The story of a bear and a hare–Creativity helps John Lewis?

John Lewis Christmas ad.   Retrieved from

John Lewis Christmas ad. Retrieved from

John Lewis recently released its Disney-inspired Christmas ad. At the very beginning, the ad tells audiences “there once was an animal who had never seen Christmas”. The animal is a bear that always sleeps over the winter. His friend, a hare, wants him to see the beautiful Christmas tree and celebrate the big day with all his friends. The hare bought the bear an alarm clock as the Christmas gift. The bear was woken up by the alarm clock. He was just in time for the big celebration of Christmas. At last, the ad says, “give someone a Christmas they’ ll never forget”. (To view the ad:

John Lewis Christmas ad  Retrieved from

John Lewis Christmas ad Retrieved from

Creativity makes a difference. In the fierce competition, only the ones with creative ideas can make consumers remember them. This time, John Lewis thinks outside the box. Its competitors, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams John, show the products that can make decent gifts in their ads, which are quire straightforward and predictable. John Lewis chose a different path. In the ad of bear and hare, John Lewis only shows one product, an alarm clock. John Lewis is not showcasing its products in the ad but conveying the message: the Christmas gifts from John Lewis gives the one you send the gift to a splendid memory.  The positive association is constructed in consumers’ minds.

John Lewis’s marketing director Craig Inglis notes, “we are trying to do things differently and always trying to raise the bar.” John Lewis wants to add some playful elements to its ad. This time, it succeeded. The ad has created huge storm of intrigue on Twitter. The discussion of hare and bear puts a spotlight on John Lewis. Also, John Lewis has spent £6m on TV airtime and £1m on press, online media, cinema and events. John Lewis is making use of multimedia channels to make the bear and hare enter the public psyche.

John Lewis Christmas ad  Retrieved from

John Lewis Christmas ad Retrieved from–The-Hare.html

The ad of bear and hare has attracted much attention. Inglis said that John Lewis intended to use the animation to say more about their products. He thought the story-telling approach was effective in making emotional connections between consumers and John Lewis. Indeed, the lovely story and delicately created animation caught consumers’ attention and created buzz. John Lewis successfully differentiated itself from its rivals, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams John.

However, the ad encountered critiques. Some people point out that the ad is not straightforward enough. The implicit information conveyed in this ad may not be fully understood by consumers. Therefore, the communication effects may not be as good as what John Lewis expected. Also, the cost of £7m is relatively high. People doubt that the money was not spent wisely.

Here I have three questions for you to discuss. First, do you like the ad? Second, do you think it has conveyed the information effectively?  Third, is creativity always a good thing? Why or why not?


Butler, S. (2013). John Lewis pins Christmas hopes on £7m hare and bear advert. Retrieved from 

Hawkes, S. (2013). John Lewis launches nationwide contest to find new voice for its Christmas ad. Retrieved from

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8 Responses to The story of a bear and a hare–Creativity helps John Lewis?

  1. allarson says:

    I came across this ad on, and it brought a tear to my eye. I loved it. I thought it told a beautiful story, which is such an enormous part of the principles of Made to Stick and creating a successful campaign. It also painted a beautiful picture of how and why we should give gifts. It was a remarkable, nonmaterialistic way to encourage gift giving, which is such a delicate line to tread. For me, it made me want to buy my nearest and dearest something special. In that way, it was highly effective. I had not heard of John Lewis’ department store prior to seeing this ad, so I can only imagine the affect it had on British consumers. I think that creativity is essential to a good ad, but it is quite possible for an agency to get lost in a “good idea” or pay too much attention to a specific sentiment or thought that is not necessarily on message. However, I do not think that is the case with this ad. It was subtle, yes, but it very clearly communicated the idea of gift giving. In a time filled with Black Friday “deals” and obnoxious ads portraying glamorous families in J Crew sweaters, I think this ad very effectively encourages consumers to buy from John Lewis, and to give something that matters. A+

  2. fennihua says:

    This is very interesting (however a little back ground information on John Lewis might be very helpful)! I think building an emotional connection with the audience is always a very effective way to promote sales, of course if the connection is developed nicely. To answer your questions first, one I love the ad very much, because it really resonate me with those amazing animations we have seen on screens. Two, I think it’s always wrong to conclude that something is always right. Creativity is a very positive element that can bring more colors to projects, but sometime it is like an over-the-line decoration to an already fancy Christmas tree, that may overwhelm the project with details that it doesn’t really need. It really depends on the topic.

