John Lewis Christmas advert slammed for lack of social distancing

Cynical social media users slam John Lewis Christmas advert for lack of face masks and social distancing – despite the animation being set in a Covid-free world

  • John Lewis advert released this morning is a change from traditional tearjerker 
  • Mostly animated ad has been slammed by cynics for a lack of social distancing
  • It is set in Covid-free world and aims to be a form of escapism for viewers 

Cynical social media users slammed John Lewis and Waitrose today as their highly anticipated Christmas advert didn’t feature social distancing or face masks.   

The British high street favourite unveiled its hotly-anticipated Christmas short online at 7am this morning – and it is not the festive tearjerker viewers have come to expect.

Although the advert is intended to provide escapism and fantasy at the end of a tough year, some demanding social media users took to Twitter to complain about the lack of Covid-safe measures in the fictional scenes.

‘Hearts, snowmen, Cilla Black haircuts and giving someone a plaster Adhesive bandage on a bus! Where are the facemasks? Social distancing is not going to end at Christmas,’ one moaned.

Set in a Covid-free world, the campaign hopes to raise a smile with light-hearted scenes of magical flying snowmen, supersized Christmas crackers and a hedgehog who dreams of being a pigeon. 

The two-minute commercial which premiers on TV this weekend, shows how small acts of kindness can alleviate loneliness and bring joy to people who are quietly struggling.  

Told through a series of nine interconnecting vignettes, the advert follows a chain reaction of good deeds that change someone else’s life in small but meaningful ways. Each scene is done in a different style, from hand-drawn animation to claymation and cinematography.

Claire Pointon, customer director for John Lewis, said: ‘We deliberately said “let’s not take it too close to the real world”. People don’t want to look in the mirror and see what we’ve been going through.’ 

Instead the focus is on giving back, inspired by the ‘spontaneous acts of kindness in our communities’ at the start of lockdown. 

Cynical social media users slammed John Lewis and Waitrose today as their highly anticipated Christmas advert didn’t feature social distancing or face masks. Pictured: A scene in a covid-free world of a child getting a haircut 

Mask-free! Social media users slammed this scene on a bus which saw two people sitting together and not wearing face masks

While some fans said they were left in tears at the sweet advert, others were quick to moan at the lack of realism.

‘Disappointed by the lack of face masks and social distancing on the new John Lewis Xmas advert,’ one moaned.

Referring to one scene on the bus, another wrote: ‘I would have had them wearing #facemasks in the shape of heart.’

‘According to the #johnlewischristmasadvert, there’ll be no masks and no social distancing for Christmas, Just the warm, fuzzy feeling of coronavirus,’ tweeted another.

While some fans said they were left in tears at the sweet advert, others were quick to moan at the lack of realism and Covid-safe measures

Some even went as far as to criticise snowmen for gathering in groups of more than six.  

‘No social distancing on the John Lewis advert! Touching someone else’s glasses, sat too close on the bus, how many snowmen changing a tyre? More than six!’ said one.

‘All I took from the #johnlewischristmasadvert, was none of the characters were wearing face coverings on the tube, metro or bus, or social distancing! #bahhumbug’ another said.  

‘Well, the #johnlewischristmasadvert is meh, isn’t it? I actually had anxiety watching the characters not social distancing and with no masks. Give a little love (and also a little virus),’ commented another.  

However, others were quick to praise the advert, and thought complaints about social distancing were ‘ridiculous’

‘Is it wrong that my overriding thought while watching the #johnlewischristmasadvert as that no one was keeping social distancing?’ complained one social media user.

However, others were quick to praise the advert, and thought complaints about social distancing were ‘ridiculous’.

‘If you are complaining about the lack of masks and social distancing on the new #johnlewischristmasadvert. Get a f****** life,’ said one. 

‘There is no need to remind people of corona,’ added another.  

‘Well at least the new John Lewis advert doesn’t feature Zoom quizzes, facemasks, or a certain fitness instructor,’ wrote one.  

