D is for Digital Identity

For the next installment of our A-Z of adtech series we’re looking at digital identity.

Digital identity has underpinned programmatic and digital advertising for the last ten years. However it now feels like everybody is discussing it more than ever. Articles and stories dedicated to digital identity management seem to be appearing in the press on a weekly basis.

At Unruly’s latest Trust Talks event in London we asked a number of leading industry experts why digital identity has become popular again, where it’s headed, and what the terms means to them.

Nigel Gilbert, Chief Market Strategist at AppNexus EMEA A Xandr Company

Nigel Gilbert

It’s all about the timing. Programmatic has been around for ten years or so. We also understand from a targeting and performance perspective that digital identity is probably the easiest and most straightforward way to target. Therefore it’s what everybody jumped on.

Retargeting returns the best performance out of any other form of targeting that you can use programmatic for. So for that reason everybody wants to scale it and find an automated solution that can work for their business. For it to be automated it has to have scale otherwise it doesn’t compute. I think there’s possibly too much of a race towards automating identity at scale than there probably should be. I don’t believe there can be a global solution, and I don’t believe people should be looking for one.    

Morwenna Beales, VP at ID5

Morwenna Beales

Programmatic was initially always about scale and the open marketplace. We’ve seen that change with the emergence of new channels like video and mobile. But what underpins programmatic now is data, and what underpins data is digital identity. I think people are starting to realise that having a grip on digital identity is a real competitive advantage against walled gardens and the marketplace. I think that’s probably why we keep talking about it.

Matt Simpson, Joint CEO Investment at Omnicom

Matt Simpson

I think digital identity is all about the identification of the individual. I know identity has not always been that; it’s been about identifying devices or cookies and so forth. But we now talk to clients about knowing as much as we can about perspective customers and about existing customers.

The reason brands are so interested in digital identity is because they’ve spent so much money on it. They’ve bought the dream of digital identity before it’s really here. With the introduction of things like GDPR, they now have this huge known audience which is their customers. They also have this unknown audience which is mainly the cookies that people use in advertising. They’re desperate to tie those two things together to get the outcomes that have been promised to them for a number of years. So for us, it’s really about knowing their consumers and their perspective consumers, and being able to inform on not just digital activity but on everything they do.

Shane Shevlin, SVP Strategic Development at IPONWEB

Shane Shevlin

Digital identity is not the same as legal identity and that creates an issue. It’s a simple question of the walled garden advantage right now. As large publishers, tech companies, and ad networks create scaled audiences with deterministic data, that leaves a lot less for smaller companies and independent publishers. That’s a problem we need to solve both for agencies and for brands today.

I think increasingly the question of regulation and ownership of your digital identity, in addition to things like cross device tracking and attribution, are still problems that need to be solved for the ecosystem. That’s where we see ourselves at IPONWEB sitting, right at the core of those very complex engineering tasks that need to be solved.  

Paul Gubbins, Programmatic Lead at Unruly     

Paul Gubbins

I believe digital Identity will become the new battle ground, and those that own it will display little sympathy for those that don’t, as it increasingly becomes a USP to lock in media budgets. Device graphs will be trendy once again next year and the must have accessories as consumer time fragments even further from desktop, mobile web, app, OTT & increasingly the devices powered by the growing IoT’s infrastructure.

ID coalitions and joint ventures will come and go. Some will focus on building a more efficient cookie to increase match rates for buyers and sellers. Others will build a common probabilistic and screen agnostic ID that will help brands and agencies manage holistic reach, frequency and attribution across their myriad of programmatic media buys in the face of walled gardens and browsers restricting 3rd party cookies (Think ITP & beyond!).

There will be cries, asks and demands from both the buy and sell side for a common framework when it comes to digital identity. Who should own this will continue to be a moot point and one debated at great length on many panels in 2019. Should digital identity be a commodity or USP? Only time will tell!

Check out other posts in our A-Z of adtech series.

This week we sat down with Ken Suh from our New York office to talk about trust in advertising, the power of emotions, and what life is like as a COO at Unruly.

