As I write this I’m sat wrapped in a dressing-gown-cum-blanket, trying not to set my hair on fire as I decorate the perimeter of my desk with candles, and feeling a bit funny from ingesting too much Vaseline and inhaling too much Olbas Oil. But none of these things symbolise the start of Christmas, because that is the job of the annual John Lewis advert.
The ad has become one of the main talking points in the run up to Christmas. When doing some research for this blog post, I found so many articles that it would take me up until Christmas to read them all. But to be talked about all over the internet wasn’t John Lewis' main objective, of course.
Marketing Director Craig Inglis says its aim was to 'connect emotionally with our customers'. That’s why a total of £7 million was spent on the making and airtime of the ad. Who cares about profit when a company can connect emotionally with people?
An advert whose sole purpose is to persuade you to spend all of your hard-earned money in its store prevails over putting up the Christmas tree and booking train tickets home. Even though, of course, the Christmas catchphrase we all proudly stand by is that it’s ‘about family, not the presents’. I don’t mean to sound so cynical, but as someone who can't squeeze out a tear over a cartoon bear, I’m aware that’s how I might come across.
I don’t have a television, so I found out about this year's advert by the reaction on social media. And there definitely was a reaction. I may be the only one but I just don’t understand the response, which was mainly ‘oh my god I’m in tears, Christmas is officially here!’.
More ridiculous than the reactions on social media, though, are some of the articles floating around:
‘We can exclusively reveal that expressonline readers prefer last year's romantic snowman tale to this year's animation offering.’
‘The ad that’s making everyone cry!’
'The department store titans have seemed to work out a magical formula for Most Tears Per Second'
One of the worst articles I found says that the John Lewis Christmas ad has ‘become as much a part of the run-up to Christmas as making the cake’, and ‘it seems to me that they’re on to something’. Yes, profit.
I don’t have a problem with advertising – but why can’t we just see it as that? Whatever the context, an advert is an advert because it wants your money.
One thing I do have a problem with, however, is companies pretending that their objective is to sentimentalise Christmas, and tell me that it’s special and why. John Lewis’ chief executive Andy Street said this year's ad "pays tribute to all of our most memorable childhood Christmases".
How does Andy Street know what my childhood Christmases entailed? Maybe next year its ad will consist of a living room full of grown-ups farting and falling asleep and a mardy child who isn't allowed to ride her new bike while it's snowing. Now that really would be magical.