A pair of creatives tell LBB's Laura Swinton that they think they’ve unearthed the advertising conspiracy theory to end all advertising conspiracy theories
John Lewis Christmas campaigns not only revolutionised festive advertising in the UK, they kicked off a cult following among advertising creatives around the world. And, like anything with a fandom, they’ve got obsessive art directors and clue-seeking copywriters poring over every frame.
One such fan is Eduardo Balestra, a senior copywriter at BBDO Germany. He had suspected something was up with the ads for a while, but last year, while watching John Lewis’ 2019 campaign Edgar the Excitable Dragon, something clicked in his head. Eduardo realised that they’re all connected. Together with his art directing partner Luis Paulo Gatti and friends at DaHouse Audio, he’s pulled together a convincing case study that he thinks proves that all of the John Lewis Christmas ads take place in the same shared universe.
It’s not the first such theory – in recent years the idea that all Pixar movies are interlinked has gained popularity, and Quentin Tarantino’s penchant for sprinkling easter eggs into his movies have persuaded film fans that he too has created a connected cinematic world.
“The idea of doing this for John Lewis came up years ago but It was only last year, when the Excitable Edgar came out, that I decided to draft something. As soon as I saw the dragon melting the snowman, I instantly saw the first connection, with the 2012’s film ‘The Journey’ and realised the story could start right there,” explains Eduardo. “As I was excited and on the Christmas mood, a couple of hours later I had half of the theory figured out. But since I was on holidays and I wouldn’t release anything for another year, I parked it and only got back to it in the end of October - procrastination in its best form!”
It took Eduardo just a day to review and polish up his theory. Finding the threads was easier with some ads than others, though.
“It was all a matter of finding the most interesting connections amongst the ads and defining a storyline. Some would fit more naturally than others, using each ad’s main plot and narrative, like “The man on the moon got there because of the little girl’s trampoline”. Others, relied on common visual elements, such as the “same” bird on “The Journey” and “The Bear and the Hare” ads,” explains Eduardo.
Of course, the timeline that Eduardo and Luis outline is just one possibility – other ad fans may have their own ideas about how the world fits together. “I had to play with whatever I had available, and to be honest, I didn’t have the time to explore all combinations possible. As long as the connection sounded plausible or silly enough, it was in, no much questions asked,” he admits. “The trickiest one would be the ad featuring Elton John, because it totally goes away from JL formula, but we found the solution by keeping him in the final scene. And it worked out really nicely with the soundtrack we composed, since he’s playing the piano.”
The whole thing took about two weeks to pull together, from finding the connections, writing the voice over and cutting together to working with DaHouse to create an original track.
The whole thing is a labour of love from a consummate advertising fan. So what’s Eduardo’s favourite John Lewis ad of all time?
“My favourite John Lewis ad is “The Long Wait” for sure,” he says. “The story is amazingly told and the plot twist is really powerful. Simple and insightful. Besides, it started the whole thing.”