Q: Hi, first of all, could you introduce yourself and tell a bit about what you do here at Unruly?

I am the Global COO at Unruly and am based in New York. I have been with Unruly for four and a half years.

Q: How did you find out about Unruly?

I learned about Unruly online and also from colleagues in the industry.  Back then, I met the co-founders and I knew this was a very special place as soon as I met them.

Q: What notable roles did you hold prior to Unruly?

I worked in digital media before Unruly at companies including ABC News, MTV, and AOL. Before I worked in media I obtained my graduate MBA degree. Before that I spent some time working in finance.

Q: What draws you to the type of work you do?

I love the fact that Unruly is on a mission to transform advertising for the better! The team and culture here are the biggest difference makers for me.

Q: With trust being a huge talking point recently what does trust mean to you?

Trust is critical not only with our clients but also within teams. If you trust that I am doing everything I can to my best ability, then I am free to take risks, think big, and execute as best as I can and vice versa. Brands trust that we know more about their audiences than others do given our unique emotional targeting approach.

Publishers trust that we are providing them the most relevant video content for their users. I strongly believe that trust is one of the main driving factors that keeps, both brands and publishers, wanting to work with us again and again. This is what I hear when I’m speaking to publishers in meetings, at conferences and out on the road.

ken on stage at prog IO

Q: Tell us about something you’ve learned while working at Unruly?

I’ve learnt so much at Unruly and continue to learn everyday! Unruly has taught me to become extremely goal-oriented, the importance of teamwork, and strong accountability. The company’s culture is like nothing I have ever experienced and it’s really great to see how it continues today. People gravitate to Unruly from all over the world and it’s been really amazing to see that.

Q: What are Unruly doing to tackle Fake News?

Unruly is focused on working with premium publishers who create real content. Our Verified Marketplace in UK is a great example of how we partner with quality publishers and promote their offering to brands. Quality continues to be a priority at Unruly as 85% of all video delivery is on Comscore 1000 websites globally!

Q: How are Unruly building trust with their consumers?

I love how Unruly works to provide polite placements to consumers. All our formats are user-controlled and provide the greatest flexibility for consumers to interact if they so desire. Consumers are also all humans who are full of emotions, and continuing to understand emotions, and how it impacts our behaviours, is a fascinating area of exploration that Unruly continues to lead.

Q: It’s the weekend: what do you like to do in your spare time?

My weekends are packed with the family, shuttling them to sports practice, music lessons, and play dates around New York City. I also enjoy following sports of all types (including soccer/football), especially when it comes to my Chicago-based sports teams!

Q: What makes you believe in the work you do at Unruly?

Our mission hasn’t changed from day one, and neither has our culture. Meanwhile our teams have evolved and grown. I truly believe that together we can do anything! My advice is to everyone at Unruly is to keep learning, growing, finding areas of exploration, and most importantly, have fun doing it! If we continue to do this nothing can stop us!

Unruly is excited to announce the appointment of Mikael Englund in the role of Nordics Commercial Director.

Englund will report to Jason Trout, EMEA MD and be responsible for heading up sales teams and build relationships with agency partners across the Nordics.

Commenting on his new role, Englund said: “I’m so excited to join Unruly. It has such a great story for advertisers, from its unique emotional testing and targeting capabilities, to its exclusive relationships with premium publishers. My mission is clear: we’re aiming to become the leading video marketplace for advertisers and agencies by delivering awesome campaign results, superb service and an easy to buy solution.”

Englund joins Unruly from mobile advertising specialists, Widespace, where he was Chief Growth Officer. During his time at Widespace he held several roles, including Sales Director for Finland and Commercial Director for Northern Europe. Englund was one of the early birds and partners at Widespace. Prior to this he was at Schibstedt.

Englund’s appointment comes at a busy time for Unruly’s Nordics operations, as the team expands its footprint across the region. The Swedish office also recently created a local presence for UnrulyEQ, Unruly’s emotional testing and targeting products.  With the appointment of Isabelle Soderhielm as Insights Manager.

