British retailer John Lewis is known for its unique Christmas campaigns, which are always much anticipated and always sentimental. Its latest holiday work from adam&eveDDB hit YouTube and the brand's website Friday (ahead of Saturday's big TV launch on The X Factor)—a two-minute, animated story that's lovely to behold, even if it owes a bit of its approach to another much-lauded advertiser of recent years.
The spot, titled "The Bear and the Hare," concerns two friends who have a little problem as Christmas approaches. One is thrilled for the season to begin; the other (i.e., the one who hibernates) just wants to go to sleep. The basic story isn't exactly new—it recalls Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman's children's book Bear Stays Up for Christmas (though the conclusion here, involving a special gift, is different). Yet it feels universal enough to be fair game, and is gorgeously rendered, largely thanks to an animation technique that the company is calling unprecedented.
The film, directed by Elliot Dear and Yves Geleyn through Blinkink and Hornet, uses both traditional hand-drawn 2-D animation and stop-frame 3-D model animation, and the results are gorgeous. The approach gives every scene a magical feel, both old and new—flat yet rich and deep and textured. The 2-D animation recalls all the beloved Christmas films of half a century ago, while the 3-D places them within a purely modern scene that sparkles.
The soundtrack is beautiful, too. It's Lily Allen doing a cover of "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane. And yes, a celebrity singer doing a cover song, combined with the lovely animation, is a familiar strategy—it's the approach CAA Marketing and Chipotle have pioneered with "Back to the Start" and "The Scarecrow." Replace the dark politics with light holiday cheer, and you've got "The Bear and the Hare."
The similarities don't end there. After the John Lewis ad breaks, an interactive e-book will be available for download, featuring games and other diversions—a move reminiscent of Chipotle's Scarecrow gaming app. And like Willie Nelson and Fiona Apple's songs for Chipotle, the Lily Allen cover will be available for purchase on iTunes, too. This multimedia approach is smart, giving the campaign so many more touch points—and we'll surely be seeing more of it in big branded-entertainment campaigns.
Something traditional wrapped in something new. It's a great approach to any Christmas marketing, and it should do well for John Lewis this season.
Client: John Lewis
Executive Creative Directors: Ben Priest, Ben Tollett, Emer Stamp
Creative Directors: Aidan McClure, Laurent Simon
Producer: Anthony Falco
Assistant Producer: Catherine Cullen
Managing Partner: Tammy Einav
Business Director: Miranda Hipwell
Account Manager: Caroline Grayson
Production Companies: Blinkink; Hornet
Directors: Elliot Dear, Yves Geleyn
2-D Animation: Premise Entertainment
Character Designer: Aaron Blaise
2-D Animation Supervisors: Aaron Blaise, Dominic Carola
Executive Producers: Bart Yates, James Stevenson Bretton, Josephine Gallagher
Line Producer: Kev Harwood
Production Manager: Benjamin Lole
Production Designer: John Lee
Director of Photography: Toby Howell
Lead Stop-Frame Animator: Andy Biddle
Editor: Sam Sneade, Ellie Johnson @ Speade
Sound: Sam Robson @ Factory
Colorist: Jean-Clement Soret @ MPC
Postproduction: Blinkink Studios