The Handbook
The Handbook

There was a simpler time, when mankind marked the changing of the seasons by the swallows’ migration, the crops and the shifting weather. Nowadays we watch out for cues like Eurovision, Love Island and, of course, the John Lewis advert. Which is how we know it’s mid November, and only a few weeks until we discover the fate of the Heathrow Bears, who are presumably grounded and quarantine-ing.

John Lewis may have just made swinging cuts to their workforce and quietly dropped their ‘Never knowingly undersold’ promise, but they did have budget available for their annual blockbuster advert and as ever it’s got everyone talking. But man, is it hectic…

The theme is kindness, with each character (apart from the pigeon in the opening scene) offering each subsequent character a taste of human tenderness as the ad skips from live-action to cartoon, to animation in a medley of styles and a storyline that leaves a few hanging questions but nevertheless manages to tug at the emotional heartstrings like a John Lewis advert only can.

But man, is it hectic...

The overall effect is somewhat anarchic, with logic suspended and the intended full-circle not quite realised, but in a couple respects the ad does hit the mark.

It’s suitably ‘aww’ inducing, it doesn’t mention the pandemic (but doesn’t feel irresponsible) and it reminds us of a key Christmas message of love and kindness.

That’s not to say that it’s not bonkers confusing. Why is every other character in the 2 minute advert passes on kindness to the next, why doesn’t the pigeon in the opening scene? Perhaps Ken Livingstone was right about pigeons?

The nurse on the bus can’t see the pigeon/hedgehog aeroplane’s contrail heart, breaking the chain of the entire ad meaning that the nurse’s glasses fix for the little girl isn’t part of the pay-it-forward chain that the whole advert hinges on.

Finally, while we do enjoy the ‘two-two-two-Tooting’ bus, the actual 222 goes to Hounslow Bus Depot, which isn’t quite as Chistmasssy! And it isn’t made of wood.

Excuse the bah-humbug, maybe it’s the fact that Christmas still hangs very much in the balance with coronavirus raging that makes it tricky to get into the festive mood this year. The ad’s cute, but the world isn’t.

So go on, shop at John Lewis, they’ve earned it…


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