Speaking to Englund’s appointment, Jason Trout commented: “Our sales teams in the Nordics have made incredible progress over the past few years to establish Unruly’s presence in the market. Mikael has the perfect mix of leadership skills and adtech experience that will take us to the next level.”

Englund is already in post, based in Unruly’s Stockholm Office.

Interested in working for Unruly? We’re hiring! Check out our vacancies here. 

Last night Paul Gubbins was named Ad Tech Personality of the Year at The Wires.

The Wires is an annual prestigious awards ceremony hosted by ExchangeWire in London, celebrating the ad tech industry .

Last month Unruly’s Programmatic Lead Paul Gubbins was shortlisted for the award along with some of the industries leading personalities including Taboola founder and CEO Adam Singolda, Co-founder and CTO of Adform Jakob Bak and CEO of AppNexus Brian O’Kelley.

Paul collected the award last night on stage from Kate Adie CBE to a standing ovation.

A huge congrats to Jody Shilliday, Head of Advertising Solutions at Adform for winning the  Ad Tech Rising Star award.

Check out the full shortlists here.

The&Partnership London and Lexus will next week unveil ‘Driven By Intuition’ – the world’s first advert written by an AI and shot by an Oscar-winning director, Kevin Macdonald, for the new Lexus ES.

Following on from the success of campaigns like The&Partnership’s 2015 Lexus Hoverboard Project, ‘Driven By Intuition’ aims to highlight Lexus’ credentials as a brand at the cutting edge of technical innovation, testing the boundaries of humans and machines working together.

By exploring the importance of intuition between man and machine, the campaign aims to showcase the uniquely responsive features of the new Lexus ES executive sedan – a car that responds intuitively to the driver’s intentions and changing road and traffic conditions.

The script for the 60” film was written by The&Partnership’s first “AI creative” – a specialist automated script-writer built in collaboration with tech partner Visual Voice.  The AI was given a unique understanding of human intuition which helped enable it to create a car advert to rival all others.

The AI, built with Visual Recognition support from IBM Watson, was ‘trained’ with 15 years’ worth of Cannes-Lions-winning car and luxury advertisements, and was primed with emotional intelligence data from Unruly to teach it which moments of those adverts connected most strongly with viewers. It was then coached in intuition via a bespoke experiment for The&Partnership by applied scientists MindX, based at the University of New South Wales. The study explored what makes somebody intuitive, as well as how people with high levels of intuition respond to car adverts.

The AI then produced the script for the campaign: a narrative rich in genuine human emotion and indistinguishable from something written by a human, bar some unexpected details. For example, the AI gives the character of the car sentience and surprising emotional depth – a machine telling the story of a machine coming to life. Alongside each line of the script, the AI produced a highly detailed data key, providing references spanning the 15 years’ worth of adverts it had studied to back up the effectiveness of each twist and turn in its storyline.

Some of the key findings from the AI in terms of the ingredients for a perfect car advert were that: the car doesn’t need to drive at all, unless this is part of the story; the driving should be peripheral to the story; characters in the story should have an emotional designator, for example a husband or father over driver or engineer; and the use of children helps increase the emotionality of an advert. Additionally, strong facial expressions are more powerful than strong language; ads are most effective where use of the spoken word is limited; use of a midpoint or twist is important to keep the story moving and to maintain interest; and the midpoint should involve an unexpected event, for example a crash or near miss.

The result is an unusual and engaging short drama: a 60” film telling the story of a Japanese Lexus Takumi Master craftsman who, having worked painstakingly on the new Lexus ES, releases his finished car out into the world – only for it to be kidnapped and nearly destroyed. At the crucial moment, however, the car comes to life to avoid its own test crash – demonstrating the engineering and design that make the new ES Lexus’s most intuitive model to date.

To bring the AI’s script to life, The&Partnership brought in visionary director Macdonald, whose films include ‘The Last King of Scotland’ and ‘Whitney’ as well as Oscar-winning documentary ‘One Day in September’.

