Never knowingly understood.

Would you Adam and Eve it?  It’s the new John Lewis commercial:

Never knowingly understood.

Years ago when I was at Collett, Dickenson, Pearce, Paul Smith and I presented a particularly obscure idea to John Salmon, the creative director. So obscure, in fact, that we had to explain to him what it was all about. The script gave him no clue. After a while, the Great Man looked up from the script and said ‘Yes, are you going to be there to explain this when it appears on TV?’ ‘No, John’. ‘Well maybe you should go away and try and write something clearer’.

Which brings me to the John Lewis Christmas ad with the snowman. I’d heard about this much-hyped ad long before I ever saw it. So when it turned up on telly a week of so ago, I watched it with great interest. Then I watched it again on YouTube. And again. And again.

I came to the conclusion that if you hadn’t read all the hype, or knew that it was called ‘The Journey’, you wouldn’t necessarily know what was going on. It’s a montage of shots (all rather beautiful, I should add) showing the snowman in different locations at different times. Finally, he ends up in a city. These shots purport to show him travelling, but they don’t. He’s always static. Call me stupid, but how does he get from one place to the next? Ben Priest, one of the team responsible for this ad – that reputedly cost six million quid – helpfully explained in the Daily Mail the other day that ‘the point is you never see him move. Every time you come back to him he has magically made more progress.’

In fact, Ben’s explanation is part of a double-page spread that is, in effect, a stills storyboard of the commercial, together with a description of what is happening. Among gems to be gleaned from this DPS is the fact that the snowman is invisible to adults – only children can see him. But try gleaning that from the film. I defy anyone to deduce his invisibility from watching the commercial. I certainly didn’t realise it, even after repeated viewings. I suppose we should just be thankful that the snowman wasn’t involved in a collision with a car, since presumably motorists – who tend to be adults – would be blind to his presence.

Of course, this commercial is the work of a hot agency ‘Adam and Eve’. So I will probably be branded a reactionary old fart for daring to suggest this could be a severe case of the emperor’s new clothes. (They really were invisible.) But here’s a question for you, Ben: Are you going to be there to explain this when it appears on TV?’

About Mike Everett

I am a freelance creative director and writer of all forms of communication.

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