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John Lewis, meanwhile, has again eschewed celebrities in favour of trying to make you cry – part of its ambition, in the words of Craig Inglis, its marketing director, to “connect emotionally with our customers”. The store’s animation, using old-fashioned line drawing (by artists who worked on The Lion King), features a rather grumpy brown bear and his friend, a hare, who looks – with his doleful eyes – as if he has jumped straight out of Watership Down to escape the bulldozers.
John Lewis alone is spending £7 million on its Christmas campaign (the advert itself cost £1 million). Only a few years ago, it was predicted that TV advertising would slowly die, as we all started to watch programmes on catch-up boxes, such as Sky Plus, or on tablet computers.
And yet today Christmas adverts are as big as they were back in 1978, when Woolworths first pioneered the glitzy, celebrity-stuffed festive spot, showing Windsor Davis, Tony Blackburn, Nicholas Parsons and members of Pan’s People camping it up in front of tinsel-covered Old Spice aftershave and a Ferguson music centre. Steve Sharp, the marketing chief at M&S (and the man responsible for recruiting Twiggy), says: “This is the golden quarter for retailers.
This is make-or-break time – you need to throw all your efforts at it.” He has hired two-time Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter to star in M&S’s lavish tribute to Alice in Wonderland, with its star model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley playing the girl who falls down the rabbit hole.
Her clothes also seem to fall off a lot, leaving her and her long legs to brave the snowy evening in nothing but her underwear, poor thing.
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