Macdonald said he was immediately intrigued by the concept, recognising how it required a different approach from a conventional film. “When I was handed the script,” said Macdonald, “the melodrama of the story convinced me of its potential. The fact the AI gave a fellow machine sentience, placed it in a sort of combat situation, and then had it escaping into the sunset was such an emotional response from what is essentially a robot. The charmingly simplistic way the AI wrote the story was both fascinating in its interpretation of human emotion, and yet still unexpected enough to give the film a clearly non-human edge.”

The film is part of a multi-market, multi-asset platform rolling out across Europe to promote the Lexus ES executive sedan. The car’s innovative chassis boasts features including a GA-K (Global Architecture – K) platform and intelligent Lexus Safety System+ functions, enabling it to brake for the driver as well as responding to road and weather conditions.

The campaign, which will reach audiences across digital, social and cinema, was created and overseen by Dave Bedwood, Creative Partner at The&Partnership London, and produced by Carnage.

Dave Bedwood, Creative Partner at The&Partnership London, said: “I thought I’d be writing an ad with the assistance of A.I. Instead it took over and wrote the whole script: a machine telling the story of a machine coming to life. A lot of other AI work to date has been interesting because of the process itself. This has been fascinating – maybe scary – because the end product is good in its own right.”

Vincent Tabel, Senior Brand Manager at Lexus Europe, said: “Here at Lexus we love to push the boundaries of technology and design, and that’s why we wanted to do something completely different – a world first – to launch the new Lexus ES. The ES is both intuitive and innovative, so we wanted the advert to reflect this. The resulting film surpasses our expectations of what an AI is capable of, from its creativity to its human emotion.”

Alex Newland, Co-Founder of Visual Voice, said: “This was both a challenging and fascinating project to be a part of. From the outset, it was almost impossible to know what level of quality or intelligibility the AI would produce. To see the project brought together with such a rich finished piece is extremely satisfying to witness. We believe this project moves AI-generated content from being a novelty gimmick into the beginnings of true, stand-alone creative merit.”

The&Partnership London’s CEO Sarah Golding has called upon the advertising industry as President of the IPA to grasp the opportunities for growth afforded by bringing AI and creative talent together. Her two-year ‘Magic & the Machines’ agenda for the IPA aims to future-proof commercial creativity, and challenges advertising practitioners to embrace ‘our new colleagues, the machines’ in order to produce more creative magic.

Said Golding: “Working on a collaboration between Lexus, Kevin Macdonald and an AI creative has been our most exciting foray into Big, Bold and Bionic creativity to date. It’s fascinating to see how the AI has absorbed and drawn on Cannes Lions’ most prized car and luxury ads – but the dollop of magic sauce is in our AI’s insights into human intuition, and how to provoke an emotional response in an audience.”

Check out the ad below.

NextM is an event created by media agency group, GroupM.

The event is a forum to inspire new ideas, ignite conversation and deliver exposure to new concepts and original thinking. It is attended by some of the world’s leading advertisers and publishers including Google, AppNexus, and Bauer Media. 

The annual NextM event takes place is Dusseldorf, and kicks off this week. Unruly Futurist Eleanor Corchero will take to the main stage to talk about the impact of IoT in advertising, and how the connected home will change the way brands interact with consumers.

Find out more about the event.

What should the ‘madtech’ world be thinking about as we dust off 2018? 

The pending Identity wars

Many column inches will once again be dedicated to the pros and cons of probabilistic versus deterministic IDs. Digital identity will become the new battleground, and those that own it will display little sympathy for those that don’t, as it increasingly becomes a USP to lock in media budgets.

Device graphs will be trendy once again. Next year they will be the must-have accessories as consumer time fragments even further from desktop, mobile web, app, over the top (OTT) and increasingly the devices powered by the growing IoT’s infrastructure.

ID coalitions and joint ventures will come and go. Some will focus on building a more efficient cookie to increase match rates for buyers and sellers while others will build a common probabilistic and screen agnostic ID that will help brands and agencies manage holistic reach, frequency and attribution across their myriad of programmatic media buys in the face of walled gardens and browsers restricting third-party cookies (think ITP and beyond!).

