John Lewis Christmas adverts are known for pulling at the heartstrings with their heartwarming tales set to tear-jerking acoustic renditions of classic hits.
But this year, viewers won’t be reaching for the tissues.
The retailer has opted for a bright, joyous campaign, themed around celebrating traditions old and new – and for only the second time in 16 years of festive ads it’s used an original track.
He plants it, and is delighted to see that instead of the typical festive fir, his pot is sprouting an animated, carnivorous Venus flytrap, dubbed ‘Snapper, the perfect tree’.
The retailer has opted for a bright, joyous campaign, the theme of which is the celebration of traditions – and has for only the second time in 16 years of festive ads set the feature to an original track, by Andrea Bocelli
Much to the panic of his family, the plant – called ‘Snapper’ – grows and grows, soon towering over little Alfie and his parents.
The next scenes show a blossoming friendship between Alfie, who is played by first-time child actor Teddy from Bournemouth.
The boy and plant are two peas in a pod. Snapper flips the pages while Alfie reads, and the pair even do arts and crafts together.
But much like a badly-behaved puppy, the plant causes a ruckus in the household by chewing decorations, chasing after the family dog and knocking over lamps and furniture.
Finally frustrated, a dejected Alfie has to watch Snapper be cast away into the cold snow.
They replace the Venus flytrap with a conventional pine tree while boy sadly looks on, missing his friend.
On the other side of the window, a wistful Snapper watches the family celebrate without him.
However on Christmas morning, Alfie steps out in the garden and goes to pet his beloved plant, shaking off his frost and snow.
The heartwarming tale – which was unveiled this morning – follows a little boy called Alfie, who asks his grandmother for a seed to ‘grow your own perfect Christmas tree’
Much to the panic of his family, the plant – called ‘Snapper’ – grows and grows, soon towering over little Alfie and his parents
He plants a present down at the base of the plant, and soon – the rest of the family joins.
Snapper gobbles the offerings up, spitting out plenty of festive gifts for the family, presenting everything from headphones to Lego sets and slippers.
Andrea’s theatrical repetition of the lyrics ‘la vita è una festa’ – meaning life is a celebration’ – provides an inspiring melodic composition that matches the tone and mood of each shot.
The retailer’s theme this year is the marking of old and new festive traditions with the strapline ‘Let Your Traditions Grow’.
The campaign – the first by Saatchi and Saatchi for John Lewis – aims to capture how the unusual and unexpected, over the conventionally ‘perfect’, can lead to a joyful time together for everyone.
Charlotte Lock, Customer Director for John Lewis, said the campaign aims to honour both the old and new.
The campaign – the first by Saatchi and Saatchi for John Lewis – aims to capture how the unusual and unexpected, over the conventionally ‘perfect’, can lead to a joyful time together for everyone
The ad shows the little plant growing into an animated – and at times overly spirited – Venus flytrap
In the feature, while Alfie’s family is scared of the plant, the little boy is absolutely enchanted by it
‘We are a nation that loves the traditions of Christmas – from classic traditions like pantos and putting up the tree to evolving new ones like crafting our own presents and Zoom get-togethers,’ she explained.
‘Many of us have our own unique festive traditions and that makes them even more special.
‘The film celebrates themes of family and evolving traditions and shows that a “perfect” Christmas is finding joy together with loved ones, whatever your traditions.’
Andrea Bocelli performs a song called “Festa”, which means “celebration”, and is written and produced by Le Feste Antonacci specifically for the John Lewis advert.
‘I am delighted to take part in this wonderful and unique tradition of Christmas storytelling,’ Andrea remarked.
‘It is very special for me given the great support this will bring to both the John Lewis and Andrea Bocelli foundations. Joy to all of your worlds this Christmas!’
Finally frustrated, a dejected Alfie has to watch Snapper be cast away into the cold snow. They replace the Venus flytrap with a conventional pine tree while boy sadly looks on, missing his friend
Andrea’s theatrical repetition of the lyrics ‘la vita è una festa’ – meaning life is a celebration’ – provides an inspiring melodic composition that matches the tone and mood of each shot
Snapper gobbles the offerings up, spitting out plenty of festive gifts for the family, presenting everything from headphones to Lego sets and slippers
The soundtrack will be released in longer form as a charity single with a proportion of the proceeds from the sale of the single going to the John Lewis Partnership’s Building Happier Futures charities, which help care experienced young people and families in need.
There is plenty of merch to go round as well – The Snapper collection will be available in all John Lewis shops as well as online, and selected Waitrose stores.
Products include plushies of the plant, a Christmas card with seeds and even a children’s story book telling the festive tale.
In a first for John Lewis and Kew Gardens, Snapper will also be part of the iconic Christmas at Kew light trail.
