Every year, the British retailer John Lewis pulls out all the stops on a single, cinematic Christmas ad.
You might remember last year’s tearjerker, with a lonely old man on the moon and a fateful glance through a telescope.
This year, though, John Lewis took a different route: less pulling on heartstrings, more tickling of funny bones.
See for yourself. Here’s the ad, starring Buster the Boxer, a small army of CGI woodland creatures and “a little girl called Bridget who loves to bounce.”
(Seriously, watch it before you read on. It’s not long!)
The change in tone was intentional, the company’s head of brand marketing tells The Telegraph.
“We still had a great response for Man on the Moon, but there were a few murmurings about it being a bit sad,” Rachel Swift told the newspaper. “We’ve really been thinking about that.”
“A bit sad” might be an understatement …
At any rate, John Lewis wasn’t looking for tears this time around.
“2016 has certainly been quite a year,” Customer Director Craig Inglis said in a press release. “We hope our advert will make people smile.”
The curmudgeonly among you might well complain that it’s just an ad — part of the crass commercialization of Christmas. And, yes, this is an even-more-monetized ad than usual … you can buy a stuffed version of Buster (with some of the proceeds going to a wildlife charity!) and download the soundtrack.
But by this point, the John Lewis adverts are a national tradition in the United Kingdom. People were literally counting down the days until the ad was released. In fact, they were so impatient that a student project in the style of the John Lewis ads went viral this week.
Now that the real deal is out, some Britons have found the comic ad the perfect “tonic” after the surprising results of the U.S. election, according to the Evening Standard.
But The Guardian sees things differently. The British newspaper has a bit of a history when it comes to contrarian takes on the John Lewis ads — last year, writer Stuart Heritage looked at the “Man on the Moon” video and asked, “how is he still alive without any oxygen?” and “Is he a war criminal?”
Heritage is at it again this year. He points out that Bridget, the little girl in the ad, loves to jump on her bed. She’s been preparing her whole life to jump on “the trampoline of her dreams.” Then she finally has her shot at her life’s main goal and, well, you might see where this is going:
“But then, at the last moment, Buster barges in ahead of her and grabs the trampoline for himself. Bridget stands on, astonished that something as stupid as a dog could have beaten her to it. Meanwhile, Buster gets his stupid dog mouth and his stupid dog parasites all over the trampoline, ruining it for anyone who ever wanted to use it afterwards.
“That’s right, Buster the dog is Donald Trump. Buster the dog is Donald Trump, Bridget is Hillary Clinton and the trampoline is America. Thanks for rubbing it in, John Lewis. …
“Watch the advert while listening to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. I dare you. It’s heartbreaking. John Lewis, you’ve done the impossible. You’ve made 2016 worse.”
Twitter user @KatieWeasel has a different kind of disappointing spin on the animal antics.
In the mood for tears instead of a chuckle? You can always turn to a John Lewis ad from years past. If the “Man in the Moon” didn’t have you sobbing at your desk, maybe “Monty the Penguin” will — or the heartwarming tale of the “Bear and the Hare.”