Ah, #manonthemoon – the true meaning of Christmas. Vile emotional manipulation filtered through the prism of unfettered capitalism, masquerading as a kindly old spinner of yarns. If the festive period isn’t for assuaging your guilt by shedding a tear at this annual emo-porn debacle, then I don’t know what is.
Why have we ceded control of our emotional state over to advertisers? Why do we feel the need to drip this incontinence all over social media? Why do we have to be told by adverts how we’re meant to feel about loneliness of elderly people at Christmas?
Lest we forget, the only reason this advert exists is so that you go into John Lewis – bereft of ideas for Christmas gifts – and spend a hundred quid on a load of tasteful, expensive shit no-one actually wants. That’s literally the only reason it exists: not because John Lewis are worried about old people being sad over the festive period.
And, frankly, if you cry at this advert you’re only indulging your most selfish instincts. Unless you go and do something about – give money to Age UK, see if the old dear next door is sorted for Christmas dinner or at least meet someone you know will be on their own for a pint on the big day – you’re simply feeling sorry for your entitled, mollycoddled self in allowing that salty seepage to roll down your chubby cheeks.
Ah, charity. The steel-coated fig leaf of protection for any manipulative advert. John Lewis has partnered with Age UK with this advert. That’s all well and good – and a net win on the utilitarian scale – but it’s all fairly cynical. Charity rather bulletproofs the company involved from criticism. Not only that it functions as a little dig in the direction of competitors, who are left standing naked in the middle of the ad break openly begging for your money.
I do not believe that anyone who works in advertising is evil. But an advert functions not as a cuddly expression of their collective will – but of dispassionate, monolithic need; a need for increased turnover, revenue, profits. A giant maw whose only need is to be fed and simply doesn’t care about penguins, snowmen or a lonely old man.
Unconvinced? Why not visit the ghosts of John Lewis Christmas adverts past, courtesy of the last five years of my review of their festive begging bowls?
• Here’s what I said about the Christmas John Lewis advert in 2014:
It’s that time of year when John Lewis returns to not simply tug at your heart-strings, but tighten them to such a degree they nearly snap and then pull at them the with the force of a scramjet, thereby ripping them out of your chest cavity and leaving a trail of bloody viscera across your living room.
You could set your clock by John Lewis adverts – not simply by when they turn up, but exactly what ingredients and in what order. It’s an equation, refined and reduced by lots of cash, but an equation nonetheless, designed as dispassionately and as calculatedly as engine mapping on a new car.
Weep and you weep at maths.
• Here’s what I said about the Christmas John Lewis advert in 2013:
Next year John Lewis will just be showing that clip, accompanied by Leonard Cohen singing I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – with a picture of a cashmere scarf at the end of it.
I wonder if the people who do John Lewis ads are starting to believe their own press. The media starts frotting itself every November when the very notion of advertising, television – Hell, art itself – is shaken to its core by another 60 seconds designed to make us sad and then spend £250 on stuff we don’t need in John Lewis.
But really I don’t they’re that good. I could come up with something like that in 30 minutes if I had a strong cup of tea and pack of Jaffa Cakes. Animals, sadness, snow, anthropomorphism, love. Shake them up with some nice visuals and a cover of a sad song and you’ve got something that’s as easy to put together as pound cake. And a good deal more bittersweetly nauseating.
• Here’s what I said about the Christmas John Lewis advert in 2012:
We all know the form by now. An effort that is fairly explicitly trying to make you cry. A precision-guided Cupid’s Arrow aiming to shatter your emotional aorta and cause a blockage of sludgey mawk in your left ventricle. A psychological heart attack in advert form.
• Here’s what I said about the Christmas John Lewis advert in 2011:
Next year’s advert will apparently feature a sickly kitten being stroked in front of an open fire by Terry Wogan for a full 120 seconds, while Gary Jules’ Mad World plays in the background.
• Here’s what I said about the Christmas John Lewis advert in 2010:
The world is sitting with big, fat tears rolling down their faces watching this advert for John Lewis, at least that’s what’s the internet is telling us.