What really makes a good advert?

Last Thursday, John Lewis released their annual Christmas advert and officially started the countdown to Christmas. As always, the advert sparked a social media frenzy, with many of us racing to find out what heart-warming message John Lewis had in store for us this year.

But this got us thinking – what really makes a good advert? How do John Lewis get it so right each year while others simply fail to make an impact?

Although the secret to making a great TV advert is still a widely contested issue, one of the most common underlying theories is that a good advert is one that triggers an emotional reaction from its target audience. Sounds simple enough, right? Yet, we all know if it was really that easy, there would be more than a handful of adverts we actually remember.

To get a little guidance, we’ve turned to the heads of our Creative department, Leigh and Andy, to find out what they think is key to making a good advert.

Leigh: “For me it’s a simple single-minded message. All too often ads become overly complicated trying to force a multitude of different things into it. And it’s all these things that nobody ever remembers.

“Obviously, it has to be entertaining and relevant to the personas and channels too.”

Andy: “First and foremost, a good advert simply needs to stand out. Most of us do our level best to avoid and ignore advertising. If we are distracted by an ad for an instant, it’s likely that it will only be for an instant.

“So it needs to communicate a compelling message very quickly, before our consciousness intervenes and reminds us to move on, because it’s just an ad”.

As many marketers will probably agree, there’s certainly a lot of elements that combine to make up a great advert, whether it’s a brilliant soundtrack, an uplifting story or a great sense of humour. Although all adverts have their critics (we all know someone who thought Man On The Moon was rubbish), it’s hard to deny that John Lewis have put together some truly brilliant Christmas ads in their time.

Since we all like to indulge in a bit of nostalgia over the festive period, here at Delineo we’ve been reminiscing about our favourite John Lewis Christmas adverts (and a few others). Here are a few that really captured our imaginations.

Shadow - 2007

Oli: “I always thought the Shadow advert from 2007 was pretty good - it keeps it simple. I think they've become ridiculously overblown in recent years.”

The Long Wait - 2011

Laura: The Long Wait. I love the story reveal at the end and I also like the song.”

Holly: It’s probably not as ‘flash’ as what we now come to recognise as the John Lewis adverts, but I think the messaging behind The Long Wait is simple.

“It was, for me, the game changer that made John Lewis stand out (even though they produced Christmas ads before that). It was all about the sentiment behind Christmas which I think is often lost within all the festivities. As a retailer, it showcased a really nice connection to presents and love – a great selling point!”

The Bear and the Hare - 2013

Sol: “The Bear and the Hare 2013 – because it was a simple feel-good ad that had a great soundtrack. I don’t think guilt tripping people for donations at Christmas works, I prefer the simple well-wishing ones that convey a message.”

Matt: “2013’s ‘The Bear and the Hare’ was my favourite one. The mix of animation and stop-motion made for a very impressive end result – and reminded me of days spent watching The Animals of Farthing Wood and Watership Down when I was younger. I wasn’t a massive fan of the music choice (Lily Allen covering Keane – not really my cup of tea) but there have definitely been worse soundtracks in recent years. All in all it was just a nice, feel-good Christmas story.”

Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert - 2014

Steph: Not John Lewis, but Sainsbury’s – I loved the wartime football game advert. Just because it was based on a true story. It was so gorgeous and poignant, and the German version of ’Silent Night’ was the perfect soundtrack.”

So, there you have it. When it comes to Christmas, all you really need is a simple message told through a moving story.

Although, a great soundtrack can’t hurt either.

What do you think makes a good advert? Let us know via Twitter!