British retailer John Lewis has become almost synonymous with Christmas, thanks to its iconic and hotly anticipated festive TV ads. The release of the advert is always looked forward to each year, and is always ranked amongst the top Christmas TV adverts. From the subject to the soundtrack (which each year features a cover of a popular hit), there’s really nothing quite like a John Lewis advert to kick off the festive season.
From the famous Snowman advert that started the almost cult following, to recent iterations that tug at the heartstrings, we’ve rounded up some of the very best John Lewis Christmas TV ads from the last few years, for when you need a little bit of Christmas spirit.
The Journey, 2012
Without a doubt one of the most popular and memorable of all John Lewis Christmas ads, 2012’s snowman ad made quite the splash. With a soundtrack of Gabrielle Aplin’s cover of The Power of Love (originally by Frankie Goes to Hollywood), the advert deserves its place in the TV ad history books for cementing John Lewis as a firm festive favourite.
Following the 2011 advert’s success, The Journey cost £6m to make, and was created by ad agency Adam&EveDBB. The story follows a snowman who seemingly travels across rivers, through snow storms and over mountains to get his snowwoman companion that perfect Christmas gift.
The advert was a turning point for the formula that has become standard for John Lewis at Christmas (cover of a cult classic song + heartwarming narrative). Gabrielle Aplin secured the coveted Number 1 spot on the singles chart with The Power of Love.
The Beginner, 2022
2022’s John Lewis advert didn’t feature a colourful animation or a loveable animal character but pulled on the nation’s heartstrings nonetheless. The ad features a foster father haplessly learning how to skateboard, so he can prepare to bond with his foster daughter who arrives at the ad’s conclusion.
The ad is set to All The Small Things, originally by Blink-182 and covered by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox featuring Puddles Pity Party. The advert spotlighted the UK’s need for more foster carers and closes with a message about the department store’s work with partners to help children in care as part of their Happier Futures Fund.
The Bear and the Hare, 2013
2013’s John Lewis Christmas ad is, so far, the only one to be 2D animated, and stands out amongst the pantheon. The advert follows a plucky duo of best friends – as it says on the tin, a bear and a hare – who wander together through their cartoon wood. The bear, naturally, has to hibernate once winter hits, leading the hare to feel lonely (and perhaps a touch of SAD).
The advert shows the bear hibernating through the days of winter, before eventually arriving at the forest clearing on Christmas Day to celebrate with the hare and all their woodland friends. It transpires that the hare dropped off a carefully wrapped present – an alarm clock, presumably from John Lewis – to make sure their friend didn’t miss the celebrations.
Lily Allen’s cover of Somewhere Only We Know reached the Number 1 spot after the advert’s popularity – following in the footsteps of Gabrielle Aplin’s soundtrack to the 2012 Snowman ad.
The Boy and the Piano, 2018
Undoubtedly the John Lewis ad with the most star quality, The Boy and the Piano follows Elton John’s journey through the years to become a global superstar. The ad follows the musician through the eras of his career – from a burgeoning singer in the recording studio to an icon with an arena full of screaming fans.
It all starts with a young Elton as a child coming downstairs to find a wrapped piano on Christmas Day. The ad ends with present-day Elton John smiling as he softly plays along with Your Song. A fitting tribute to one of the UK’s most-loved musicians.
Monty the Penguin, 2014
2014’s penguin Christmas ad is notable in particular for its merchandising. The ad was so popular that John Lewis launched a real soft toy version of Monty the penguin in stores, which sold out online within hours of launch and are still available on reseller sites.
The advert itself follows a young boy and his friend Monty, a penguin who follows him through all his daily activities – from riding the bus to building Lego creations. Before long, the boy notices that Monty is a little bit lonely and is craving companionship. Cut to Christmas Day, and the boy rushes downstairs to show Monty his gift: another penguin mate!
Of course, there is a little bit of the magic of Christmas at play, and the ad cuts to the boy’s mum. Through her eyes, we see that the penguins are indeed soft toys, and the heartwarming love story playing out for Monty is all a figment of the boy’s imagination.
Did your favourite festive TV advert make the list? Let us know which years you think were the best John Lewis Christmas adverts in the comments!