Each year, fans eagerly await the retailer’s big festive campaign, which usually has high production value alongside a tear-jerking storyline and commissioned music by big artists.
However, this year the advert takes a much more toned down approach in order to highlight a serious issue, while retaining some signature John Lewis touches like light humour and a slowed-down song cover.
The advert, titled “The Beginner”, follows the launch of the Building Happier Futures programme from the John Lewis Partnership.
Through the programme, the retailer has made a long-term multi-year commitment to help young people in the care system to find meaningful careers, among other initiatives.
The advert is set to a cover of Blink-182’s “All The Small Things”, sung by US artist Mike Geier of the Puddles Pity Party. The cover was recorded around five years ago and was not commissioned by John Lewis especially for the Christmas campaign.
The clip follows a middle-aged man who tries over and over again to learn how to skateboard. He tumbles and trips, but keeps trying even after sustaining minor injuries.
One day, as he and his spouse are preparing a meal, there is a knock on the door. Behind it is a social worker with a young teenage girl named Ellie who appears nervous about entering what will be her new foster home.
Ellie is holding a skateboard, and spots the man’s skateboard inside the living room. They smile bashfully at one another and it become clear to the viewer that he took up skateboarding as a way to connect with his new foster child and welcome her into their home.
Viewers are then informed that more than 108,000 children are in the care system in the UK. According to John Lewis, Ellie’s story is just “one portrait” and aims to highlight the different experiences of a complex care system.
In partnership with Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland, the retailer is encouraging shoppers to help by purchasing its Lewis Bear products as 25 per cent of the sales from these items will go to the charities.
Products include a £30 plush Lewis Bear toy, as well as Lewis Bear pyjamas, tote bags and baubles. Shoppers can also make the donation by purchasing a Rampage Skateboard (£34.99) or a Waitrose Christmas Yule Log.
Giving trees set up in John Lewis stores will also give customers the chance to donate by taking a tag from the tree with a value between £5 to £50 and scanning it alongside their shop.
Claire Pointon, director of customer at John Lewis, said: “We are fortunate to have a truly unique platform in our Christmas ad, which sparks a national conversation.
“For our biggest moment of the year, we decided to focus on one kind of family that is often overlooked. We are also very aware that not all care experience outcomes are as positive as Ellie’s. The home Ellie enters is filled with kindness, and the foster father’s actions demonstrate that ultimately, it’s what you do that matters most.”
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, added: “Every year, we work with over 40,000 children and young people in, or with experience of, the care system, and we know the challenges and poor outcomes they may face.
“We are delighted to be working with the John Lewis Partnership on its iconic Christmas advert and applaud the company for its work and long-term commitment to shining a light on the issues facing some of the most vulnerable children in the country.”