Ad of the Week – John Lewis, Excitable Edgar

In the run-up to the release of this year’s ad, John Lewis and Waitrose released a “highlight reel”, showcasing the two brands’ recent history of iconic Christmas ads, from Waitrose’s dramatic robin’s journey to John Lewis’ 2018 team-up with Elton John. The spot was a dazzling reminder of how much entertainment and joy these brands have brought to Christmas (and it came within a whisker of a 5-Star score in its own right).

But it also concealed a more sobering reality. Iconic though the ads might be, were the public getting tired of them? Neither brand had managed a 5-Star ad since the classic “Monty The Penguin” in 2013, and competitors were trying new approaches. Old rival M&S, for instance, publically stated it was getting out of the blockbuster ad game and moving to more product-oriented territory.

“Excitable Edgar”, the 5-Star tale of a girl and her helpful but hapless dragon, has silenced the critics. It’s the highest-scoring John Lewis ad since Monty, and the highest-scoring Waitrose Xmas ad ever. It’s proof that there’s still magic in the method that transformed UK Xmas advertising.

What makes it so good? There are two points we’d like to pull out.

The first is that the brand team-up is more than just a cost-saving exercise. Waitrose ads have been a varied bunch, but at heart they’ve always centred on friendship and feasting at Christmas time. That provides a natural climax for a John Lewis ad’s more character-centric storyline. If the “thoughtful gift” is Waitrose food every year, things might get tricky, but this time it’s a triumphant success.

The second point is that this is an ad with oodles of right-brained appeal. It’s got a strong sense of place, a cracking melodic soundtrack, and brilliant non-verbal communication between the two leads. Since one of those leads is a child and the other is a collection of pixels, that’s some feat, but the love, sympathy and exasperation Ava feels for Edgar shines through. There’s great use of reaction shots too, to cement the sense of between-ness that’s so important for ads with right-brain appeal.

Excitable Edgar? Effective Edgar, more like. Congratulations to both brands on a commercial cooked to perfection.

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