Penguin Love: It’s That Time of the Year for John Lewis, the Store and the Man


British retailer John Lewis has made headlines for itself since 2006 by putting out an annual short film holiday advertisement to great fanfare. Aside from being a heartwarming, music-driven spot, the ads always noticeably go out of their way to not showcase anything about the department store itself.

The videos have become an annual event of sorts for the department store, an indicator that the holiday shopping season is upon us. This year’s edition, revealed online today ahead of Friday’s TV debut in the UK, tells the sweet story of a lad and his lovelorn Monty the penguin, set to British Breakthrough Artist nominee Tom Odell singing John Lennon’s Real Love.

There’s also an in-store virtual reality experience, a mobile app, an online game and much, much more.[more]

In typical fashion, the ad has the Twitterverse abuzz. While the majority of responses have been positive: 

Others expressed disproval and accordingly poked fun:

Many of those who are tweeting about the ad are tagging @JohnLewis, not knowing that that address is for a good-humored teacher in Virginia and not the department store, the Telegraph points out.

“Computer science educator, father of four, social liberal, atheist, and not a retail store,” his Twitter bio reads. He has taken to answering people’s tweets that mention him with a bit of humor, which earned him a box of decorations and a new Macbook Pro from the department store last year, the paper notes.

“Like lots of our customers, we loved seeing John’s funny and ever-patient responses to messages meant for a department store,” Peter Cross, communications director for the store, told the Telegraph.

This year, the campaign isn’t limited to the ad campaign. In a social tease ahead of today’s ad reveal, the store released a Twitter app called Twitter Twinkle that posts “festive messages from fans’ accounts,” Marketing Magazine reports.

Now that the campaign has launched, fans can also follow the adventures of @MontythePenguin and @MabelthePenguin on Twitter.

John Lewis is also offering a companion children’s book (which bears more than a passing resemblance to the style of Lauren “Charlie and Lola” Childs), an online game, an e-book, stuffed toys and other merchandise, and the opportunity to get a photo taken with Monty the penguin if you happen to make your way to an actual John Lewis store. 

Once in-store, shoppers can check out Monty’s Den, which features a interactive tech tie-ins in partnership with Google, Microsoft and Samsung.

As a press release notes, “Monty’s Magical Toy Machine enables children to bring their favourite toys to life through innovative Microsoft technology and Monty’s Goggles uses Google Cardboard to allow children to enter a 360-degree virtual world and interact with Sam and Monty. Children will also be able to create their very own Monty Christmas card on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S.”

Love it or hate it, Lewis (the department store) has already generated a valuable amount of interest in both this year’s film, and on the annual campaign as well. “John Lewis has hit on this very seductive formula,” Patrick Burgoyne, editor of Creative Review, told the BBC.

That interest has definitely driven sales. Case in point: The 2012 holiday campaign contributed to an overall year-on-year sales increase for John Lewis of 44.3% in the five weeks leading up to Christmas, according to Marketing.

Well done to the all the John Lewises!

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[Images via John Lewis]