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The Great John Lewis Debate: It's Just an Ad for God's Sake - But It's a Lovely One.

Posted: 13/11/11 23:18

Last week, I talked about some of the more remarkable ads on TV, good and bad. And as often happens with these things, within days something came along that forced the list to be amended.

Last Friday, John Lewis revealed their latest Christmas ad. Every time they release an ad it tends to cause a bit of a stir, be it last year's sweet festive offering featuring Ellie Goulding's anodyne cover of Your Song or their Assent Of Red-Dressed Woman assisted by Fyfe Dangerfield's wondrous version of Billy Joel's Only A Woman. Pleasant as they were, not everybody received them well: last year's Christmas advert got complaints from animal rights organisations for featuring a dog in an outside kennel in snowy conditions (although he did have a stocking put up for him, so it wasn't all bad), and others are more generally irked by the bourgeois mawkishness of it all.

Now for their latest salvo John Lewis have taken their tried and tested combination of lovely storytelling and a wistful re-imagining of a much-loved pop standard to its best place yet, but if anything all it's done is ratchet up the opposition. Leading the charge is TV-ologist extraordinaire and modern day Walter Matthau Charlie Brooker, who claimed that anyone who cried at the advert was "literally weeping IQ points out of their body". Before long, it was becoming quite the point of debate on Twitter and underneath the video on Youtube.

Now I try not to make a habit of disagreeing with ol' CB (as nobody calls him) but this advert is miles away from, say, that X-Factor/M&S ad that drips of corporate synergy and rank opportunism. I didn't cry at the advert but I did think it was fantastic, fantastic enough for me not to care even slightly about any of the gripes Brooker or anyone else may have about it. I don't care if it is attempted emotional manipulation with a view to spending excessive cash monies in an expensive store. I don't care if it is middle class lifestyle porn. I don't even care if it's Daily Mail bait. It is, first and foremost, an adorable and well-made 90 seconds about a young boy waiting for Christmas, and more importantly why he's so impatient for this Christmas to come. It's the kind of adorable where you don't pronounce the "r". On dastardly capitalism's recent charge list, this ad is pretty low down.

Christmas pretty much lost the battle with commercialism when "Bethlehem Jeff's Precious Metals and Perfume Emporium" raked it in that first year, and the duration of the build up and commercial hype for the festive season oscillates from the cynical to the all-out piss taking. That said, the Holidays Are Coming Coca Cola ad is basically the international symbol for, well, the Holidays coming. And when I look at that ad, I think about all the things about Christmas I love, I don't scramble out to buy a stack of two litre bottles or give campaign donations to Republican Senators. Same goes for Guinness' marvellous festive ad: when you invariably see that on Christmas Eve, it's time to get excited.

When I see ads like that, for a couple of seconds I suspend the pretext or the reason the ad is there and just enjoy it for what it is at face value. Similarly, I've never even so much as pressed my nose up against a John Lewis window and I'm not even 100% sure what it is they sell, but the minute and a half they've commissioned is beautiful, involving and pleasantly surprising.

But that's just my opinion. What do you make of it?

 

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