Is this the end of the traditional tearjerker John Lewis Christmas advert? Store swaps UK agency that produced family-friendly ads for French studio that made ‘depraved’ Rihanna video
They’re the iconic TV ads which start Christmas six weeks early, heartwarming family fare with all the tear-jerking trimmings. However, this year’s seasonal offering from John Lewis may prove rather harder to swallow.
After a 14-year partnership, the quintessentially British store has axed the UK advertising agency behind its festive campaigns in favour of an edgy French outfit called Megaforce.
The Paris-based company’s past work includes a video heavy on violence, sex, drugs and torture to promote Rihanna‘s song B***h Better Have My Money.
The video had the star and two accomplices kidnapping the wife of a cheating accountant and subjecting her to a range of sadistic humiliations, ending in horrific murders.
Rihanna eventually dismembers the accountant before, covered in blood, she lounges naked in a large chest packed with cash. Critics have described the video as ‘horrific’ and ‘depravity as a hobby’.
It’s all a far cry from John Lewis Christmas classics such as The Boy & The Piano (2018) depicting Elton John as a small boy receiving a piano from his mother.
Then there was The Journey (2012), featuring a snowman who leaves a garden to go gift shopping for his wife.
Other favourites include The Bear & The Hare (2013), where a hare buys a hibernating bear an alarm clock to wake him up for Christmas; Monty The Penguin (2014) and his search for love; Moz The Monster (2017), in which a boy makes friends with a monster living under his bed; and Excitable Edgar (2019) – a chaotic young dragon keeps setting fire to things but is accepted by villagers after igniting Christmas pudding.
Megaforce, owned by Leo Berne, Clement Gallet, Charles Brisgrand and Raphael Rodriguez, has a gold-chip range of clients including Nike, Dior, Apple and Eurostar.
In dispensing with Adam & Eve, the leading UK agency which has worked with John Lewis since 2009, the retailer seems to have bowed to criticism that its ads were too ‘safe’ Its 2022 offering, The Beginner, saw a soon-to-be foster dad learn to skateboard before welcoming his daughter into the family home.
One industry insider said: ‘There is a feeling that last year’s advert was once again that warm, kind tearjerker. There was a lot of talk within John Lewis that things need to be freshened up. It is now being predicted that this year’s campaign will be premium and high end.
‘There is a lot of excitement about this one. It has been finished and those few people that know what it’s about cannot wait to share it.’
A spokeswoman for John Lewis declined to comment. The campaign’s theme, to be unveiled in November, remains closely guarded. Those involved have been told to say they’ve been working on an insurance advert.
Nor is there any hint of the soundtrack. Previous ads have featured haunting ballads such as Lily Allen’s cover of Somewhere Only We Know, Bastille’s version of Can’t Fight This Feeling, and Ellie Goulding singing Your Song.
Although defined by sugary-sweet themes the retailer’s Christmas ads have not been immune from controversy.
Buster The Boxer (2016) was the simplest of stories in which a girl wakes on Christmas morning to the trampoline of her dreams – only to find that the family dog also enjoys bouncing and won’t let her on.
The video inspired a wave of social media clips showing trampolining dogs until a vet website warned that bouncing dogs can get badly injured.