You’ve all seen ‘Man on the Moon’ by now. It is one of the most eagerly anticipated adverts of the Christmas season: within a day of release it’s got already over 2 million views. It does beg the question, though: is it actually advertising anything?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the ad. It is brilliantly put together, has two lovable characters and the soundtrack includes a heart-warming cover of Oasis’ ‘Half the World Away’. But unless John Lewis is stocking actual love on their shelves this Christmas, it’s hard to see what exactly they are trying to sell.

Adverts are of course meant to emotionally connect with viewers. John Lewis seems to be able to nail this every year and it does so without even needing a product. Surely an advert with no product (besides the telescope) can’t do that much to help sales?

I’m wrong.

Rachel Swift, the head of brand marketing at John Lewis, says that the John Lewis ads now have something of a winning formula. ‘It’s about storytelling through music and emotion. The sentiment behind our campaigns is always about thoughtful gifting.’

It was 2011 when John Lewis secured their place on TV as the go-to brand for feeling festive. That advert featured a young boy waiting impatiently for Christmas to come not because he wanted new toys, but so that he could give his parents a gift. Each year since has been on a similar tact: a cute snowman doing anything to give his girlfriend a present, an enduring friendship between the bear and the hare, and who could forget the boy who gave his pet penguin a friend for Christmas in last year’s campaign?


This generosity, by virtue of implication, is instilled into John Lewis’ customers. It’s all about giving. Man on the Moon forms a bond of trust between the customer and the brand. John Lewis in essence becomes the store where you can buy gifts that you’ll love giving.

This year, John Lewis has also partnered up with Age UK. They are raising money for some of the older people who may not have anyone dear this Christmas. This is of course a worthy cause, and links with the themes within the advert. Now, the separation and loneliness of the man in the advert makes sense.

So, is the Man on the Moon an advert?

It certainly makes you think about ‘John Lewis’. The campaign has drawn mass attention to the brand (be it through the video or not). It is also promoting a worthy cause in Age UK. As for the video itself, it doesn’t technically ‘advertise’ a product or service but on this occasion, wiping away the tears, I think we can let it off.


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