The John Lewis Christmas Advert: Is This How We Do Evangelism?

With apologies if you are sick of seeing this by now on British TV in the ad breaks:

For non-British readers of this blog, John Lewis is a well known chain of department stores, and this is the TV advert that has been talked about more than any other this year in the UK. It seems to have worked: the company broke the £100 million barrier in weekly takings earlier this year than any previous one.

But why? There are numerous explanations: this article offers ten possible interpretations. Here are four particular themes that emerged for me as I read different critiques:

1. The advert plugs the brand, but not the products.

2.There is a sense of familiarity – it has reminiscences of Watership Down, and the music is a cover version – Lily Allen sings Keane‘s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’

in the style of Gary Jules‘ ‘Mad World’ cover.

(And Keane didn’t miss a trick: they released a ‘Best Of‘ album just a few days after the ad first aired.)

3. It is designed to appeal to the emotions, rather than to the head.

4. It is aimed at children. This isn’t simply a case of ‘pester power’, precisely due to point 1 above – products are not the main emphasis. But if you watch the ad on YouTube then at the end you can click through to ‘continue the story’. If you do, then you end up at a page of the John Lewis site that plugs a lot of ‘Bear and Hare’ merchandise, most of which is presented like an online version of a children’s picture book.

Are all of these good reasons? Are they reasons for the apparent success of the campaign, or are they incidental?

And what does this have to do with Christian mission? Only the observation that these are similar to the ways we sometimes engage in outreach. We can go for familiarity (evangelistic carol services), we certainly aim for the emotions more than cool reason, and we often aim at children more than parents (even if something like Messy Church aims to connect with parents as well). I am less sure that the first theme about brand rather than product reflects in our approaches.

What do you think?

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