Helping hand: The advert begins with a little boy whose football has gotten stuck in a tree and is helped by a little girl in yellow

Sharing the love: The girl opens up her heart-shaped umbrella, which will be on sale via John Lewis, and it floats up to the tree

In a first for the retailer, this year’s soundtrack is an original song, A Little Love, by Brit Award-winning soul singer Celeste. Part of the proceeds will go towards two charities being spotlighted by the campaign. 

There are no direct references to the pandemic like face masks or social distancing, but the advert still aims to ‘talk to the mood of the nation’. 

Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, marketing expert Harry Wollop said: ‘It’s really crucial not just for the business, people just aren’t shopping in the high street so there’s massive pressure in December getting people back to the retailer safely and shopping online

Touch of magic: In a moment, the little girl and boy are turned into animated versions of themselves and the story continues

Passing on the kindness: After one last look at each other, the little girl and boy go their separate ways

‘It’s okay I quite like it it’s warm and it sums up the spirit of 2020, it is raising money for two very good charities. It feels a bit disjointed, they’ve hired nine experts and it feels a bit bitty it doesn’t have that punch other adverts have had, the man on the moon, that would have been a bit bombastic this year.’

The advert opens with a boy whose football is stuck in a tree. He is approached by a little girl in a yellow raincoat, who releases her red heart-shaped umbrella and in a moment the two are transformed into animated versions of themselves.

The young boy goes on to present a heart-shaped balloon made of snow to a melting snowman, who uses the balloon to lift himself from the puddle and fly into the air.  

Next stop: The animation changes and the snowman (left) lands in the middle of a busy town and sees a couple in trouble

Special delivery! The car stops outside a front door and the snowmen leave a bag of Waitrose goodies, also in a heart shape

He lands in the middle of a busy town centre, where he sees a couple of snowmen struggling with their car and promptly produces a heart-shaped wheel to help get them on their way. 

The car trundles down the road and drops a bundle of Waitrose goodies at the door of an elderly man, who promptly unpacks them in his vibrant kitchen with the help of his wife.  

Noticing his next-door neighbour is feeling lonely, the man extends a comically long Christmas cracker for him to pull. He does, and in an explosion of confetti comes across a joke that keeps him laughing for hours – right up until he turns up at work the next day at a barber shop. 

Table for one: Through his binoculars, a character in the advert spots his neighbour sitting at his kitchen table all alone and decides to help

That’s a good one! Animation style changed again, the neighbour grabs hold of a joke and it keeps him laughing for hours

Full of festive cheer, he gives a red-headed boy a heart-shaped haircut. The character transforms into a real-life boy, who opens up a John Lewis Christmas decoration and tops the tree.  

Outside a pigeon dressed in a denim jacket and jeans watches the festive family scene. He joins his friends, a group of similarly dressed pigeons, and takes kindly on a hedgehog who is so desperate to join the group he has stuck feathers to his quills. 

After giving the hedgehog the hat off his head, the pigeon and his friends make their way to an airplane marked ‘X Mas’ and jet off into the sky. They release smoke and draw a heart in the sky.   

Quiet sadness: Back on the ground, a bus drives past the heart in the sky – but a little girl is upset she broke her glasses  

Quick fix: Spotting the problem, a woman takes the heart-shaped sticker off her apple and uses it to mend the glasses

Back on the ground, a bus drives past the heart. On board is an elderly woman who helps a little girl fix her broken glasses using the sticker from her apple. 

As she steps off the bus, the little animated girl turns back into the girl seen at the beginning of the commercial.  

The vignettes are created by eight different artists who are leading experts in their particular art, including Chris Hopewell, who has created music videos for Radiohead and Franz Ferdinand, and French animator Sylvain Chomet. 

At one point the team considered dropping the advert in favour of a straightforward fundraising campaign but decided to go ahead to maximise on the exposure the advert brings.  

Divided opinion: John Lewis customers were delighted with the ‘simple’ message, but others wanted it to be more hard-hitting

It hopes the advert will raise a smile while raising money for Home-Start, which provides volunteers and expert support to families with young children, and FareShare, which redistributes surplus food to charities that turn it into meals. A second commercial focuses on this partnership. 

The retailer will match donations of up to £2million made by shoppers and has an additional £1million set aside to put towards local causes. In addition, part of the proceeds from Celeste’s singles will go towards the charities. 

