I had always managed to get home to spend some or all of Christmas at home, once even doing a drive up from London on Christmas Eve.

This year was to be different. I hadn’t spent a night at "home" since her death and was wondering how to cope with Christmas. It would not be the same without her.

I was also single and to complicate things more, following a very strict training programme ahead of the upcoming Scottish Indoor Rowing championships In February 2002.

My brothers David and Garry were great – I had invitations to Christmas dinner with them and knew my old room in the family home was there too.

My dilemma was solved thanks to Loaded Magazine. Yes, you did occasionally read the articles in it! One in the October or November edition was from a writer who the previous year due to his work commitments knew he would have to spend Christmas alone for the first time – albeit a bit to the chagrin of his family.

But a lot of what he said made sense – do what you do what you want to do it, no arguing over the television or mealtimes and enjoy the day in a shiraz wine induced fug.

I made the decision to go it alone and have never regretted it. My phone and texts were going from 7.30am until after 9pm with calls and messages from my dad, brothers and friends. There were cheery hellos from neighbours, who for once I had not asked to look after my cat, Storm.

So really, I was not alone at all and the tears I shed for mum were done in private as I toasted her memory.

I managed a fast, hilly 90min walk to substitute for a gym session and the cat got the trimmings from a very good lunch of a goose crown – and an expensive bottle of red slipped down a treat. And there was late night American football or basketball on the tv to round off the day.

The following year I drove to Newcastle and back on Christmas day to see my dad – but I never spent another night on my old room in the family home.

Is there a moral from my story? Yes – there is too much pressure on Christmas to be perfect these days. But real life is not perfect, and it is about what works for you. Don’t be afraid to break with convention and don’t do things for the sake of them.

Dedicated to my late parents Muriel and Harry.

That was an incredibly touching piece of writing. How did that make you feel? Do you have some words of advice or inspiration for those people who spend Christmas alone by choice or circumstance? Please send them into linus@christmasuk.org and we’ll include them in the next Silver Bauble.

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