Andrea Bocelli – pictured – performs a song called ‘Festa’, which means ‘celebration’, and is written and produced by Le Feste Antonacci specifically for the John Lewis advert
Product shorts featuring Snapper using products available to John Lewis – including a Dyson hair dryer and Estee Lauder serum – will also feature.
Sarah Jenkins, Managing Director, Saatchi & Saatchi added that it’s an ‘extraordinary privilege to be working with the John Lewis Partnership’.
‘It’s particularly magical to be launching a campaign that celebrates all of the traditions – both eternal and evolving – that make Christmas so special to the nation,’ she continued.
‘The race to be the number one Christmas ad brings extra festive spice and is such a brilliant embodiment of the skills and smarts of the UK’s incredible creative industries. We’re raising a glass to all.’
A carnivorous pot plant doesn’t exactly scream Christmas, but John Lewis may have pulled it off, says CLAUDIA CONNELL
Something tells me there will be a surplus of dead or unwanted Venus flytraps tossed on to compost heaps in the new year.
Why? Because John Lewis has decided to make the carnivorous plant the unlikely star of their Christmas 2023 advert, which gets its first TV airing tomorrow night but goes online today.
And, aware of the demand it will create, they’ll be selling real ones in stores, alongside an array of other Venus flytrap goods. Imagine the disappointment of children up and down the country when theirs doesn’t reach 20ft high and start performing tricks like ‘Snapper’ does in the commercial!
A flurry of Christmas adverts have been released in recent days, but let’s be honest – John Lewis is the biggie.
Since it first embraced the epic festive ad back in 2007, theirs has become the most anticipated, discussed, dissected and watched.
A victim of their own success, it puts the store under immense pressure to hit exactly the right note – especially after a turbulent year for sales. Dispensing with the services of their old agency, John Lewis has brought in the big guns at Saatchi & Saatchi. But have they delivered?
Well, an insect-gobbling pot plant doesn’t exactly scream ‘Christmas’, but, I believe they’ve pulled it off.
The story starts with a young lad visiting an antiques market with his gran (a nice big tick in the grandparent box). He spots what claims to be a ‘grow your own Christmas tree’ seed box which he buys and plants.
But instead of a tree, it’s a Venus flytrap and no ordinary one at that. Snapper grows to ceiling height and starts to cause chaos in the home. It breaks ornaments, torments the family’s pet Pomeranian (yes, a cuddly toy version will be available soon) and, despite the wee lad’s attachment, his meanie mum moves it into the garden and puts a traditional Christmas tree in its place.
On Christmas morning, the boy, missing his friend, looks out at the forlorn plant in the frosty garden and decides he wants his presents placed under Snapper instead of the living room tree.
The whole family – consisting of two kids, Gran and Mum – joins him. Snapper then grabs and appears to eat all the presents until – wait for it – he spews them out again in a spray of glitter.
Eschewing their usual trick of setting the ad to a slushy cover of a well-known song, this one features an original piece of stirring operatic music performed by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. John Lewis gets the balance of melancholy, cuteness and humour just right. I genuinely burst out laughing when Snapper started vomiting out the family’s presents and Teddy Holton-Frances, an eight-year-old from Bournemouth who plays the young boy, is adorable.
The production team have borrowed heavily from Little Shop Of Horrors, the 1986 musical about a giant carnivorous plant. The only difference is that one ate people, which may well have been a step too far for John Lewis.
Especially as every Christmas advert must also deliver an uplifting message, too. In the case of John Lewis, it’s a nod to the changing way we celebrate and how true joy is found when we let go of the need to make everything pristine and perfect.
Sound familiar? I can’t help feeling Saatchi & Saatchi might be wishing they could unleash an ad-executive-eating Venus flytrap on the M&S team, who beat them to that very message with their own festive offering last week.
John Lewis says the advert is built around its own research into our changing festive habits. They found one third of families now have two trees and many prefer to spend the day in pyjamas — just like the family in the ad do. Mum is even wearing her £42 Snapper pyjamas.
Remember though, kids, a Venus flytrap is for life, not just for Christmas.
Remember these? Edgar the Dragon, Bouncing Buster, the Man on the Moon, Montie the penguin and a star turn from Sir Elton John – EVERY past John Lewis Christmas advert
The eagerly-awaited John Lewis Christmas commercial has become something of a festive tradition.
Every year, fans gather in front of their TVs to watch the latest offering, before sharing it with their friends and family and – in recent years – broadcasting their opinions online.
The John Lewis ads started in 2007 and here you can revisit every single one.
2022: THE BEGINNER
Titled ‘The Beginner’, the 2022 festive clip told the story of a foster father learning to skateboard in the run-up to Christmas.