There will be cries and demands. Both the buy and sell-side want a common framework when it comes to identity. The question of who should own this will be a moot point, but still be debated at great length on many panels next year. Should identity be a commodity or USP? Time will tell…

Data Portability

There will be a growing appetite from chief marketing officers to be able to extract and apply their data holistically across each walled garden. It may sound far-fetched as identity is tightly controlled by the few but how will the many manage the basics of planning and buying such as frequency without it?

Brands and their agencies will become increasingly frustrated that the siloed insights they are receiving are effectively rendering their DMPs and CDPs redundant when it comes to the interpretation and activation of their data assets at the macro, not micro level.

If we’re ever going to reach the utopia of buying audiences and not screens, portability of data and specifically identity will be a necessity, not a luxury. 2018 was the year brands commanded supply transparency. I genuinely believe 2019 will be the year they ask for basic rights when it comes to digital ID management and ownership.

Voice search creating brand bypass

As smart speakers adoption grows, we’re going to continue to see stats next year that reference the decline of traditional search as voice search rises. This is going to create a lot of opportunity and disruption to many, as ‘brand bypass’ starts to set in. If somebody shouts at their speaker for batteries, razors or cheese, how will the speaker order if a brand name is not used prior to the request?

There will be lots of questions from brands in this area as concerns around speaker owners also being competing retail merchants begin to grow. In 2018, brands can capture intent online with paid search but this dynamic is changing quickly due to the growth of voice that is less than easy to get in front of in the connected homes of tomorrow.

Portable bidding logic

Many are going to start to think about owning their bidding logic. What do I mean? Well, some DSPs already let smart buyers play around with bidding logic and create custom features.

However, from the conversations I’ve had recently, it sounds like the ability for a brand or agency to port custom bidding logic from one DSP to another is still severely limited due to interoperability restrictions. Again, many will say I am daydreaming when I suggest this, but the way bidding logic works for a seat selling luxury cars will be completely different from the way it would work for another seat looking to sell moisturiser.

As brands and their agencies are forced to use more, not less DSPs as each start to create tangible USPs such as access to O&O supply or 1st party data. Sophisticated client trading desks and agencies will start to look for DSPs that can ingest their own proprietary bidding logic in a plug and play fashion so they can switch in and out new execution layers based on features like QPS, price, service, supply (audio, DOOH, OTT etc), data, device graphs et al.

The application of blockchain in madtech moves beyond PPT

Yes, I am aware that blockchain in madtech is a bit of a joke to those who live and breathe the sector (many think it’s vapourware and too slow to support OpenRTB), however, there is no escaping the fact that both brands and publishers will continue to intensify their asks around transparency in 2019.

If ‘madtech’ vendors and agencies do not self-regulate, concepts such as a distributed ledger ‘public’ or ‘private’ are going to start to look more attractive by the day.

As I write this, two major holding companies have already released their intentions to support a blockchain framework (DAN and GroupM), many big brands such as Toyota are also exploring and have adopted to support their advertising strategies. I see blockchain like programmatic 10 years ago, we are still at the conceptual stages and it is far easier to bash than it is to enter into meaningful conversations.

To summarise, many reports have suggested that funding for new ad and martech entrants is going to dry up in 2019. Boy did I laugh when I read that. There has never been so much change and opportunity in the industry. To name a few areas:

OOH – The M&A in this sector right now is bonkers, think Global taking out Primesight, Outdoor Plus and Exterion. Like TV, OOH is an area that resonates really well with both consumers and advertisers and the opportunity to extract even further value via the application of tech and data is exciting to many. There is going to be so much innovation in DOOH over the next 12 months and lots of opportunities for existing and new entrants.

