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“Give A Little Love” Is One Of Least Emotionally Engaging John Lewis Christmas Ads Of All Time

2020 campaign finishes third bottom in ranking of retailer’s most moving festive campaigns; recent ad performances show John Lewis is losing its festive sparkle 

LONDON — November 19, 2020 — Give A Little Love” is one of the least emotionally engaging John Lewis Christmas ads of all time. 

That’s according to new research from video ad platform Unruly, which, following the launch of the UK retailer’s highly-anticipated festive campaign last week, has released a ranking of John Lewis’ most moving Xmas campaigns. 

Famed for its highly emotional festive ads, “Give a Little Love”, released as a joint campaign with Waitrose, is seen as a slight change in approach to the tried-and-trusted John Lewis festive formula. 

Rather than one continued narrative and style, the ad instead features a series of vignettes, created using different animation styles, and is focused on gestures of goodwill rather than giving physical gifts. 

Using its content testing tool, UnrulyEQ, the Tremor International company found that the latest entry in the John Lewis festive canon did elicit an intense emotional reaction from 35% of viewers, making it 75% more emotionally engaging than the average UK ad. However, when compared to the John Lewis campaigns over the last decade, it finished way down the list, in third bottom.  

2018’s “Boy and The Piano”, starring Elton John, and 2017’s “Moz The Monster” were the only campaigns to finish below it.  

At the top of the chart is the animated 2013 campaign, The Bear and The Hare. Featuring a hare buying her bear friend an alarm clock so he’d wake up from hibernation in time for Christmas, the ad generated an intense emotional response from 48% of viewers — the highest of any Xmas campaign. 

That put it ahead of 2016’s “Buster The Boxer” and 2014’s “Monty The Penguin” in second and third respectively. 

In a sign that John Lewis’ Christmas ads are starting to lose their festive sparkle, the last four ads the UK retailer has released all appear in the bottom four.  

Most emotionally engaging John Lewis festive ads 

Rank Year Campaign (year) Emotional engagement (%) 
1. 2013 Bear and the Hare   48% 
2. 2016 Buster The Boxer   43% 
3. 2014 Monty The Penguin   42% 
4. 2011 The Long Wait   41% 
5. 2012 The Journey   40% 
6. 2015 Man on the Moon   40% 
7. 2019 Excitable Edgar   38% 
8.  2020 Give A Little Love 35% 
9. 2018 Boy and The Piano   34% 
10. 2017 Moz The Monster   32% 
  UK average 20% 

Rebecca Waring, Unruly’s Global VP, Insight & Solutions, said: The ads that have had the most impact this year are the ones that sweep people away in an epic narrative with developed central characters (Disney, Coca-Cola). It is quite difficult to achieve the same emotional impact with vignette-style storytelling, as discussed in our research with University of San Diego, ‘Making the most of 144 frames’. However, the benefit of this approach is that is can be very easily cut down into short form versions, which is ideal for distribution in mobile environments.  

It should also be noted that, although this is a relatively low-key video by John Lewis’ standards, the ad is still 75% more emotive than the UK Market Norm. Viewers praised the gentle, imaginative approach, and the way the heart shape tied all the different vignettes together. Finally, John Lewis definitely conveyed their key message successfully, as the most frequently mentioned word in comments about the video was Love. You can’t argue with that! 


Unruly analysed the emotional responses of 6,000 UK consumers to all of John Lewis’ Christmas ads since 2011 using its content measurement tool, UnrulyEQ, which helps advertisers maximise the impact of their video content across multiple screens to more effectively land brand metrics and target receptive audiences at scale. The results were then compared to Unruly’s database of thousands of ads. 

Ads were ranked on the intensity of viewers’ emotional responses.