John Lewis is also releasing a range of limited edition merchandise, including the heart-shaped umbrella featured in the film, to help raise funds. 

It is part of a long-term fundraising plan that will extend beyond the festive season. 

Claire added: ‘The ambition for us was to inspire a generation with the simple thought that if you give a little love the world will be a much better place.’ 

Remember these? Edgar the Dragon, Bouncing Buster, the Man on the Moon, Montie the penguin and a star turn from Sir Elton John – EVERY past John Lewis Christmas advert 

The eagerly-awaited John Lewis Christmas commercial has become something of a festive tradition.

Every year, fans gather in front of their TVs to watch the latest offering, before sharing it with their friends and family and – in recent years – broadcasting their opinions online.

The John Lewis ads started in 2007 and here you can revisit every single one.


Last year’s offering starred an excitable and accident-prone dragon called Edgar who lives in a freezing mythical village with his red-headed best friend Ava.

In the heart-warming and funny ad the pair try were forced to quell his disastrous fire-breathing after it threatened to destroy the festive period for everyone as a giant Christmas tree was flamed, a snowman was destroyed and the local ice rink melted.

It marks the first time the department store joined with sister brand Waitrose for a festive commercial. After a mixed response to the 2018 ad, which featured Elton John and charted his rise from childhood, the new ad seemed to be a return to formula.

2018 – The Boy And The Piano 

The retailer ended a decade of heart-warming tearjerkers featuring loveable animals and charming children last year when it featured Sir Elton John in its Christmas ad. 

It charted the singer’s rise from humble beginnings to fame and fortune. 

The mini-biopic, set to his 1970 hit Your Song, showed how one present can change a life and ended with a four-year-old Elton unwrapping his first piano on Christmas Day in 1951. 

The £7million advert then cutsto the emotional 71-year-old playing the same instrument while thinking about his mother Sheila, who died in 2017 aged 92, followed by the slogan: ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’. 

However, it was panned by some who thought that it focused more on the singer than on Christmas. 

Some fans were also disappointed that cuddly stars such as Montie the penguin and Moz the monster were jettisoned for a celebrity-endorsed campaign. 

2017 – Moz The Monster

2017’s effort featured the story of a boy who befriends the monster under his bed, with the music a cover of The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers by rock band Elbow.

It left viewers in tears over the mischievous and flatulent monster called Moz and his relationship with a seven-year-old soulmate – with fans comparing it to Disney’s much-loved Monsters Inc.

The giant furry monster with a bulbous nose, wonky teeth and a love of snoring, jumped out from under the bed every night to play with companion Joe in a festive tale making many laugh and cry.

The little boy, aged 7, who is played by young twin brothers from London named Ethan and Tobias, is initially frightened after seeing a pair of enormous eyes peering from the dark under his bed.

But the two unlikely friends are shown sharing games, playing piggyback and Scalextric in his bedroom – all without mum, dad, or older sister finding out. 

2016 – Buster The Boxer

Buster the Boxer and his trampoline antics was the star of the 2016 edition.

John Lewis said the advert where the dog, played by five-year-old Biff, beats a young girl to her new toy was their attempt to cheer up Britain after a ‘tough year’.

The advert told the story of a little girl called Bridget who loves to jump.

Set to a cover version of ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’, her mother and father buy her a trampoline, toiling while she sleeps to build it before hiding it in the garden to surprise her with on Christmas Day. As the snow falls an array of animals start using it as the Boxer watches forlornly through the window.

The next morning Bridget sprints out to use it for the first time but her joy turns to shock as cheeky Buster has the last laugh and uses her new toy before her.

2015 – Man On The Moon

In 2015, a lonely Man on the Moon is shown to viewers sitting by himself on a bench, completely unaware that he is being observed by the youngster back down on Earth

The elderly man, played by a 77-year-old French actor called Jean, gazes up wistfully towards the Earth, as the Oasis song Half The World Away, performed by 19-year-old Norwegian singer Aurora plays mournfully in the background.

She tries desperately to send him a message but all her efforts fail, while he remains unaware that anyone cares about him and sits alone on a bench, wistfully staring up at the Earth.

