Iconic Ads: John Lewis & Partners – Excitable Edgar

Customers will relate to the story's humorous and touching tale while they shop for Christmas presents for their loved ones.

Customers will relate to the story’s humorous and touching tale while they shop for Christmas presents for their loved ones.

The heartwarming tale of a young girl’s friendship with an animated dragon is the subject of the 2019 Christmas commercial, which John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners created in association with Adam & Eve DDB London.

This commercial is a continuation of the previous year’s John Lewis Partnership rebranding and closer business alignment between the two companies, which led to two distinct Christmas ads that matched Elton John’s festive theme in quite different ways.

Dougal Wilson directed the commercial, while Simon Lloyd was the creative lead.

A two-minute and thirty-second commercial called “Excitable Edgar” has Dan Smith, the main singer of the band Bastille, singing a cover of the legendary song “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. It revolves around the idea of sharing holiday cheer with loved ones via the exchange of tasty treats and considerate presents.

The Story

Ava, a small girl, and her family and friends are getting ready for Christmas in this narrative. One of them is Edgar, a dragon who is so enthralled by the celebrations that he can hardly resist his natural tendency to spout fire.

The commercial follows the couple as they try to participate in seasonal festivities, only to have their plans derailed. Edgar’s jubilant enthusiasm melts the ice surface, halting the ice skating session. The yearly process of decorating the village Christmas tree takes a disastrous turn when Edgar gets involved, reducing a painstakingly constructed snowman to a puddle.

Edgar isolates himself out of fear that he may further derail the Christmas celebrations. However, Ava, Edgar’s closest friend, plans the perfect gesture to express her feelings for him. She gives him the ideal present—a tasty Christmas pudding—that guarantees he will have a one-of-a-kind part to perform at the grand village feast, illuminating Christmas in his distinctive manner.

The season’s greatest joys are the enchantment of friendship and the opportunity to shower loved ones with extra attention. In the last scene, the Christmas pudding serves as more than just the centrepiece of a grand feast that unites the whole hamlet. It’s a gentle reminder that the smallest acts of kindness, like making someone a special dinner or buying them a present, may have the biggest impact.

The  Making

Simon Lloyd had the concept for “Excitable Edgar” in 2016, long before it made it to television. After three years of pitching the concept, John Lewis’s marketing team eventually approved it.

It was Chief Creative Officer Richard Brim and Lloyd who came up with the concept first. The concept was that the dragon, like Brim’s dog, would release a little puff of smoke or flames when it became agitated, much as the dog would urinate.

In their discussion, Lloyd, Christine Turner, and Brim brought up the fact that the dragon would become so enthusiastic about Christmas that he would release little shards of fire from his nostrils, inadvertently setting objects on fire. According to Brim, one of their theories was that the dragon would learn to control its flames by lighting candles when a storm knocked off electricity.

The notion that their hero, who has little control, could light a Waitrose Christmas pudding in addition to table candles was one of five that made it into the final presentation to John Lewis for the 2019 campaign.

Originally titled “PALS,” the plan was briefly described in a treatment:
An endearing little dragon goes through a terrible ordeal at this time of year in this story. He just can’t contain his enthusiasm for Christmas; he can’t help but let his words fly. A true dampener on everyone’s Christmas enthusiasm, he burns everything he comes across. Even his own family and friends avoid him. To the point where he decides to depart one Christmas to provide joy to everyone he meets. His closest pal, however, thinks otherwise. He notices that something special has to be lit on Christmas day when he sees the wonderful meal set out. A juicy Christmas pudding that tastes wonderful. In the end, it’s only a tiny token of appreciation that shows how much people care and helps the little dragon feel accepted. Christmas in particular.

The team had already rejected three of its selected concepts at a meeting in the last week of May 2019. Edgar and an idea called “Unexpected Guest” would go on to become John Lewis’s 2021 campaign. After the client and agency reached a final draft agreement, they started pitching the idea to animation studios, production firms, and filmmakers, finally selecting Dougal Wilson and Untold Studios.

The Appearance

Dave, the codename for the dragon, was featured in eight different designs on the mood board that accompanied the initial commercial synopsis. Additionally, Untold Studios provided its vision for the character’s appearance, which at first took the form of a newborn hippo.

However, the customer insisted on a cuddlier and softer dragon, one that was “cute” instead of reptile-like and terrifying. From “older teenage dragons with attitude” to “young dragons looking a bit scruffy and semi-fledged,” they examined a plethora of styles. A “making of” video that the company published after the ad’s airing shows some of those revisions.

The finished product is a great advertisement!

Reference

https://www.thedrum.com/news/2023/04/06/40-creative-teams-300-proposals-secrets-john-lewis-christmas-ads-finally-revealed

https://www.creativereview.co.uk/john-lewis-and-waitrose-christmas-ad-is-a-fairytale-heartwarmer/

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