Pengaddendum: Xmas 2014

Three news bulletins for penguins on the 19th, and now, as we sink into the commercial Christmas season (which in the US began the day after Halloween but is conventionally inaugurated by Black Friday, the day after US Thanksgiving, this Friday), a combination of penguin news and holiday news: the 2014 John Lewis Christmas commercial, featuring a young boy, Sam, and his pet penguin, Monty:

(#1) You can watch the advert here

The sharp-edged Telegraph story about the ad, by Harry Wallop and Graham Ruddick on 11/12/14:

Today sees the start of the countdown to Christmas: the launch of the John Lewis advert.

The advert kickstarts the retail industry’s assault on our pockets between now and December 25.

The season is one during which retailers go all out to attract shoppers to part with their money via the medium of the humble television advert.

… The 60-second film has been made by Adam&Eve/DDB, the agency that has created most of the department store’s commercials, and it ticks many tried-and-tested John Lewis boxes.

There is an old song, covered by an upcoming pop star.

This time, however, the singer is not a breathy young woman, but a breathy young man: Tom Odell, who squeezes every drop of emotion out of the lesser known John Lennon song, “Real Love”.

No one speaks, the story is told just through the pictures and the song: “Just like little girls and boys / playing with their little toys / seems all we really were doing / was waiting for love.”

There is snow (fake, it was filmed in July), there is a Christmas tree, there is a nice middle class family from east London (a lot of it was filmed in Victoria Park, Hackney).

And there is nothing so crass as a shot of a John Lewis shop.

… John Lewis returns to the simple – and tear-duct inducing guarantee – formula of a cute boy waiting for December 25th.

He spends his time playing with his friend, who happens to be a real-life penguin. The penguin looks very realistic, though it turns out it was filmed using CGI.

Sam, the boy, and Monty, the penguin, go to the park, they play Lego, they bounce on the trampoline together. But Sam realises that Monty is lonely, that he looks wistfully at couples holding hands on the bus [and kissing on tv and on a park bench].

So, for Christmas Sam gets Monty the one thing he really wants: a mate. Under the tree on Christmas morning is Mabel, a lady penguin. [And then Monty and Mabel are transformed into stuffed penguins, which you can buy at John Lewis.]

(#2) Big — 17.7 in. and 19.7 in. — and expensive

The message is clearly that John Lewis, is not just a high street shop, selling casseroles and linen, but love itself.

The company denies that the story owes anything to the bestselling “Lost and Found” children’s book by Oliver Jeffers, which also features a boy, a lonely penguin and a search for a mate.

It is curious how a department store, and a pretty unglitzy one at that, has come to define such a key part of the festive season. Especially considering John Lewis didn’t advertise on television until 2007.

On the store, from Wikipedia:

John Lewis is a chain of high-end department stores operating throughout the United Kingdom. The chain is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, which was created alongside the first store in the mid-1800s. The first John Lewis store was opened in 1864 in Oxford Street, London. The chain’s slogan is “Never Knowingly Undersold” which has been in use since 1925.

There are 48 stores throughout England, Scotland and Wales, including 12 “At Home” stores, and “flexible format” stores in Exeter and York. The first John Lewis concession opened in New South Wales, Australia in November 2016.

… The John Lewis Christmas advert was first launched in 2007 and it has since become something of an annual tradition in British culture, and one of the signals that the countdown to Christmas has begun in the UK.

What, you ask, about this year’s commercial? From the Guardian, “John Lewis Christmas ad 2017: watch the video of Moz the monster: See the chain’s £7m campaign, filmed by an Oscar-winning director and featuring Elbow’s cover of a classic Beatles tune” by Sarah Butler and Mark Sweney on 11/10/17:

(#3) Moz and Joe; you can watch the ad(vert) here

Some of the world’s top creative minds have been employed. Millions have been spent. The film has been months in the making and shrouded in secrecy. But this is not the release of a Hollywood blockbuster – it is the launch of the John Lewis Christmas advertising campaign.

Over the past decade the department store chain has turned its festive adverts into an annual media moment. It has produced a stream of heart-warming, tear-jerking ads, from a romance between two snowmen, to Monty the Penguin, the sad tale of a lonely man on the moon and last year’s bouncing boxer dog. This year it has once again pulled out all the stops to come up with a memorable campaign featuring Moz, a huge, snoring under-the-bed monster with puppy dog eyes.

Academy award-winning screenwriter Michel Gondry, the director behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, was called in to make the two-minute TV advert. Aside from working with middle England’s favourite shop he is known for his video collaborations with artists including Radiohead, Björk and Daft Punk.

The soundtrack to the ad is a classic Beatles song, Golden Slumbers from the 1969 Abbey Road album, re-recorded by rock band Elbow.

And of course there’s a plush toy:

(#4) On sale for £20

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