OTT – So much has already been written about the migration of linear TV budgets due to this new world of CTV via OTT environments and many in madtech are going to see the tide rise for them. It has already been proven that large demographics globally are increasingly difficult to reach via linear broadcasts (AKA cord cutters) and they are only accessible to advertisers via addressable channels. Those in the video data, sell side and activation space are each going to be building their features and honing their narratives for this lucrative opportunity in 2019 and beyond.

Expect many new OTT entrants specifically in the data and measurement area as new protocols and standards continue to be agreed by industry constituents.

So here’s the bottom line: identity will feature heavily in discussions next year and ‘portability’ will be a theme that dominates. The digital advertising sector is an amazing place to be right now and I can’t wait for 2019, times are a-changin’.

Read the original article published in The Drum.

Today we’ve been celebrating International Men’s day throughout the Unrulyverse. We ran a panel this afternoon where Unrulies from across the globe joined a discussion around mental health, equality, achieving a work life balance, and the expectations that are put on men.

A number of men who work at Unruly have also been participating in Movember, the annual event where men grow moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues.

Through the awareness gained from tache-growers worldwide, Movember Foundation has now funded over 1,200 men’s health projects globally since 2003, ranging from partnerships with leading cancer researchers to grassroots projects to help suicide prevention. These are issues close to our hearts, affecting our families and friends, and the work Movember is doing is helping stop men dying far too young.

We’re now half way through the month and so we checked in with some of the participants to see how they’re getting on.

Some of the participants have sent us photos of their progress so far however their are two moustache imposters! Can you tell which ones aren’t Unrulies?

Selection of Unruly moustaches

Show your support by donating to the Unruly team’s Movember page!

Advertisers in New Zealand can now maximise the local impact of their video content, using UnrulyEQ.

Did you know that kiwis tend towards individualism rather than collectivism, which is in keeping with their Aussie neighbours, but also Brits, Canadians and Americans? Or that New Zealanders are very secure – meaning that in general they are less likely to buy things to feel good about themselves.

Unique cultural insight like this has been used to create two new bespoke products for the New Zealand market – launched today at ad:tech Auckland – by the video marketplace you can trust, Unruly. These products are designed to help advertisers maximise the impact of their video content and target cultural audiences at scale.

The impact of culture on consumer response to content has long been known intuitively by advertisers, and now work by Unruly has quantified this impact for the first time.

Based on the seminal cultural framework developed in the late 60s / early 70s by behavioural psychologist Geert Hofstede, and exclusive access to MediaCom’s Cultural Connections research, Unruly’s cultural insight allows advertisers to build up an extremely accurate picture of the cultural leanings of a market, and individuals within that market.

Unruly, a News Corp company, has incorporated this quantified cultural data into its video content testing solution – UnrulyEQ Max, and targeting segments – UnrulyEQ Custom Audiences for the New Zealand market.

UnrulyEQ Max allows advertisers to discover, and capitalise on, the emotional impact of their video content prior to launch. The tool utilises a variety of data sources, such as facial coding and declared survey data, to understand the impact of video creative on local audiences. Higher emotional impact drives engagement, brand recall and ultimately sales. A Nielsen consumer neuroscience study found that ads with above-average electroencephalography (EEG) scores deliver a 23% lift in sales volume (Nielsen consumer neuroscience internal study, FMCG brands, –2015). In other words, the more emotive an ad is, the more people will react to it. If an ad triggers the right emotional responses and is attributed to the correct brand, it will likely lead to increased sales.

UnrulyEQ

With culture greatly influencing the emotions people feel when watching content, the addition of Unruly’s cultural insights to the UnrulyEQ tool gives local advertisers the opportunity to further predict both campaign and brand success by pre-testing content for cultural resonance in New Zealand.

The new bespoke test also allows global and trans-Tasman advertisers to understand whether existing video content can be repurposed for the New Zealand market – giving them the opportunity to adapt creative at the pre-testing stage.

Unruly’s audience targeting solution – UnrulyEQ Custom Audiences – helps advertisers find the most receptive audiences for their video content. Using UnrulyEQ methodology, Unruly can uncover the most emotionally engaged audiences, audiences to match brand personas and consumers with the strongest intent to buy a product or those with a specific brand affinity.