The hapless skater collected many bruises and scrapes along the way, but persevered with his new hobby – even doing homework by watching skating tutorials at work.
When Christmas Day comes around, it was finally revealed that the character had been training in order to impress the foster child, Ellie, who was coming to stay with him and his wife over the holidays. She was welcomed into their home clutching a skateboard – bedecked with stickers – close to her chest.
And appropriately, the ad was set to a slow rendition of skater-pop anthem Blink-182’s ‘All The Small Things’ – a more upbeat choice than the ballads usually selected.
2021: UNEXPECTED GUEST
The retailer’s two-minute ad in 2021, titled ‘Unexpected Guest’, featured a young boy introducing an alien to Christmas traditions, before she emotionally departed back to her home planet.
It starred space traveller Skye crash-landing at the height of festivities in the woods near the home of 14-year-old Nathan, who introduced her to the traditions of eating mince pies, decorating the tree and, to her slight confusion, wearing novelty jumpers.
The soundtrack was provided by London singer and songwriter Lola Young, who performed a cover of Together In Electric Dreams, originally released by Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder in 1984.
The ad started with Nathan, who on his way home from school spotted a flashing light in the distance and chased it to the woods beside his home. It was here he encountered space traveller Skye and her spaceship.
2020: GIVE A LITTLE LOVE
The 2020 campaign hoped to raise a smile with light-hearted scenes of magical flying snowmen, supersized Christmas crackers and a hedgehog who dreams of being a pigeon.
The two-minute commercial showed how small acts of kindness can alleviate loneliness and bring joy to people who are quietly struggling.
Told through a series of nine interconnecting vignettes, the ad followed a chain reaction of good deeds that changed someone else’s life in small but meaningful ways.
Each scene was done in a different style, from hand-drawn animation to claymation and cinematography.
2019: EDGAR THE DRAGON
Last year’s offering starred an excitable and accident-prone dragon called Edgar who lives in a freezing mythical village with his red-headed best friend Ava.
In the heart-warming and funny ad the pair try were forced to quell his disastrous fire-breathing after it threatened to destroy the festive period for everyone as a giant Christmas tree was flamed, a snowman was destroyed and the local ice rink melted.
It marks the first time the department store joined with sister brand Waitrose for a festive commercial. After a mixed response to the 2018 ad, which featured Elton John and charted his rise from childhood, the new ad seemed to be a return to formula.
2018 – The Boy And The Piano
The retailer ended a decade of heart-warming tearjerkers featuring loveable animals and charming children last year when it featured Sir Elton John in its Christmas ad.
It charted the singer’s rise from humble beginnings to fame and fortune.
The mini-biopic, set to his 1970 hit Your Song, showed how one present can change a life and ended with a four-year-old Elton unwrapping his first piano on Christmas Day in 1951.
The £7million advert then cutsto the emotional 71-year-old playing the same instrument while thinking about his mother Sheila, who died in 2017 aged 92, followed by the slogan: ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’.
However, it was panned by some who thought that it focused more on the singer than on Christmas.
Some fans were also disappointed that cuddly stars such as Montie the penguin and Moz the monster were jettisoned for a celebrity-endorsed campaign.
2017 – Moz The Monster
2017’s effort featured the story of a boy who befriends the monster under his bed, with the music a cover of The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers by rock band Elbow.
It left viewers in tears over the mischievous and flatulent monster called Moz and his relationship with a seven-year-old soulmate – with fans comparing it to Disney’s much-loved Monsters Inc.
The giant furry monster with a bulbous nose, wonky teeth and a love of snoring, jumped out from under the bed every night to play with companion Joe in a festive tale making many laugh and cry.
The little boy, aged 7, who is played by young twin brothers from London named Ethan and Tobias, is initially frightened after seeing a pair of enormous eyes peering from the dark under his bed.
But the two unlikely friends are shown sharing games, playing piggyback and Scalextric in his bedroom – all without mum, dad, or older sister finding out.
2016 – Buster The Boxer
Buster the Boxer and his trampoline antics was the star of the 2016 edition.
John Lewis said the advert where the dog, played by five-year-old Biff, beats a young girl to her new toy was their attempt to cheer up Britain after a ‘tough year’.
The advert told the story of a little girl called Bridget who loves to jump.
Set to a cover version of ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’, her mother and father buy her a trampoline, toiling while she sleeps to build it before hiding it in the garden to surprise her with on Christmas Day. As the snow falls an array of animals start using it as the Boxer watches forlornly through the window.
The next morning Bridget sprints out to use it for the first time but her joy turns to shock as cheeky Buster has the last laugh and uses her new toy before her.
