John Lewis’s Christmas ad with Elton John, and some stupid pushback from HuffPo

November 15, 2018 • 1:31 pm

John Lewis & Partners have put out their annual Christmas ad, and this one with Elton John is, as the kids say, “epic”. The obvious point is that a gift you give to a child can make an immense difference in its life. But the way it’s done is poignant, and also features my favorite of all Elton John songs: “Your Song“, written by John and Bernie Taupin and released in 1970. (It’s #137 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.) Have a look at the two minute commercial, and see if you don’t like it.

So who could possibly object to this lovely Christmas vignette? HuffPo, of course:

The tactic here, as always in that reprehensible rag, is to use some dissent on Twitter, which you can always find, to push HuffPo’s own views, and then pretend it’s not the magazine’s opinion.  Why don’t they like the ad? Get this:

Many people on Twitter said the ad ― titled “The Boy And The Piano” and set  to John’s ’70s classic “Your Song” ― was “fantastic,” with one person praising its “endearing message.”

Others, however, said the promo that cost around $8.6 million and uses actors to depict various stages of John’s life was a “shameless plug” for John’s final Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, which kicked off in September, and the upcoming 2019 “Rocketman” biopic movie of his life.

You know, I don’t fricking care what “Twitter” thinks, because no matter what opinion you seek, however odious, you’ll find it there. As for the ad’s cost, well, John Lewis can spend its money however it likes, and 8.6 million is small potatoes when you think of what it costs to make a movie. And I bet most Tweeters liked it, but HuffPo chose to headline the Scrooges. You might as well write about evolution with the headline “Darwin’s ideas miss the mark for many.”

As for me, I love the commercial, which almost makes me tear up at the end.

h/t: Grania


88 thoughts on “John Lewis’s Christmas ad with Elton John, and some stupid pushback from HuffPo

    1. I gather PuffHo claims to be some sort of news outlet – how the hell is the opinions of a bunch of self-obsessed nitwits on Tw*tter ‘news’?

      (Or any other ‘social media’ (ugh) for that matter…)


      1. I guess it is part of “urban” life interest.

        Doing the witless “X said, but Y said”? Not so much.

    1. “Absoultely lovely” is what I was going to write, and I also agree about the song.

      There are always people who have to have something to moan about. Even if there’s nothing to moan about, they will find the smallest thing, or even make something up. They suck the life out everyone and everything around them.

  1. “shameless plug”…is there really such a thing anymore?

    I saw the trailer for the new Elton John movie…seems to have a lot of fantasy in it…during “Rocketman” he and his audience began floating in the air. The trailer didn’t really appeal to me, but the music…well there’s that. I saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the plot was all over the place, but the music made the movie for me.

  2. My favourite Elton song has always been “Saturday night’s alright for fighting” – but I guess that wouldn’t strike the desired festive note!

    1. I think the influential gifts I got were books. My parents told me that I always could have as many books as I wanted and we didn’t have money for much but books were limitless for money they would spend. Every chance I got, I ordered dozens from the scholastic things where they delivered the shipments right to your school desk. I think it made me read everything I could about everything I was interested in and fed my curiosity.

      1. Loved the Scholastic book club growing up. It was always exciting getting the order form handed out it class. Then wait for weeks until one day suddenly big boxes show up to the classroom.

        Aside from the books do you remember the Dynamite and Highlights magazines? The pictures with things hidden in them that you had to find?

        1. I don’t remember the magazines but I do remember how good the new books smelled. And how they called your name and then handed you your pile of books. I always had the most books of everyone in the class and the thing about having a lot of books is no one envied you for it so they didn’t pick on you out of spite. Not even for seeming nerdy. It must’ve been the sweat spot between nerdy and fancy that gave you the pass.

          1. Ahhh yes, that distinctive smell. I can think of at least two books from Scholastic that are still on a bookshelf in my house. Race Against Death, the story of the Nome diphtheria epidemic and Secret Under The Sea, a very cool science fiction story by Gordon R. Dickson.

            1. Ha ha I remember a book I got in grade 1 or so that was a Charlie Brown book called “Happiness Is…” and each page was an illustration of what happiness was. One was “Happiness is being too sick to go to school, but not too sick to watch TV”. 🙂 I still have that on my bookshelf too.

              1. Oh yes! How could I forget that one?! I just pulled the book off one of my shelves & it didn’t have that particular one in it, but I misnamed the book. It’s actually called, a propos to this post, “Happiness Is A Sad Song”.

        2. I LOVED Highlights! All the doctors’ offices had them. I just wanted to do the picture search things. What does one call those?