    Overall, I have such a positive impression towards this ad, and I challenge the idea that advertisements should always be straightforward and crystal clear about the products. I find ads which go around the products itself often more engaging and inspiring (only if it taps on the right points with the right connections), just because they are often less cheesy and superficial. I really think now advertisements need to do more than just delivering the message of the products, but more about how to provide consumers with more information that can inspire them, make their day more interesting, provoke a conversation and etc., and this ad succeeded in several aspects, which is probably why it’s considered successful. .

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Ahhh, what a lovely little ad! I had never seen it before- thanks for sharing! I’m really surprised by the negative reaction, though. Some people are upset because they don’t see what they’re selling?? This is bizarre to me. Being inundated with advertising every day, I personally find it such a refreshing change, and like Aubrey mentioned, it gets to the heart of gift-giving.

    Also, I’m impressed with their integrated approach. When the ad on youtube ends, you can click on “continue the story” and it takes you to their website. The site has an interactive ebook for kids, behind the scenes footage, a Christmas card maker, and even a live twitter feed of both the bear and the hare. Awesome.

    Thanks, Mengchu!

  4. Moran Pei says:

    I love this ad so much, and yes, this ad is definitely not straightforward enough in many’s eyes, I suppose. However, I would say that conveying some implicit information in an ad, just like this one, is more an advantage than a disadvantage, and “straightforward” doesn’t always mean “effective”. People will feel this ad so touching after they find out what the hare’s gift is, or say, a surprise to both the bear and to the audience. People need to think about the ad one more time to understand why the bear woke up, and accordingly have a deeper memory. They feel this ad surprising and clever, so they would like to share it to friends. If the ad narrates in a more straightforward way which leaves the audience no need to think, it will be less influential because that kind of emotional connection will be weaker.

  5. Fangya Li says:

    I personally love this ad and the warm story this ad tells. I watched the ad on its official YouTube channel and clicked through its links at the end of the video. One of the link led me to a special designed page for “the bear and the hare” on John Lewis’s website, where consumers can explore the story, the behind the scenes, download interactive electronic books, send their friends e-Christmas card, and listen to the theme sons. All of these interactive elements are quite interesting to me. I think the ad conveys the information effectively. Though I didn’t know what John Lewis was before I saw this ad. The emotional story triggered my curiosity to Google what John Lewis was. Even if I didn’t look online, I had a rough idea about what it was through just viewing the ad. I felt that it was a department store or a watch shop. I consider creativity as a bonus in advertising. There is no good or bad in itself. It’s good and effective just because it is used in an appropriate way.
    By the way, this ad reminds me of another ad made by Marks & Spencer for this coming Christmas. Same as John Lewis’ ad, this ad is also a fairy tale and its theme is “Alice in wonderland”. You can find the ad through this link:

  6. Allison Churchman says:

    Thank you for sharing this ad! I had never seen this before. What I found most interesting is the ad never spoke of any products or showed any products either. Its simple and tells a meaningful story that showcases what true holiday spirit means. Because I am not familiar with John Lewis, I looked through the website and discovered this company is based in London. This type of meaningful ad is unusual to find within the United States during the holiday season. Most retailers’ ads focus on their products, sales, promotions, etc. You might find some ads that encourage customers to spread or share the holiday spirit, but nothing that truly focuses on a beautiful story. I hope the creativity of this John Lewis ad encourages other retailers to create ads that showcase the holiday spirit because I believe this is an excellent way to subtly encourage customers to make purchases.

  7. Andrea Pan says:

    This is such a warm and touching ad! As much as I love the story and how the ad reaches deep down to the spirit of gift giving, I do see where the negative reactions are coming from. Yes, the ad may succeed in encouraging consumers to give out meaningful gifts to their loved ones, but it will probably fail in promoting the actual products that John Lewis carries, as well as bringing in more sales for the company. Since only the idea of gift giving is communicated, whereas the benefits that customers will get when purchasing their gifts from John Lewis are not emphasized, I too would doubt the effectiveness of the ad, especially with that much money spent on it. I am not sure if John Lewis has other promotions or ads that go simultaneously with the bear and hare story. But my guess is yes. Otherwise, it’s a bit unwise for John Lewis to put in so much effort at the risk of advertising for its competitors.

  8. Lilian Mak says:

    Oh what a nice and heartwarming ad! I used to study in the U.K. and although the ad did not really make me think and refer to John Lewis, I think it is a very different and creative ad for the holiday season. I am unsure how effective it might be but if they have similar bear and hare decorations and events on going at the John Lewis department store, it might ring a bell for British consumers that the ad’s referring to John Lewis. Sometimes some ads are just weird and seems to have no connection with the brand but that actually leaves a great impression to people’s minds.