2015 – Man On The Moon
In 2015, a lonely Man on the Moon is shown to viewers sitting by himself on a bench, completely unaware that he is being observed by the youngster back down on Earth
The elderly man, played by a 77-year-old French actor called Jean, gazes up wistfully towards the Earth, as the Oasis song Half The World Away, performed by 19-year-old Norwegian singer Aurora plays mournfully in the background.
She tries desperately to send him a message but all her efforts fail, while he remains unaware that anyone cares about him and sits alone on a bench, wistfully staring up at the Earth.
Eventually, on Christmas morning, a present arrives from the sky, carried by party balloons, and the old man unwraps it to reveal a vintage telescope.
He uses it to spot Lily and, realising that someone cares about him, his eyes fill with tears.
2014 – Monty The Penguin
In 2014, John Lewis hoped the bond between a boy and a penguin would capture the public’s imagination.
The two-minute festive commercial told the story of seven-year-old Sam, played by actor Rhys Edwards from Hertfordshire, and his friend Monty.
The boy gradually realises Monty is longing for a penguin companion. And so on Christmas morning Sam surprises Monty with the gift of a new penguin friend named Mabel.
The soundtrack was John Lennon’s song Real Love, performed by Tom Odell.
2013 – The Bear And The Hare
In 2013, the £7million Disney-inspired advert told the story of a selfless hare who is determined to make sure his best friend, a bear, doesn’t miss Christmas for once.
The commercial features the tale of two good friends, a bear and a hare, who are sad at the thought of being separated for Christmas.
The tale opens as winter is starting to draw in and the fun and excitement of preparing for Christmas begins.
As the first snowflake falls and lands on the bear’s nose, the hare starts to feel sad because he realises his friend will soon go off to hibernate, so – as usual – missing Christmas.
While the bear is keen to join in, eventually he finds he cannot hold off his winter sleep any longer and disappears into his cave.
Viewers see the bear fast asleep while all the other woodland creatures become excited about the big day to come.
However, the hare is missing his friend and finds it increasingly difficult to join in the preparations until the moment he has a great idea for a very special present.
He disappears off in to the wilderness to return with the gift – an alarm clock – which wakes the bear just in time to gather around a beautifully decorated tree to celebrate with all his friends.
2012 – The Journey
The Christmas ad from 2012, called The Journey, shows the extraordinary lengths to which some will go in their search for a gift for someone they love.
The 90-second commercial opens in a family’s snow-covered garden, with children happily making a snowman and snowwoman.
When the snowman mysteriously disappears the next morning, the viewer is transported to a magical world, following him on an epic journey across river, mountain, road and city.
The motive for the snowman’s secret journey isn’t revealed until the last scene, when he returns on Christmas morning with gifts for his wife.
Gabrielle Aplin sings The Power Of Love, the 1984 hit from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, as the soundtrack.
2011 – The Long Wait
In 2011, the John Lewis advert showed a young boy desperately excited about Christmas.
He eagerly counts down the days to December 25 with viewers left to imagine he is looking forward to getting presents.
However, it is revealed at the end that he actually couldn’t wait to give presents to his parents.
It was accompanied by a cover of The Smiths’ Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’.
2010 – A Tribute To Givers
The 2010 offering saw individuals choosing and wrapping their presents in the lead up to the big day, as Ellie Goulding sings a cover of Elton John’s Your Song.
Various people furtively hide the presents they’ve carefully chosen.
Parents sneak a rocking horse upstairs while their children’s backs are turned; a mechanic struggles to wrap a spotted teapot; and a small boy braves the snow in his dressing gown to hang a stocking outside his dog’s kennel.
2009 – Sweet Child O’ Mine
2009 was the first of the store’s Christmas campaigns created by advertising agency Adam & Eve.
It was also the first to feature a musical cover by a current artist, on this occasion a Taken By Trees version of Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses.
The ad shows children opening gifts for adults including a laptop, coffee machine and handbag.
It’s followed by the tagline: ‘Remember how Christmas used to feel? Give someone that feeling.’
2008 – From Me To You
Culminating in the tagline: ‘If you know the person, you’ll find the present,’ the 2008 version shows a succession of characters followed by a matching gift.
The soundtrack is a cover of The Beatles’ From Me To You recorded for the campaign.
It included vocals by Matt Spinner, a member of the John Lewis IT department and its music society.
2007 – Shadows
The first John Lewis Christmas ad shows a group of people stacking a pile of potential gifts including a desktop lamp, a computer and a leather satchel in an empty room.
The finished product ends up creating a shadow that looks like a woman walking her dog through the snow.
It is accompanied by the tagline: ‘Whoever you’re looking for this Christmas.’