Eventually, on Christmas morning, a present arrives from the sky, carried by party balloons, and the old man unwraps it to reveal a vintage telescope.

He uses it to spot Lily and, realising that someone cares about him, his eyes fill with tears.

2014 – Monty The Penguin

In 2014, John Lewis hoped the bond between a boy and a penguin would capture the public’s imagination.

The two-minute festive commercial told the story of seven-year-old Sam, played by actor Rhys Edwards from Hertfordshire, and his friend Monty.

The boy gradually realises Monty is longing for a penguin companion. And so on Christmas morning Sam surprises Monty with the gift of a new penguin friend named Mabel.

The soundtrack was John Lennon’s song Real Love, performed by Tom Odell.

2013 – The Bear And The Hare

In 2013, the £7million Disney-inspired advert told the story of a selfless hare who is determined to make sure his best friend, a bear, doesn’t miss Christmas for once.

The commercial features the tale of two good friends, a bear and a hare, who are sad at the thought of being separated for Christmas.

The tale opens as winter is starting to draw in and the fun and excitement of preparing for Christmas begins.

As the first snowflake falls and lands on the bear’s nose, the hare starts to feel sad because he realises his friend will soon go off to hibernate, so – as usual – missing Christmas.

While the bear is keen to join in, eventually he finds he cannot hold off his winter sleep any longer and disappears into his cave.

Viewers see the bear fast asleep while all the other woodland creatures become excited about the big day to come.

However, the hare is missing his friend and finds it increasingly difficult to join in the preparations until the moment he has a great idea for a very special present.

He disappears off in to the wilderness to return with the gift – an alarm clock – which wakes the bear just in time to gather around a beautifully decorated tree to celebrate with all his friends.

2012 – The Journey

The Christmas ad from 2012, called The Journey, shows the extraordinary lengths to which some will go in their search for a gift for someone they love.

The 90-second commercial opens in a family’s snow-covered garden, with children happily making a snowman and snowwoman.

When the snowman mysteriously disappears the next morning, the viewer is transported to a magical world, following him on an epic journey across river, mountain, road and city.

The motive for the snowman’s secret journey isn’t revealed until the last scene, when he returns on Christmas morning with gifts for his wife. 

Gabrielle Aplin sings The Power Of Love, the 1984 hit from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, as the soundtrack. 

2011 – The Long Wait

In 2011, the John Lewis advert showed a young boy desperately excited about Christmas.

He eagerly counts down the days to December 25 with viewers left to imagine he is looking forward to getting presents. 

However, it is revealed at the end that he actually couldn’t wait to give presents to his parents.

It was accompanied by a cover of The Smiths’ Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’.

2010 – A Tribute To Givers

The 2010 offering saw individuals choosing and wrapping their presents in the lead up to the big day, as Ellie Goulding sings a cover of Elton John’s Your Song.

Various people furtively hide the presents they’ve carefully chosen.

Parents sneak a rocking horse upstairs while their children’s backs are turned; a mechanic struggles to wrap a spotted teapot; and a small boy braves the snow in his dressing gown to hang a stocking outside his dog’s kennel.

2009 – Sweet Child O’ Mine 

2009 was the first of the store’s Christmas campaigns created by advertising agency Adam & Eve.

It was also the first to feature a musical cover by a current artist, on this occasion a Taken By Trees version of Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses.

The ad shows children opening gifts for adults including a laptop, coffee machine and handbag.

It’s followed by the tagline: ‘Remember how Christmas used to feel? Give someone that feeling.’

2008 – From Me To You 

Culminating in the tagline: ‘If you know the person, you’ll find the present,’ the 2008 version shows a succession of characters followed by a matching gift.

The soundtrack is a cover of The Beatles’ From Me To You recorded for the campaign.

It included vocals by Matt Spinner, a member of the John Lewis IT department and its music society.

2007 – Shadows 

The first John Lewis Christmas ad shows a group of people stacking a pile of potential gifts including a desktop lamp, a computer and a leather satchel in an empty room. 

The finished product ends up creating a shadow that looks like a woman walking her dog through the snow.

It is accompanied by the tagline: ‘Whoever you’re looking for this Christmas.’  

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