John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners have launched their much-anticipated joint Christmas ad campaign alongside a drive to raise £4m for two charities.
“Give a little love”, by Adam & Eve/DDB, encourages the nation to spread kindness and draws inspiration from the British public’s response during the coronavirus pandemic. The release coincides with National Kindness Day, which is today (13 November).
At the centre of the campaign is a two-minute film which takes a different creative approach from John Lewis’ previous festive ads. Rather than a long-form narrative, the spot comprises nine different vignettes and styles of animation, which illustrate everyday acts of kindness.
In another departure, for the first time in John Lewis’ Christmas advertising history, the soundtrack is an original song instead of a cover. British soul singer and Brit Award winner Celeste wrote and composed the track, called A Little Love.
The film’s scenes are connected by characters passing the campaign’s heart emblem on to the next part. The storyline shows how even random and small moments of kindness can create a chain reaction and make the world a better place.
The vignettes span art forms from claymation to CGI and were created by eight different artists, including Chris Hopewell, who has created music videos for Radiohead and Franz Ferdinand, and French animator Sylvain Chomet.
There is also a second, complementary 30-second ad focused on the charity element of the campaign and created by four post-graduate students from Kingston University. In both spots, the retailers enlisted the artists and students to support the UK’s creative industries, which have been hard hit by the pandemic.
Both films were directed by Oscar Hudson through Pulse Films. Manning Gottlieb OMD handled media planning and buying.
The campaign will make its TV debut on Saturday during ITV’s The Voice. Celeste will perform the track live during The Voice on Sunday.
John Lewis declined to disclose the cost of this year’s campaign but confirmed that its production budget was lower.
A new sense of purpose
In the second year that they have done a joint Christmas campaign, John Lewis and Waitrose are aiming to raise £4m for two charities: FareShare, which helps those facing food poverty, and Home-Start, which works with parents who need support – reaching at least 100,000 families in need.
FareShare has come into the national spotlight this year as Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford has campaigned to fight child hunger since the outbreak of the pandemic.
John Lewis and Waitrose are encouraging customers to “give a little love” in five different ways: by making a charity donation; buying limited-edition campaign products – such as a heart-shaped umbrella like the one featured in the ad – from which 100% of profits will be donated to the charities; using their loyalty cards to increase the Partnership’s donation; showing kindness to someone they know; or by helping in their local community.
The company will match fund donations up to the value of £2m. It has also set up another fund of more than £1m to help the retailers’ shops give back to local charities in their communities.
Additionally, each time the track A Little Love is downloaded, Celeste and her record label Polydor will make a 10p donation to the campaign.
James Morrison, head of brand marketing at Waitrose & Partners, said the brands’ charity drive was “not just for Christmas” but rather part of a larger aim to become more purposeful.
“This is part of a long-term ambition to create a force for good,” he explained.
In September, Sharon White, chairman of John Lewis Partnership, said the company was reviewing its brand purpose to tackle inequality, wellbeing and sustainability.
Last month it also announced plans to launch a “buy-back” or “take-back” scheme across all of its products by 2025, with the goal of becoming more sustainable.
A year like no other
The campaign, which many see as the start of the Christmas season in the UK, comes at the end of a troubled year for the business and the nation as a whole. England is in the middle of its second coronavirus lockdown, which means all non-essential shops, including the John Lewis department stores, are shut.
Like numerous other retailers, John Lewis Partnership is struggling, and last week it said it would axe up to 1,500 jobs at its head office as it makes further cost cuts.
“There was a real moment where we asked ourselves: ‘Is this the year we don’t make a Christmas ad?'” Peter Cross, customer experience director for John Lewis Partnership, said.
However, the company concluded that the public still “needed a moment of joy”. “There was a fear of being the ‘Grinch’ who took away Christmas,” Cross added.
The charities also said that the awareness that would come from the ad campaign would be hugely beneficial, according to Cross.
Striking the right tone in the ad proved challenging, he said: “We don’t want people to laugh out loud and we don’t want them to cry. We want to inspire a feeling of contentment – it was that centre ground we strove for.”
There will be in-store activations at both Waitrose and John Lewis, the latter of which is still hopeful it can open shops in December if the lockdown ends. But to accommodate people’s new lifestyles of staying at home more, a large component of the campaign will be digital, including social media and influencer activity using the hashtag #GiveALittleLove. However, “TV still plays a big role”, Morrison said.
People can also get involved remotely by texting to donate to the charities.