What you need for your Christmas campaign

john lewis snowman Not real snow - this 'John Lewis ad' was created by a student

Christmas is almost here and the marketing press lie in wait for the latest festive ads. John Lewis is probably the most eagerly anticipated, having spent big money on both TV and PR for several years now.

So it caused a wry smile when an A-level student decided to take on the retailer at its own game and produce his own ad as part of his coursework. It features a lonely snowman in a snowglobe and probably channels last year’s penguin commercial. A quick glance at the video below will show that he has captured the saccharin sentimentality that most John Lewis adverts seem to demand.

Seeing as the official John Lewis offering is not out until Thursday, it is unsurprising that this one fooled a number of people into thinking it was the real deal. Of course, the student said it was done very quickly and at the last minute.

It is unlikely that he spent as much money as John Lewis will have done on its version (a reported £5m). But it does suggest that there is a formula. Is it good when expensive work is so easy to mimic and gets 250,000 hits on YouTube?

Fake content for all

The production of user-generated content is a long-term trend. Only last month we wrote about the mod for Grand Theft Auto IV that was created around the Samsung exploding phone debacle.

Other fine examples include anything to be featured on the GoPro channel. GoPro’s embrace of user-generated content exemplifies how brands can work with this sort of trend.

Despite the fact that the student parodied the John Lewis ad so easily, the result is positive towards the retailer. But there are other examples of user-generated content – such as Samsung – which are not as welcome.

Probably the worst example of a brand trying to harness the creative ability of its consumers is Coca-Cola. Last year it launched a website that allows people to create their own Coca-Cola labels. Many went online to try and knock out their own uncomplimentary versions. Diabetes was a favourite theme.

Easy to do

There are no details about how the John Lewis folk ad was brought to life. However, with so many open-source tools available it is relatively straightforward for an arty type with some time on their hands to be able to produce a high-quality film. In this case the use of CGI suggests Blender 3D modelling software was part of the mix.

Of course, the question remains whether this is a good thing. From John Lewis’s point of view it is an ideal present. The ad imbues its values and cannot fail to raise a smile. For the agency, on the other hand – not to mention the budget – it is not so good. One can imagine the creative team pulling it apart already.

What you need for your Christmas campaign is part of Content24, the blog for London content marketing agency FirstWord.

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