With the addition of its exclusive cultural data, Unruly’s Custom Audiences solution now allows advertisers in New Zealand to further maximise the effectiveness of their video content by reaching audiences with the greatest cultural affinity to their video content.

Finding the cultural bullseye for a campaign can results in uplifts of up to 40% in purchase intent, up to 55% in brand promoters and up to 26% in brand favourability (all vs. the average consumer response to a video – Unruly testing)

Ricky Chanana, Unruly’s Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand said, “Thanks to our unique access to MediaCom’s groundbreaking Cultural Connections data, video advertising has just become a lot smarter.

In an age when media budgets are being squeezed and the need for efficiency is greater than ever, it is critical to understand how video creative will perform before media dollars are deployed. Our UnrulyEQ testing and targeting solutions can help advertisers to reduce media wastage and ensure better engagement with consumers.

Our cultural targeting segments can be used to maximise the impact of the ads even in situations where videos cannot be edited. We can find pockets of ambitious individualists in collectivist markets, find fashionistas in markets where function reigns and curious cats in markets where the norm is closed.

New Zealand is a unique market, with a unique set of cultures, and these tools will give our clients confidence that their campaigns won’t just reach people, they’ll move them.”

They kept us waiting for what seemed like forever but the John Lewis & Partners’ Christmas ad is finally here!

The UK department store released their Christmas ad entitled Elton John Lewis this morning (Thursday 15). The UK chain kept the public waiting for longer than usual and changed a number of their storefront names from John Lewis to John in the lead up which built up the excitement even more.

This morning their ad was released to the world with mixed opinions. This year’s ad feels very different to anything they’ve done before. Years gone by have featured woodland creatures, penguins, and monsters, often with playful and youthful tones. This year was a step away from that, with the brand using the life of global pop star Elton John to tell their Christmas story.

The chain changed their name to John Lewis & Partners earlier this year so perhaps Elton John Lewis is a statement to the world that they are moving in a new direction, or maybe they just fancied a shake up of the traditional model they have stuck to for so long.

An emotional perspective

Our UnrulyEQ Insights team have given us their first impressions of the Elton John Lewis ad and what emotions they believe it evokes. They have also looked at how it compares on an emotional level to John Lewis & Partners Christmas ads from the past three years.

A clear trend across the past three years has been that of aiming for the relatable and the magic of Christmas; ‘Man On The Moon’ focused on loneliness around Christmas, ‘Buster The Boxer’ on the sheer joy of Christmas and ‘Moz The Monster’ on the experience of monsters under the bed, whilst bringing a loving Christmas attitude to the story.

Elton John Lewis on the other hand offers a complete change in focus and goes down the route of watching the life of a pop legend in rewind. The ad ends with him as a child getting his first piano for Christmas. It offers a clear depiction of the effect a gift can have on someone’s life. Receiving a piano  set the course of Elton John’s life and career, which turned out to be life-changing.

How does it compare?

Previous years’ focus on relatability has proved to drive a strong emotional response amongst viewers; tugging at the heartstrings by portraying the magic of Christmas through the innocent eyes of children. In contrast, even though Elton John Lewis is likely to be less applicable to the greater population, it is likely to drive strong pride evoked from depicting a national treasure such as Elton John. This is likely to be coupled with warmth from depicting not only Elton John’s extraordinary career, but also that he was once just a boy receiving a gift at Christmas.

John Lewis ad comparison

Even though many will find Elton John’s story emotional, there is likely to be a proportion of viewers who question the ad’s emphasis on Christmas. Furthermore, with the film ‘Rocket Man’ being released in the spring, which tells the story of Elton John’s life, some might query the promotional aspects of this ad.

Ultimately, with much anticipation, we are awaiting the true effects of Elton John Lewis which marks a new style of Christmas ad from the brand. We are expecting a strong but potentially polarising emotional response from the British people.

Check out our insights on some of the most popular Christmas ads from the past few years.

Find out more about our UnrulyEQ offering.