      2. I had a similar experience too, growing up with few luxuries, but still my parents bought on credit a complete set of encyclopaedia as well as a set of Bookshelves for Boys and Girls. That was an enormous expense for the family back in the 1960s. My four siblings and I were warned by our parents told not to touch the books without supervision as they weren’t yet fully paid for. Needless to say, we sneaked a book out each month, and so read the encyclopaedia from cover to cover. That was what piqued my life-long interest in zoology and botany.

    2. A Schwinn 5-speed banana seat bicycle. Freedom! The neighborhood began seeing a lot more of my six-year-old self. I did get hurt on it a lot though, and back then, we didn’t wear helmets. Worst injury: pretending I was Evel Knievel, I jumped off a hill of lawn clippings and landed on a commercial garbage can…ripped my scrotum open. Those seven stitches were the most painful stitches I’ve ever received.

      1. Ouch!

        I remember riding my 3 speed bicycle, barefoot, with only a bathing suit as protection against the street below and I was riding it past a bunch of kids with water balloons so they’d throw them at me & I’d get a refreshing splash, but often the balloons would bounce off my back & simply give me a welt.

          1. Ha ha – mine didn’t look so bad ass with its striped banana seat & basket with plastic flowers on the font.

            1. I didn’t have a basket, but I had one of those long flags with a ball on top. It was for safety (I needed it obviously!) but I always thought it looked stupid.

    3. Mine was the Nintendo 64. I already had a NES and then a Genesis, but the N64, with its 3D graphics, was a real eye-opener. I played Mario 64 obsessively, and so many other games. Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey, Mace, <i<NFL Blitz. I was already way into videogames before the N64, but that system made it my number one hobby for a very long time.

    4. Most important gifts of my life were two books about dinosaurs when I was 4 or 5. I was very slow at reading because books for kids were so tedious. These completely opened my eyes and I’ve not stopped reading obsessively since.

      Dinosaurs taught me to read, quite literally.

    5. I got a chemistry set when I was ten. It came in a huge metal folding container about the size of a large suitcase.
      This was 1960 in America.
      I messed around with it for years.
      I reckon it’d be illegal these days.
      By the way I liked the ad.

  3. The ad is charming & moving – and indicative of the JPL approach to high quality customer service. I wish John “never knowingly undersold” Lewis luck – they have a big battle ahead surviving as physical department stores on our High streets. The John Lewis & Waitrose supermarket businesses [together forming the John Lewis Partnership] are owned by the group’s 85,000 permanent staff, who share in the profits. In March, JLP cut its annual staff bonus to the lowest level in 64 years after profits plunged. And Amazon of late have been sniffing after the Waitrose part.

    It would be horrible if department stores became a fading memory [the theme of the ad as it happens].

    1. Its a good job they left that Johnny-come-lately resurection-god wannabe “Jeebers” out of the equation. Mithras was good enough for my father, and his fathers father, and his fathers fathers father (etc)

  4. Lovely ad, and very moving. It should make everyone remember a particular gift received as a child that meant so much. Of course, that’s why one remembers it so vividly while other gifts fade from memory.

  5. Heh. I’d expected some weaselly rant about how many families could never afford a piano.

    I found it pleasant and quite innocuous – which rates it ahead of the 80% of ads that instantly put me into “Die screaming, you annoying #$%%^” mode.


  6. Please don’t blame “Twitter” for this. If you compare Trump’s tweets with those of the Obamas, you will realize that the fault lies with the tweeter.

    I like the commercial even though it didn’t produce any tears. I find the argument that it was a waste of $8.6M to be unmoving. If you have a problem with it, I suspect your real problem is with capitalism in general. That argument can also be made, of course, but you would have to do some serious reasoning to convince anyone.

    1. Heh. Trump would probably say his tweets are the fault of the Secret Service for not telling him they made him look bad.

    2. The fault, dear Topping, is not in our twitter, but in ourselves, that we are underlings to our Tweeter-in-Chief’s persistent narcissism.

      As a certain fella mighta said, had they had social media around in Elizabethan times.

    3. Yeah. Where did they think that $ went? It went to pay technicians and actors and cameramen, makeup artists, and don’t forget the gaffer and key grip! Whatever those are.

    4. I don’t have a principled objection to paying creative people (Adam and Eve DBB) to do creative things. If they were selling arms, or justifying slavery, or some other such horror then I might have a problem. But as far as I know–they don’t.
      Someone might argue that they wished creative people had outlets other that advertising firms. Fair enough. Lets see some support for local artists or creative writing.
      But this whole “why dont we spend it on hospitals?” which is thrown at everything humans do that is creative, explorative, or competitive (e.g. art, space travel, sport) ignores the fact that all these things are also human needs. Make that list I started long enough and you’d have described the better parts of human nature.

