John Lewis’ weepy Christmas ad inspired by random acts of kindness in lockdown

The annual John Lewis feelgood Christmas ad is set to give the nation a massive lift with its heartwarming message when it airs online today.

In a mini-movie designed to capture the caring mood inspired by the NHS, national treasure Captain Tom Moore and local heroes, the ad’s simple message “give a little love” is played out across several different scenarios using actors and animation.

And in keeping with the traditional John Lewis Christmas weepie, at least one of the scenes will have viewers reaching for the tissue box.

But the two minute epic, in partnership with sister store Waitrose, was nearly canned over concerns it would not feel right this year.

It was saved by the nation pulling together during three months of lockdown with selfless acts from ordinary people that gave bosses a change of heart.

This year’s John Lewis Christmas ad is as emotional as ever

Martin George, Director of Customer at Waitrose said: “We felt there was a very real option this year for us not to do an ad at all and we did think about that very seriously.”

But as millions came out to clap the NHS and key workers, neighbours shopped for the most vulnerable in their streets, families cooked for those less fortunate and Captain Tom raised £33 million in his 100th year and inspired countless others to follow in his footsteps, the idea of a kindness chain-reaction was born.

Mr George said: “When we thought about it our inspiration was the British public. We started to see the acts of amazing generosity such as Captain Tom Moore as well as a number of other people.

“In the early stages of lockdown we all remember how humbled we were by the spontaneous acts of kindness that emerged within communities. Our ambition then was to inspire a generation with the simple thought that if we all give a little love, the world will be a better place.”

It sees a string of random acts of kindness

The ad – directed by award winner Oscar Hudson, with a soulful, original soundtrack written and performed by Brit award winner Celeste, begins with a young lad looking sad after his football becomes lodged high in a tree.

As he stares up in despair, a little girl passing by sees his downcast face and decides to help by hurling her heart shaped brolly like a javelin at the ball and dislodges it – to his delight.

The scene then switches from the real life actors – named only as Kush and Natalia – to animation with the boy noticing a down-in-the-dumps snowman who he cheers up by making him a heart shaped balloon.

From a motorist who has broken down and grandads sharing a giant cracker to a group of pigeons who make a lonely hedgehog part of their gang, each episode of a random act of kindness leads to another.

Strangers help one another in the emotive advert

It finally comes full circle when a little girl is close to tears after her glasses break and she can’t see.

A kindhearted nurse sitting next to her on the Tube takes a heart shaped sticker from her apple and fixes the specs to turn her tears to joy.

As the smiling youngster steps off the train, the animation turns back to real life and she is the same girl who first helped the lad with the lost football.

And in a first, Celeste becomes the only artist to provide a new, specially commissioned track for the John Lewis and Waitrose ad.

The 26-year-old – whose full name is Celeste Waite – has been described by critics as having a voice “that balances the fragility of Billie Holiday against the sheer power of Aretha Franklin,” is destined to make the charity single the Christmas number one.

Will you be reduced to tears?

Celeste and her record label Polydor will donate 10p from every download of A Little Love to the John Lewis and Waitrose charities FareShare and HomeStart.

She said: “Every year when the John Lewis and Waitrose Xmas ad comes out, it’s always a big moment and everyone is waiting to see what its going to look like and also who is singing the song.

“I felt really honoured to be asked to take part. The message that everyone really wanted to get across was the idea if you’re kind and giving, then these little acts hopefully can ricochet and make the world a better place.”

The ad will be seen first by store staff at 6am today before going online from 7am, but telly viewers will not get to see it until the commercial breaks during The Voice finale on ITV tomorrow.

The ad was inspired by the way the nation pulled together in lockdown

And in keeping with the chain’s Give a Little Love campaign, the stores turned to eight different UK animators and film-makers to create the ultimate feelgood ad with their interpretation of how baton of kindness should be passed on.

It took six weeks to make and Mr George said: “This eclectic approach allows us to showcase and support a really diverse range of creative talents in a sector that has been under enormous pressure during the pandemic and provide work for many people in the creative industries.”

At the heart of the campaign is a £5 million appeal to help 100,000 UK families and raise cash for charities Fareshare which helps those facing food poverty and Home-Start, which works with parents who need support.

The ad encourages people to spread love and joy

From buying fund raising merchandise like a heart shaped brolly for £25, pyjamas for £15 and £7 mugs or making a donation, to simply being kind to someone, the chains hope Brits will take the campaign to heart.

Launched today on World Kindness Day, the main ad is supported by a 30 second one made by post-graduates from Kingston University which urges Brits to get behind the two charities.

Mr George said: “This ad is not just for Christmas. We very much see this extending beyond Christmas – it’s an enduring commitment.”

Ruki’s verdict

I held out for one minute and 55 seconds – and then in the final scene it happened.

My eyes started to sting and as the nurse gently took the little girl’s broken glasses and fixed them with a heart shaped sticker I found myself sniffling and then the tears rolled down my, thankfully make-up free face, or it could have been messy.

I had placed the tissue box within reach – just in case – but thought I had made it through the annual John Lewis and Waitrose Christmas special without going into cry baby mode.

As the scenes unfolded, I smiled broadly as a brolly was hurled at a football stuck in a tree, grinned at the snowman given a balloon who in turn fashioned a new wheel out of snow for a stranded motorist.

A happy snowman helps a stranger after someone helps him

There was a tiny wobble when two elderly neighbours shared a giant Christmas cracker which lifted one out of loneliness but years of hard-bitten journalistic training kicked in and there was no blubbing, only laughs at a dodgy heart shaped haircut and a group of pigeons helping out a forlorn hedgehog.

Just as we neared the end, I was caught unawares as the scene switched and the girl and the nurse on the Tube tipped me over in the final few magical seconds.

Damn it John Lewis and Waitrose – you got me again.

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