Selling Mum by the pound…
There were a couple of things I intended to write about this week, but then I saw this advert, and changed my mind.
Aside from being a staggeringly well made piece of television, it's also an interesting example of how to use emotion to reach a cynical and jaded – perhaps even fearful – audience.
After watching it, I took a look on Twitter to see what was being said. Anecdotally, there appears to be a distinct split between men and women in how the ad is being received. Women find it mawkish, while men are surprisingly willing to admit to having been moved to tears by the 90 second life story that unfolds. Unsurprisingly, there's something behind that…
Ostensibly, the lyrics of the Billy Joel cover that provide the soundtrack are a love song about a quixotic and captivating woman, and the ad gives roughly equal time to her as child, mother and grandmother. Simple enough, eh? In reverse-Bond cliché, women want to be her, men want to be with her. Only judging by the responses, that doesn't actually seem to be the case.
So if the emotional core of the ad isn't romantic, where does it lie? To understand that requires understanding John Lewis' brand associations, which are pretty plainly spelled out at the end of the ad with the promise: 'Never knowingly undersold on quality, price and service. Our lifelong commitment to you'. The slogan evokes thoughts of constancy, loyalty and above all enduring reliability. Distinctly, hmm, parental qualities, perhaps?
In short, John Lewis have produced a love letter to Mothers.
In economically rational times, its difficult to say whether an emotional ad like this – which promotes a premium brand – will have all that much impact on the bottom line. Lord knows you can see a lot of money on screen during the minute-and-a-half it lasts which someone will be hoping to recoup.
But emotions abide, and from the genuine reactions the ad seems to provoke, who knows how many new customers will eventually be brought to the comforting bosom of John Lewis, wooed by the maternal charm of this extremely clever piece of advertising?