John Lewis' dancing brat advert tears down the house

Shilling insurance can get terribly predictable - unless you call Apeldoorn - it's an ad genre that is filled with talking lizards and legal lines and is more often than not unfun and regulated to the dot. With that in mind, this John Lewis home insurance ad is quite the departure from all that. Our young protagonist here is playing dress-up, he is grooving out to Stevie Nicks while dancing around the house and causing a great big mess, on purpose. He smears paint on his face full of makeup, tosses his little sister's watercolor paints on the floor, and ends his solo performance with a fistful of glitter explosion somewhere over the dining table. 

The ad is either loved or hated, probably depending on how much glitter stuck in the rug that you've had to clean up in your life. Where some see an empowering statement of boys exploring creativity and crossdressing, I see a brat and malicious mischief. This isn't a clueless and adorable toddler who wandered through wet paint. Finally, the message that a boy can wreak havoc while mother and sister sit around passively watching it all unfold, is not the cutting edge social commentary that people think it is. 

The fact that the destruction is intentional really throws me, insurance covers accidents, not intentional damage. How did this even get past legal? But I suppose John Lewis will simply raise everyone's premiums and make more money, as aspiring Stevie Nicks impersonators everywhere throw umbrellas around the house.
I really do like the line though, "Let life happen". Everyone who has kids will confirm that the dress-up and dancing scenes are a glorious reality, but at a certain age, they've learned not to be so destructive while doing it. This ad seems to reference "Tiny Dancer" in 2015, where a younger girl performed a passionate dance to Elton John's song in her house, almost breaking everything near her by accident. That advert closed with the line  "If it matters to you it matters to us", neatly wrapping up her passion for dance with the parent's presumed passion for keeping their homegoods intact. 

Ad agency: Adam & Eve DDB

Director: Tom Kuntz

Production company: MJZ

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Chelsea 's picture

The terrible behaviour of the boy is what annoys me most, but it's OK because "muh rainbow and glitter". I don't care if a little boy plays dress-up but that behaviour is not OK/funny/sweet/charming by anyone, oppressed or not; child or adult!

midvinterblot's picture

The archetype tyrannical child.

Cate's picture

Men (or silly boy) makes terrible mess, and the women clear it up? Do I think John Lewis is badly out of touch or quietly taking the piss and making a societal point about women's oppression in the UK? Not sure.

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture

I hate everything about this ad. Could write a dissertation as to why this ad sucks in every respect.

Kim 's picture

Their old ad with the little girl was cute - it had little miss sunshine vibes. Sweet.

This new ad just shows a spoilt brat who needs to have screen time cancelled, pocket money cut (to pay for damages) and put on tidy up chores for a year.

Rachel, not that one. 's picture

John Lewis celebrating an epic failure in parenting. 🤨

Neo's picture

His dance routine seems so planned, with the umbrella and the face paint, that I actually looked up Stevie Nicks original video for this song just to see if any of this was a reference to her video. It's not, but I have now reignited the torch I've been carrying for Stevie since I was eight, so thanks for that.

The song is a bit of lyrical nonsense by the way, she got the title idea when she misheard Tom Petty’s wife, Jane Benyo, say that she had met Petty "at the age of seventeen." It's a great emotional tune, but it means what you want it to and doesn't have a linear story.

"She was telling me about Tom, about when she met him, and she has an incredible Southern accent … and she said that she met him at the age of seventeen, but I thought she said ‘edge,’ and she said ‘no … age’ and I said, ‘Jane, forget it, it’s got to be “edge.” The “Edge of Seventeen” is perfect. I’m gonna write a song, OK? And I’m gonna give you credit.’ She didn’t believe me, you know? She couldn’t believe it when it came out on the album."

Dabitch's picture

There is an article out today about this ad in the Spectator "John Lewis and the dreadful little emperors":

"But of course the advert isn’t really about home insurance. The agency behind this stunt, Adam & Eve/DDB, didn’t skimp on the heavy clues. The blue and pink paint, the consistent pouts and head swivels to camera, the boy dressing in his mother’s clothes and the glitter scattered all over the dining table. This is about ‘inclusion’, which is a new euphemism for male entitlement. Adam & Eve/DDB were also behind ‘Hey Girls’, a period poverty campaign that took great pains to include a girl with short hair in the boys’ toilets. How clever of them.

A few years ago, I would have been alarmed or shocked by this advert. Now I just feel a familiar depression. We live in a time when schools tell children that biology doesn’t define whether you’re a boy or a girl and where 12-year-old drag queens are celebrated.

The trouble isn’t just the ‘trans lobby’. It’s that we have become frightened of our children, frightened to upset them, frightened to exert our authority and frightened to say no. Schools and parents prefer traffic light systems and constant rewards to being the adults in the room. Without the traditional training ground of childhood – when an infant’s wishes are not always granted – how on earth do we expect children to become useful members of society as adults?

This John Lewis advert might have generated lots of engagement. But it isn’t going to change the world or convince decent parents to stop teaching their kids to be respectful, kind and well-mannered. It’s not going to make any of us feel more inclined to take out insurance either. It just adds to the stack of evidence that we are being groomed into buying into an agenda that is ultimately harmful. In a nutshell this advert shows a spoilt little boy with no boundaries, wrecking his family home, while his addled mother looks on impassively. A perfect metaphor, in many ways."

Dabitch's picture

More press about the ad, some headlines:

John Lewis advert praised by singer Stevie Nicks after row

"But others, including singer Stevie Nicks whose song Edge of Seventeen was used for the clip, were positive.
“Love this!” Nicks tweeted, re-posting the video on social media."

I mean, she got paid. Her song is the highlight of the ad too.

Adage: JOHN LEWIS RESPONDS TO SOCIAL MEDIA CRITICISM OF 'SEXIST' AD

The Telegraph: Why the new John Lewis ad is everything that's wrong with modern Britain. Wow, okay that's a bit over the top but I can't read the article anyway.

The Drum: John Lewis’s latest ad has received 130 complaints, but did it actually break any rules?, good question, is the boy being willfully destructive or just "lost in the moment" causing accidents? Only one of these things will be covered by your home insurance.