      1. And Looking at Adam and Eve DBB, they also created campaigns to publicise suicide prevention, breast cancer awareness, and road safety. Anyone who has ever tried to communicate anythign effectively–such as books explianing why Evolution is True–knows that such communication is non-trivial. These guys do it with TV, and seem to be pretty good at it, and (as far as I can tell) have an ethical filter about whom they will work for.

      2. I agree. As far as for “support for local artists or creative writing”, it is purely supply and demand. Or, in this case, way too much on the supply side. Mass media makes it worse, as it tends to ensure only the stars get the bulk of the support. On the other hand, we have many new mechanisms (eg, YouTube, Patreon) to distribute and pay the non-stars.

  7. $8.6 million corporate dollars spread out among artists and filmmakers and staff and extras and local caterers and delivery people and…

    You’d think socialists would appreciate spreading that much wealth around a bit. I guess when it’s not just dumped into government programs where it’ll inevitably be mismanaged, misapplied and mostly pay for a top-heavy bureaucracy that it’s somehow just going down the toilet.

    1. I think there are many socialists that don’t think anything should be spent on the arts. Money should be spent on social programs and other very serious things over. No pleasure! Only toil!

  8. Fabulous ad which also gave me the feels, even though Elton John’s music isn’t my taste at all (I know, and hear that this is obviously a great song, just when it was always around, and always existed on the radio, it’s simply uninteresting to my ears).

    HuffPo come across as unlikeable in both an emotional sense (now), and in an intellectual sense (else). This is quite a feat. HuffPo are simply dumb and unpleasant in a special odious kind of way. They don’t even make for a good antagonist. Who even reads this rubbish?

  9. Not a big Elton fan, but do like this song, and the ad. For a minute I was looking for our American Civil Rights hero, John Lewis, rather than the department store…”Earth to Merilee…”

    1. Ha ha – I was looking for Richard Lewis, the comedian, thinking he was doing some sort of tour with Elton John and wondering if he’d (Richard) had changed his focus from comedy to musical documentaries.

  10. Glad I’m not the only one who had a few tears by the end of it. I never know these days if it’s really something emotional or just my depression again. That was a great ad, maybe not “plop, plop, fizz, fizz” good or “the best part of waking up” good, mind you…
    I was half expecting the tw@ttersphere and the Puffho to be whinging about the ad featuring a white western male. That’s the usual kvetch anyways. What a miserable bunch of ninnies. I’m sorry that they have become so divorced from emotions other than contempt and rage that they cannot find the emotional ability to be moved by a sweet and charming ad. They probably hate kitten videos, too! Scrooge ‘em!

  11. The ad was sweet; the look on the mother’s face was truly lovely.

    “Downey Duck Grows Up” – I still have it, 65 years later.

    And, by the way, thanks for all the warnings about Huffpo – I haven’t read a word in that rag for ages, and every time I pass it up, I think of this web site.

  12. After watching I thought it was lovely, not the least bit offensive in any way. Sadly there seem to be people in this world whose whole raison d’être is to be offended by things.

  13. Sorry to be the one cynic here, but the ad would be more convincing if John Lewis actually sold musical instruments. Instead they sell such things as clothes, cosmetics, homeware and electronic goods. It’s a good shop, but I don’t think they sell much in the way of things that would inspire a young lad to pursue a dream or whatever.

    1. phil brown:

      Sorry to be the one cynic here, but the ad would be more convincing if John Lewis actually sold musical instruments

      They sell a very small range of pianos & electronic keyboards, 3 or 4 guitars & accessories, a rather lovely junior ‘pro’ drum kit & a series of electronic music interfaces.

  14. Scrooges come out of the woodwork, in this case a piano. Damn few ads are as tasteful or charming as that one.
    By the way Jerry, your voice sounds just fine too me.

  15. I’m so late to the party… Elton John, Christmas, and not one Levon joke?!? I’m aghast!
    That said, I shamelessly love Levon and many, many other EJ songs. Even if it were a plug, who cares? I’d love to see him live.

  16. It’s an advert. Of course it’s a shameless plug. It’s overtly a plug for a department store. So what?

    My rule of thumb is that if you take the Twitter out of a news story and there’s nothing left, it wasn’t really a news story.

    Take this one for example:

    Without the Twitterage, the story would be “school imposes dress code”. It’s not really a story. Similarly in the Huffpo story of this post, without the Twitterage, it would be “John Lewis has Christmas advert”. Not a story.

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