John Lewis takes to social media to explain their latest ad.

When I was in ad school our mentor John Gillard would - quite literally - tear our work apart. If we had made a print ad or a poster that required even a nanosecond of explanation he would crumple it up and toss it in the bin. "You won't be able to stand next to every billboard explaining the ad!" he'd say,  drilling that mantra into us. 

Seeing that John Lewis just took to social media to explain their ad, reminded me of that. 

"At John Lewis, we believe in children having fun and that's why we chose this playful storyline for our latest advert." they say, "It's designed to show the young actor getting carried away with his dramatic performance. He is not willfully damaging his home and is unaware of the unintentional consequences of his actions"

The thing is, the advert itself should have communicated that. Because that's not at all what it looks like. Let's take another look at the ad, shall we?

Chucking an umbrella into the bookshelf targeting a vase is "accidental", using both hands to tip his sister's paint on the floor is "getting carried away", chucking glitter all over the dining table is "unintentional consequences", and tearing up a down pillow just to be able to dramatically toss feathers about is "dramatic performance", I suppose. He looks directly at his baby sister, who is sitting at a table painting before he spoils her fun by chucking her paints on the floor. 
The entire mood is miles away from the "Tiny dancer" advert John Lewis released in 2015. The girl was caught up in her own performance as well, and she was so passionate she almost took down a vase, uprooted a plant, and a flurry of books fell off their shelves as she twirled by. The boy on the other hand looks destructive creating malicious mischief, while the girl seems to be in her own little ballerina world, just barely avoiding disaster. What a difference a director makes.

The John Lewis advert has hit a nerve so raw, that people truly either love it or hate it. It's the marmite of adverts. 

The Spectator wrote:

Where are the parents? The docile mother sits drinking tea at the table with her mouth open. Has she mistakenly added sedatives to her morning cuppa? The strongest glue on the planet would not have secured my body to that chair if one of my children were behaving so badly. And, though I am sure John Lewis’s liability terms are generous, I really doubt their claims handlers would accept ‘well I watched Thomas wreck my entire house and did nothing to stop them’.

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?

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the media spectrum, Pinknews wrote: "Bigots fuming about John Lewis’ joyful advert have spectacularly shown themselves up"

On twitter, people are making memes to mock, or cheer, the advert as we speak, and ad-twitter are hotly debating whether the ad is great or terrible. So the advert has achieved success in getting noticed.

Just remember what Gillard taught us, any advertising that requires a separate statement about the 'thinking behind' it is a failure. You can't stand next to each viewer of the ad and explain the boy is just "caught up" in his act. If people see a brat acting a fool with underlying sexism as he spoils his sister's fun and mom seems to be on valium not telling him to stop, then that is what they see. "Boys will be boys", but with a dress, spilled nail polish, and makeup.

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I've collected some headlines about the ad;

Opinion in the Independent by
Victoria Richards "The new John Lewis advert is a glorious antidote to toxic ‘boys will be boys’ messaging". Pardon me? The boy thrashing about and even destroying his sister's pants, which she so calmly sits quietly and does, really reinforces that boys are rowdy and messy, while girls are quiet and neat. Wearing his mother's dress doesn't really take away from the masculine mess here.

" think we are all missing the point, because this ad is joyful.

Just look at him: the dazzling star – an actor, of course, but still a role model for so many boys who wish they too could copy their sisters without condemnation, wear a tutu and princess dress and heels and strut to the strains of Stevie Nicks.

We’ve come a little way regarding the conversation about gender stereotyping – we’re learning to teach our kids that they can do or be whatever and whoever they want to be."

I didn't realize that some people grew up in an alternate universe where boys were told they couldn't be whatever they wanted to be.

John Lewis accused of ‘agenda-pushing’ over advert starring a boy in a dress

The advert triggered an online backlash, with some viewers accusing the retailer of sexism and “agenda-pushing” while others claimed it was guilty of “sexualising” children.

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.


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.

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