John Lewis Christmas advert 2014: Why are John Lewis festive ads such a big thing? And can Monty the Penguin live up to expectations?

John Lewis bear and hare characters
John Lewis' Christmas ad launches tomorrow (Source: Getty)

It’s not Christmas without an emotional, heart-warming, sometimes tear-jerking, advert from John Lewis.

The unveiling of each new ad has become the unofficial kick-off of the festive period- move over Coca-Cola Santa, this year there's Monty the Penguin.

Last year’s, featuring an animated bear and a hare, was the most popular yet with more than 13m views on YouTube and more than a million shares across social platforms, according to Unruly, a marketing technology firm specialising in social video advertising. It also went some way to helping the retailer post a like-for-like sales rise of 6.9 per cent over the Christmas season.

Since 2009, we’ve had wild animals, a traditional snowman, cute kids and a selection of famous songs covered by newer artists making people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Now we have a cute penguin gracing our TV screens. But what is it about John Lewis Christmas ads that gets everyone talking?

Emotional storytelling is the answer, according to Sarah Wood, chief operating officer and co-founder of Unruly- and John Lewis Christmas ads do this perfectly. "Their strong storytelling generates intense feelings of warmth and happiness at a time when people are just starting to think about their festive plans. Of course, not everyone’s a fan. Some find the content a little bit too mawkish and overly sentimental. For that reason, they are like the Marmite of ads: you either love them or you hate them. I’ve not met many people who don’t feel strongly either way," says Wood.

However, that’s not a bad thing, Wood adds: "That raw emotional power drives a lot of discussion and serious word-of-mouth online, which in turn leads to greater brand awareness and purchase intent at a crucial time for any retailer."

Of course, multi-million pound budgets and a well orchestrated traditional and social media campaign all form part of the well-orchestrated plan too. Last year this included a TV debut during Saturday night's X-factor, the most expensive TV ad spots on British TV. This year Monty will feature in an ad break during Channel 4's Gogglebox.

With each year’s success comes more pressure on the retailer, and its ad agency Adam & Eve/DDB, to produce a pitch perfect tear-jerker to warm the nation’s hearts- and fill the retailer's tills.

Has it recreated the magic formula?

Here’s what Monty has to live up to.

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