The John Lewis Christmas Advert 2013. How much did it cost?

Last year saw a great failure in Christmas advertising.

Asda messed up. Their advert contained a highly sexist narrative which drew 620 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for other adverts. Remember the John Lewis Snowman ad?

If you’re like most of us, then Christmas hasn’t arrived until you hear the familiar Coca-Cola jingle that has children (and adults) across the world squealing with festive excitement. Or, if you are me, groaning because Christmas has suddenly become ‘real’. Whatever you feel, the association that Coca-Cola has achieved with the festival is priceless.

John Lewis is slowly becoming synonymous with the season too. In 2011 we were treated to the “For gifts you can’t wait to give” campaign; last year it was the Snowman and this year we have The Bear and The Hare.

I heard someone in Sainsbury’s today say they actually cried watching it. That’s an advert with power.

John Lewis – The Bear & The Hare from Blink on Vimeo.

But has it succeeded in becoming as closely tied with Christmas as Coca-Cola? Was it worth the staggering price tag – £7 million?

Although that may sound like an extortionate amount, the Guardian are reporting that the actual John Lewis advert cost just £1 million to create and “£6m on buying TV airtime and a further £1m on supporting press, online, cinema and events-based marketing.”

Still, £1 million is a lot of money. All things considered, you have to take into account three things.

1. The amount of work that went into it
2. The reach of it
3. The value of it i.e their return on investment

John Lewis ‘The Bear & The Hare’ – The Making Of from Blink on Vimeo.

The amount of work that went into the john lewis christmas advert 2013

Let’s take a snapshot of some of the work involved:
1. It’s been in development for just under a year
2. Talents that worked on it include Aaron Blaise and Dominic Carola (Lion King, Pocahontas, Brother Bear) and John Lee (Aliens, Fantastic Mr Fox)
3. The piece is a stop motion animation with models created to look like cartoons. An incredible style that requires each frame to have the characters drawn and then created as stand alone models which are then filmed on sets
4. The animation itself has nearly 4,000 frames in total and took 6 weeks to produce
5. John Lewis bought the entire advertising break during the X-Factor (November 16th) which cost an estimated £400,000
6. Lilly Allen is performing a version of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’

Therefore when you delve a little deeper, £1 million seems like a bargain.

To put this into perspective, retailers will collectively spend about £390 million on advertising over the final 3 months of 2013. Aviva spent £9 million on their rebranding adverts starring Elle Macpherson, Bruce Willis and Alice Cooper. The most expensive advert to date is the Chanel No 5 featuring Nicole Kidman and directed by Baz Luhrmann, costing an alleged £18 million.

The reach of the advert

This is an advert that has reached across many demographics. In the Curveball office, some of the team are already raving about the way that it makes them feel – festive and instantly want to run over to John Lewis simply to soak up the Christmas spirit. OK, so we’re an overly emotional bunch… I think everyone in our industry can at least agree the style in which it was created is breathtaking. I mean, who ever thought of taking 2D animation and putting it in a 3D setting using stop motion? Elliot Dear we salute you. Then there’s those of us who were completely astounded by the fact that it actually works.

Disney cartoons can often be a little sickly for the the British palate and targeting a cartoon to the demographic that shops at John Lewis could of been risky.

However, to avoid alienating their target audience, John Lewis were very specific about the animation looking British rather than American: “That was a big must from John Lewis and the agency,” says Elliot Dear co-director of the advert. “We were saying the whole time, it’s all about restraint, it’s all about restraint.”

Alongside the advert, John Lewis are utilising social media by giving The Bear and The Hare their own Twitter accounts; providing a Christmas Card Maker which enables you to create a card which can be shared on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter and producing an interactive e-book and variety of other games to play on their own site. Genius and if budget permits, every campaign should be backed up like this.

Let’s also take into account that the “Slow Moving Millie” track used in the 2011 advert reached 31 in the charts and Gabrielle Aplin reached number 1 in 2012.

We can be sure that the single associated with this campaign will enjoy regular airtime.

The value of the advert

The 2011 campaign “For gifts you can’t wait to give”, cost an alleged £6 million and saw sales increase by 9.3%. This brought John Lewis a reported £596 million in pre-Christmas Sales. The 2012 campaign “The Snowman” (also allegedly costing £6 million), saw an increase in sales of 13% in the lead up to the festive period and created £645 million in sales.

Money well spent then!

“John Lewis is already one of the great advertising success stories of recent years. Its advertising strategy has delivered an impressive £1,074 million of incremental sales and £261 million of incremental profit since 2009. And by extending its emotionally-charged Christmas advert with a host of smart digital features, it’s likely that Christmas 2013 will continue to encourage this behavioural change.”
Source: Contagious Magazine

Now let us end with a little more Christmas cheer. As John Lewis is an employee-owned company, 85,000 of their employees enjoyed a bonus equivalent of 17% of their salary. All down to the huge success of the Christmas trade. Let it never be said that John Lewis doesn’t give us all a little extra this Christmas. Ho ho ho indeed.


On the 2nd of January 2014 BBC News reported that in the five weeks to the 28th of December 2013 sales at John Lewis rose by 1.2% with online sales increasing by nearly 23% resulting in sales that totalled £734m.

We’re always keen on feedback here at Curveball, so if you want to get to know the team writing these blogs better, check out our 6-hour day experiment. Or, have a look at our showreels if you’re interested in seeing some examples of our animated explainer videos and video productions.