Can John Lewis tackle 2020? Creatives give us their Christmas advert predictions

Yuri Suzuki, Ana and Hermeti Balarin, Maria Mahfooz, Alex Gamsu Jenkins and Jenny Brewer pitch their visions for the most anticipated Christmas ad of this most unexpected (and unwanted) year.

3 November 2020
Reading Time
5 minute read

Around this time every year, in normal times, the It’s Nice That team would be eagerly awaiting emails flurrying in from ad agencies and brands with their Christmas advert offerings.

Over the years we’ve been surprised (Wes Anderson for H&M!), overjoyed (the Sainsbury’s plug), slightly disappointed (Elton John!?) and teary (don’t bring up the penguin from 2014), with the results drummed up to get us feeling more festive than we’d care to admit. This year however the announcement of Christmas adverts feels quite trivial, given that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, witnessing a history-making election across the pond, and just generally extremely on edge most of the time. In equal measure the need for the best Christmas advert ever is unnecessary but oddly extremely important, given how these adverts now have all our hopes, dreams and fears pegged to them to bring the nation together.

While Sainsbury’s, Ikea and even Walkers crisps have created some of our favourites, the one brand which persists to dominate speculation and conversation on Christmas adverts is John Lewis. And while industry folk always love to hark on about how the production of these adverts begins way in advance, surely this year we’re in for an advert that reflects these “turbulent times”?

As we wait for the press release to hit our collective inbox, the It’s Nice That team questioned a group of creatives with what they believe is in store for us this year. Here’s our gut predictions and some of our old favourites.

Pentagram Partner, Yuri Suzuki

Carefully chosen to pull on our heartstrings, music has always played a big part in the John Lewis Christmas ads. The first ad (in 2007) had a classical soundtrack courtesy of Provokiev, but since then something of a formula has been established.

First choose an underrated track with a catchy chorus that’s ripe for rediscovery, slow it down and add breathy (mainly female but not always) vocals from an undiscovered/up-and-coming artist. Then add soaring strings and minor keys, combine this with a storyline featuring a cute kid or animal plus a cross-generational/ interspecies relationship and a happy ending, and everyone’s eyes are sure to leak.

However 2020 has been a year unlike any other, so maybe John Lewis will acknowledge this with its choice of music? Charlie XCX covering the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive? Or how about Nicki Minaj covering The Police’s Don’t Stand so Close to Me? Or maybe as lockdown threatens to seriously disrupt the festive season, 100 Gecs covering the Mud classic Lonely This Christmas?

Or perhaps it will take an unashamedly nostalgic approach by using Wham!’s Last Christmas, taking us back to carefree, Covid-free Christmasses past? It could simply recycle bits from its previous ads, stick them together and donate most of the usual fee to charity…

We don’t need a Christmas ad to make us feel sad this year, as 2020 has already provided plenty of opportunities for that. Maybe instead of taking the predictable route (no doubt featuring PPE, Zoom and Captain Tom), John Lewis will surprise us? Instead of using the two and a half minutes of precious airtime to make us sob into our Waitrose mince pies, perhaps it will use them to try and cheer us all up instead?

Mother creatives, Ana and Hermeti Balarin

This Christmas is the least predictable since advertising records began, so writing an ad with that much expectation is always going to be tricky. I wouldn’t be surprised if John Lewis have totally pulled the tinsel over all our eyes already with this teaser.

Artist Maria Mahfooz

This tweet nailed it TBH, but an alternative would be some animated cartoon Santa wearing a mask and trying to navigate social distancing as he breaks in to people’s homes to drop off hand sanitiser… Also him being sad he can’t visit depressing shopping malls to host his grotto greets and elves knocking over themselves to tie a mask on their pointy ears. (Maria’s own drawing of how this may play out is pictured above!)

Illustrator Alex Gamsu Jenkins

This year's ad will show a family of hibernating and isolated, velvety stop motion squirrels. But they are all separated on different trees and longingly looking out their tree den windows as the doom and gloom of 2020's events and issues unfold outside. The seasons will pass by and everything seems to be getting lonelier, gloomier and colder as winter draws in.

But all will prevail on Christmas eve though, as they attach their heartwarming gifts and messages to dried dandelion seeds and float them into the sky and they light up the night somehow like Chinese lanterns and fall to each other. Even though they aren't together they lovingly clutch their gifts and look up to the sky, knowing they are there for each other. This will all be played out whilst James Taylor's You've got a Friend is sung by a school choir, along with a Hawaiian ukulele.

It's Nice That news editor Jenny Brewer

We open on a snowy, suburban street, lawns filled with gaudy decorations but not a person in sight. Marcus Mumford sings a pared back, piano cover of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. A kid kicks a ball to a snowman. The snowman doesn’t kick it back. He looks disappointedly up at the sky. A bird poops on his bobble hat.

But then, he hears something… a crunching of snow down the street. A glimmer of hope in his eyes, he turns to face the hill at the end of the street. A shiny orb peaks over the hill. The boy squints in disbelief. Is that, grandad, in a Zorb ball? We zoom in to grandad, who looks uncannily like Captain Tom, laughing as he Zorbs towards the house, present in hand. Behind him, grandma with her Christmas trifle, mum with the turkey, Uncle Dave with the roasted parsnips teetering on a tray.

The family and their neighbours roll towards the street for a Christmas gathering like no other! Our protagonist climbs into his own Zorb ready for the gathering. Christmas is saved! But wait, they’re going a bit faster, maybe too fast? Nan’s trifle is everywhere. Mum rolling around in turkey juice. Dave has parsnips smushed up his nose. It’s a total mess. We pan out to see the destruction and finish on our tagline: 2020, the year that keeps on giving. Always Zorb responsibly.

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Maria Mahfooz: John Lewis Christmas prediction sketch 2020

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.

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