Ad of the Day: John Lewis Runs, Jumps and Dives Through 150 Years in Lovely Birthday Spot

Brand and customer, bonded through time

Get ready for good feelings, as British department store John Lewis is back with another music-driven montage from adam&eveDDB, this time to celebrate the retailer's 150th anniversary.

The gist of the ad, set to a cover of the Kinks' "This Time Tomorrow" as performed by Gaz Coombes, formerly of Supergrass, is that the store's customers have always kept moving and evolving over the years, and so John Lewis has, too—that it's always been there for you.

At its heart, it's a souped-up version of "Always a Woman," the store's Billy Joel-borne spot from 2010 that tracked a woman's life from birth to her golden years. The new ad expands the concept and editing style to show lots of different customers, and covers a much longer time span.

There are plenty of carefree, charming moments like slip-'n'-sliding and Tarzan diving. There are also some darker, more anxious ones like a family racing into a bomb shelter, presumably during World War II. It's an ambitious and ultimately effective sequence, deftly stringing together dozens of scenes into a fairly cohesive if somewhat meandering and ambiguous whole.

The tagline may come across as a little smarmy—almost a humble brag. "For 150 years you've never stood still. Neither have we." Actually, people have been not standing still for a lot longer than that. What appears to be intended as a lofty message about the pace and continuity of existence ends up seeming a little like a claim that history is defined by John Lewis's role in it.

Still, the concept is both playful and daring, and the technique is top notch. And the spot—which broke Saturday on Britain’s Got Talent—only adds to John Lewis's legacy as a brand whose advertising is an event, widely anticipated and beloved.

The final shot, showing a young girl heading off to school, makes its point about the promise of the next generation (i.e., this isn't just a backward-looking ad about the past). And while it might not immediately make people run out and go shopping, as a branding exercise it's skillfully done in getting consumers to believe they share a history with the brand—and perhaps a future as well.


Client: John Lewis

Agency: adam&eveDDB, London