Especially for yule: Analyzing The John Lewis and Holiday Advert, "Man on the Moon" 849 words · 4 minute read

The Man on the Moon and the Woman from Norway: How retailer John Lewis and artist AURORA partnered for mutual benefit in the brand’s much-trumpeted 2015 holiday advert”

This piece was originally published in 11.30.15 edition of MusicWeek.

If an ad earns over 7,000 mentions on Twitter during its first hour after launching, you can bet there will be plenty of contrarian opinions flying around the blogosphere – but joining in on the hashtag fight isn’t really my bad.

Rather, as the CEO of a company that touches music in advertising all day, every day, I’m here to analyse if the heavily debated music strategy of retailer John Lewis, developed by their agency partner Adam&Eve/DDB and music partner Leland Music, works for the brand and its consumer base.

Love it or hate it, Tweet it or Share it, the continued music strategy of John Lewis does indeed work.

The brand premiered its highly anticipated Christmas advert, “Man on the Moon,” early on November 6 and immediately sparked a social symposium around the sentimental spot with the music of the ad – “Half the World Away” performed by the Norwegian artist, AURORA driving much of the conversation.

For several years, ad agency Adam&Eve/DDB has crafted Christmas advertisements for John Lewis that aim to pull as many heartstrings as possible in just over one hundred seconds. The formula is clear, effective, and consistent: remove all dialogue, avoid product placements, and pair an up-and-coming artist with a stripped-down re-record of a famous song.

These ads are arguably just as engaging as the television programs that they are airing alongside, and it’s clear that the music is one of the key reasons for this. In 2010, when Ellie Goulding covered Elton John’s Your Song for the Christmas ad, engagement was so high that it helped catapult her career with her second highest-charting single to date. In 2013, Lily Allen recorded a poignant version of Keane’s song, Somewhere Only We Know, which quickly rose to the top of the UK Singles Chart. This year, the brand took a similar route, though perhaps more daring than previously: a song by a relatively unknown artist whose fanbase mostly live in Norway, meaning they would have to travel the length of the North Sea to step into one of the brand’s store locations.

For many, this might seem like too great of a risk for such an important ad. Nonetheless, John Lewis decided to leverage the international reach of its acclaimed Christmas adverts to introduce millions of consumers to an emerging artist whose music they otherwise might never have discovered. Risky, sure. But that’s the art of marketing with music.

With advertising, strong creative is too often paired with stock tracks that seldom lend more to the experience than simple background sound. Because John Lewis took this chance to help break a relatively unknown artist on a global stage, the brand is pushing further than what most advertisers do. In fact, they create an entirely new experience for consumers that supplements the video beyond the story of a girl and a man on the moon.

A singer-songwriter native to Norway, 19-year-old AURORA had reportedly never heard of the John Lewis brand before being contacted by them in the summer of 2015 to provide the soundtrack to the spot. Conversely, most of John Lewis’s customers probably hadn’t heard of her either. Nonetheless, the relationship seemed perfect for them both.

AURORA has steadily been gaining renown for her evocative melodies and stirring vocals, a combination that echoes the sonic identity of John Lewis’s holiday adverts. Her second single, Runaway, premiered in February 2015 and reached 1 million streams after just six weeks on Spotify, and her debut EP Running with the Wolves was released in May 2015. Further, over the summer, her song Conqueror was featured on the soundtrack of EA Games’ FIFA 16.

Between this budding success, as well as her plans to release her debut album, Winter Bird, in February 2016, the time seemed especially ripe for a brand to partner with the emerging artist before she broke into the mainstream limelight. Additionally, the global reach of a brand’s advertising might be the surest way for an artist in Aurora’s position to reach as many new ears as possible.

And that’s exactly happened once Man on the Moon launched.

In one week, AURORA’s version of Half the World Away, originally penned by Oasis, was streamed over 1 million times on Spotify and reached 11th top song on iTunes Charts (UK) as of November 13. The official video even earned over 10 million views on YouTube in its first week.

While this success sees like an obvious win for the 19-year-old artist, don’t be led to think that John Lewis isn’t reaping rewards from these numbers as well – with that many streams, listens, and downloads, John Lewis is soundtracking the holiday season more than traditional Yuletide carols. When people think Christmas music, they think John Lewis.

Love it or hate it, Tweet it or Share it, this is music strategy at its most effective.

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