John Lewis focuses on acts of kindness for its 2020 Christmas advert – inspired by the public spirit shown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Its boss Pippa Wicks said it wanted an advert that was “appropriate for how we’re all feeling at the moment”.
It is the latest big brand to unveil its festive campaign – with many focusing on themes involving family.
Coco-Cola and Aldi’s adverts show loved ones being reunited, while Morrisons and Argos focus on families at home.
Emma Macdonald, professor of marketing at Warwick Business School, said brands have had to tread a “tricky line” with the themes around their festive campaigns this year.
Adverts showing lots of people outside and mixing with friends would not be “appropriate messaging” at a time when people are facing coronavirus restrictions.
“There’s already heightened sensitivity, we’re all a bit touchy, because life is a bit tougher,” she said.
“As a business, they need to sell things to keep going. But, you know, a lot of people are saying we can’t actually be buying things, we’re struggling, we don’t have as much money as usual. So that is a tricky balance for them.
“At the moment, it’s really important for brands to stand for something meaningful, rather than just selling lots of stuff.”
John Lewis’ Christmas advert shows different characters helping other people, with a love heart as a central theme throughout.
“We wanted to have a message out there about thinking of others and helping families in need and people in need,” Ms Wicks said.
While there’s no reference to coronavirus, zoom calls, or social distancing, the retail giant said it had deviated slightly from the style of its previous festive adverts due to the pandemic.
In another step away from tradition, it commissioned singer Celeste to write and record an original song for the advert. Ten pence from each download of the track will go to charity.
The advert was released at 7am on Friday on social media and was quickly trending with people sharing a mix of views.
Some said it was not as good as previous Christmas adverts but others said the message of kindness was particularly important this year.
Many of this year’s Christmas adverts focus on the theme of families as people wait to see how the Covid restrictions will impact on their festive plans.
Asda’s advert shows a dad putting up festive lights, his children opening presents and eating Christmas food, and staff making a home delivery wearing face masks.
The dad says: “Christmas is going to be different this year, so let’s really make the most of it. The parties might be smaller, but we can still have great food and party.”
The Coca-Cola advert shows a dad trekking for days across difficult terrain in order deliver his daughter’s letter to Santa Claus.
When he arrives, he finds a sign on the grotto saying “Closed for Christmas” and he gets a lift by the famous Coca-Cola van back to his family.
The dad eventually opens the letter his daughter wrote and finds that all she asked for was for him to be home for Christmas.
On a similar theme, Aldi’s Christmas advert shows its mascot Kevin the Carrot getting a helping hand from Santa to get back to his family after getting lost.
Morrisons and Argos’ offerings show families enjoying spending time together at home, in scenes many people will be hoping for this year.
Xu Zhang, assistant professor of marketing at London Business School, said the focus on families was a reflection of the situation many people have found themselves in during the pandemic.
She said some people would be far away from loved ones, while others will have spent a lot more time at home with relatives due to the lockdown.
The adverts this year speak to “both sides of those segments”, she added.
“For those people spending a lot more time with their family, maybe you don’t appreciate the things you used to appreciate that much. And then those adverts remind you that you should appreciate the family relationship.
“For the other part, it’s different… if they don’t get to spend time with their family then it becomes more important when you see these kind of adverts.”