This John Lewis Christmas Ad, Made by a Student, Is Being Mistaken for the Real Thing

Nick Jablonka's surprise viral hit

A fake John Lewis ad about a lonely snowman, created by a young student as part of his coursework, is making waves in the U.K.—befuddling viewers and drawing widespread attention ahead of the release of the retailer's real Christmas commercial.

Earlier this year, 18-year-old Nick Jablonka created a minute-and-a-half-long spot to accompany an essay about the British retailer's popular holiday marketing campaigns. Back in June, he also uploaded it to YouTube. But in the past several days, U.K. news outlets began reporting that the ad had gone viral, with some in the country mistaking it for the official version of John Lewis's annually anticipated tearjerker.

To be fair, the general tone of Jablonka's ad is in keeping with John Lewis's heart-twanging tradition. A snowman trapped in a snow globe presses his hands against the the glass, fantasizing about a romance with a snow woman, while wistful music drives home his persistent isolation. Eventually, he seems to find comfort in his ability to imagine companionship, even if he's stuck by himself.

The ad has a lot to recommend it. The simple story, while a little abstract in its payoff, is an engaging enough vehicle for the inviting visuals. The soundtrack, a cover of Genesis's "Follow You, Follow Me" by Vapor featuring Adaline, plays an outsized role in carrying the story (another characteristic of actual John Lewis ads).

It would also, though, appear to owe a lot to a 2015 Christmas spot from Cineplex, a North American movie theater chain, which relied on the same recording of the same song, and featured an animated story about a little girl and a snowman she builds, and stuffs away in a freezer every year to avoid the melt. Toronto agency Zulu Alpha Kilo created that ad.

Jablonka says he made his in just two weeks, for a media assignment, and never meant to pass it off as an actual commercial.

Nonetheless, it's a notable solo effort. London public relations agency W announced this week, following the rapid rise in the ad's profile, that it had offered Jablonka a job, reports the Daily Mail. Some online commenters had called for John Lewis to hire him, and even claimed his spot may prove better than the retailer's own ad.

That sentiment, though, may reveal more about the public's thirst for the official version—expected to break this Thursday—than anything else. And if recent years are any indication, that's likely to be a high bar to beat. 

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.