You always expect the John Lewis Christmas advert to make a big impression whenever it surfaces, which is what the latest one, ‘Moz The Monster’ did a wee while back. However, the furore that surrounds the 2017 effort is less to do with the quality of the actual advert, a so-so affair with a decent soundtrack and a mixed message, and more to do with the fact that it is apparently a bit of a rip-off.
Author Chris Riddell, you see, is absolutely adamant that it bears a great many similarities with Mr Underbed, the monster star of his 1986 book of the same name – same fur, same bulbous nose, same habit of lurking under a young boy’s bed. He’s also adamant that he will be pursuing no legal action against John Lewis – he’s just popping up in every available media channel he can find saying that he has been ripped off.
Anyway, potential plagiarism aside, how does the new advert fare against years gone by? Let’s have a look back and see…
2013: THE BEAR AND THE HARE, accompanied by Lily Allen covering Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know.
Remember when this advert was ‘enough’? There’s no way this 2013 guff-bomb would cut it now, with its dodgy Watership Down-level animation, and perfunctory story arc (basically, Bear isn’t impressed by Christmas tree, then sees the tree with all the lights turned on, gets all impressed and goes to enjoy Christmas with animal friends who, under normal circumstances, he should be eating).
As for the music, ‘Lily Allen covering Keane’ is like a perfect storm of wet blanket drivelling, the ghastly icing on an already appalling Christmas cake. Rubbish music, story so simplistic it’s barely there at all – quite frankly, this will not do. Cartoons about grumpy bears WILL. NOT. DO.
Cuddliness of advert: 2/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 8/10
2014: MONTY THE PENGUIN, accompanied by Tom Odell covering John Lennon’s Real Love.
From here on in, it was live action and clever CGI all the way, with all of the ‘cute’ amps resolutely turned up to 11. 2014 saw the arrival of a ‘pet’ penguin, actually only a toy penguin but THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT HE’S NOT REAL TO ONE LITTLE BOY!
Monty The Penguin was actually tolerably cute, with an amusing waddling star and a charming kiss-off: Basically, the kid gets another, apparently female toy penguin for Christmas, meaning a) Monty gets a life partner with whom he can make baby penguins and b) children throughout the land immediately start bothering their parents for a toy penguin. Fair enough really, that’s how commerce works.
My only observation to this story would be that penguins are the only other species on Earth other than humans, who use sex for personal advancement. Seriously, it’s true. Lady penguins trade sex with horny males, for pebbles and stones, which they use to make their nests. FASCINATING FACT.
Cuddliness of advert: 7/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 4/10
2015: MAN ON THE MOON, accompanied by Aurora Aksnes covering Oasis’s Half The World Away.
Also known as ‘The Year It All Went Wrong’. Seriously, what WERE John Lewis thinking of here? You remember this – the macabre tale of a freakish evil fairytale pensioner exiled to live on the moon, and the horrible little girl with a telescope, spying on his every move as he lives out his final days in lunar solitude?
It was an advert that warmed no cockles at all, merely posed lots of uncomfortable questions. What horrific crime has the old man committed to lead to his planetary banishment? And why does the girl send him a telescope for Christmas, so that he can watch her watching him? Just how self-centred can one child be?
Absolutely horrific, like finding out that one of your Christmas Day pigs in blankets is a human finger.
Cuddliness of advert: 0/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 9/10
2016: BUSTER THE BOXER, accompanied by Vaults covering Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away.
You can’t accuse John Lewis of not learning by their mistakes. After 2015’s debacle, they went back to basics, which in their case means ‘adorable animals doing human stuff’. In a nutshell: Couple set up a big trampoline for their daughter so that when she wakes up on Christmas day, it’s ready and waiting for her, but before she gets a chance to use it, loads of woodland creatures – pretty much everything you see in the 2013 debacle, apart from a bear, basically – pile onto it for a bounce-off.
The whole industry was looking to John for a strong, sure-footed showing after the previous year’s trauma, and all it took was some bouncing foxes and badgers to deliver. Good music too. Result, lads.
Cuddliness of advert: 9/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 1/10
2017: MOZ THE MONSTER, accompanied by Elbow covering The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers
An advert that poses more questions than it answers, and not just, ‘So is this a rip-off of a 1980s children’s book then?’ Because it’s not readily apparent what the advert is, y’know, TRYING TO SAY. Kid has a monster living under his bed, parents buy him a night-light from John Lewis, the monster vanishes. Must be a done deal, right?
But the thing is, by the end of the advert, the nipper and the monster are best mates. They’re having a right load of laughs together. He shouldn’t WANT the monster to go. And yet his parents give him his fancy lamp and that’s exactly what happens. What’s the message here? John Lewis has presents so good, they’ll make you sack off your mates? John Lewis: The go-to store for parents who don’t really pay attention to what’s happening in their kids’ lives?
The bit when Moz farts is funny though.
Cuddliness of advert: 5/10
Dreariness of soundtrack: 4/10
Weird fact to finish: Did you know that every John Lewis Christmas ad is precisely 2 minutes and 11 seconds in length? Well, now you do.
This blog was composed by Small Man Media’s Writer Monkey Pete Cashmore. For Christmas this year, Pete hopes to receive ‘just a load of posh cheese, really’.