John Lewis’s 2018 holiday commercial highlighted the transformative effects one gift had on a young boy’s (Elton John) life.
‘The Child & The Piano’ was John Lewis’s much-anticipated Christmas advertising campaign for 2018. It told the tale of a young boy and the gift that changed his life.
Elton John was the little boy.
The commercial, which is set to John’s classic song Your Song, starts in the present and retraces Elton’s life up to the point when he gets the “piano that transformed his life forever.”
Some of Elton’s most important moments from the past 70 years have been reenacted, from his school recital in the 1950s to his stadium tour on the West Coast in the 1970s. There are also some scenes from behind the scenes and in the recording studio for good measure. In the current day, Elton sits at his first piano and thinks back on his past.
This idea, developed by Mike Sutherland and Ant Nelson, was chosen as a favourite early on after John Lewis, who recruited long-standing contributor and communications firm adam&eveDDB to finish the project, received over 300 prospective scripts for this year’s Christmas campaign. The company contacted the singer with the idea, and in the end, he agreed to be in the commercial.
If you think back on all the Christmases you’ve celebrated, there’s probably one present that sticks out more than the others—that one special gift. The advertisement aimed to evoke an experience like that.
John Lewis was hoping that by sharing the backstory of how Elton came to get a piano as a Christmas present, they might bring back happy memories of giving presents to loved ones that will be remembered fondly for years to come.
Over the past ten years, John Lewis has seen that this kind of advertising, which tries to get people to feel something, works best around the holidays.
A shift in the media’s focus from audiences to employees
The 140-second video, which was directed by Seb Edwards of Rocket Entertainment, was first shown on John Lewis’s internal digital platforms and in stores at 8 a.m., but staff started sharing it at 6 a.m., indicating a change in media strategy. A television broadcast of the commercial followed.
Customers could see and touch the ad at the shop on Oxford Street, making this the company’s most interactive Christmas promotion to date. There were copies of Elton John’s home, recording studio, and dressing room from the 17-11-70 ad, as well as photo opportunities with the musician and his piano.
There was a Yamaha piano in the store, as well as pianos at fourteen other UK locations.
Trivia – Some of Elton John’s secret compensation has been given to the Elton John Charitable Trust.