What got us all talking this month?

Well, it wasn’t just our official return to the office that got us all talking this month (as an aside it’s so nice to have the full team back twice a week!). No, it was John Lewis who well and truly did that! Their latest offering got us all stirred up, read on to hear why it caused the reaction it did…

Lisa Prescott, Director

Christmas come early?

It certainly felt like Christmas had come early because it was their latest TV ad that had us all talking this month! However, it wasn’t their infamous festive offering, instead it was their home insurance “Let Life Happen” concept that’s divided opinions and stirred reactions not only within the C+W team but the wider UK population it seems!

John Lewis faces backlash

The controversial home insurance ad has received 337 complaints, and counting, according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The hero of the ad is a young boy rocking out to Stevie Nicks – ‘Edge of Seventeen’ whilst dressed up in his mum’s clothes and wearing her makeup. The production values are impressive, and the young actor is fabulous, no question there, but the controversial concept has got us all hot under the (sparkly pink) collar.

boy with paint on his face in John Lewis let life happen advert
Image Credit: Adam&Eve/DDB, John Lewis Insurance

Things are getting heated!

ASA complaints were wide and varied, some simply objected about a boy dressed in female clothing and wearing make-up, others objected the ad sexualised a child due to the provocative poses and expressed concern these would be perceived as sexualised if the character was female. Others say the child is destructive, that the ad encourages children to misbehave and that it’s okay to trash the house!

Additional ASA complaints accuse John Lewis of ‘sexism’, as one shopper said: “The John Lewis ad of a young boy being the centre of attention for trashing everything while his sister obediently sits and paints in a corner is sexism encapsulated in sixty seconds.”

Might I add at this point, mum is leisurely reading a book (most likely a cookery one!) in the kitchen whilst absent dad (we assume) is the parent at work! Sexism, much? John Lewis, take a check please!

At Chalk + Ward we love all forms of self-expression but the general feeling amongst us was that we felt the destructive nature of the ad was simply too extreme and intentional, not just harmless fun. Furthermore, we didn’t believe what John Lewis was telling their audience – we’re not convinced their insurance department would actually fork out for such deliberate damage under their accidental cover. Therefore, we felt the ad was potentially misleading

What does John Lewis have to say?

A spokesperson for John Lewis told Manchester Evening News:

“Our advert is a dramatic, fictional story showing our main character getting carried away and dancing to his favourite song – unaware of the unintentional consequences of his actions and does not show wilful damage.

“If customers have Accidental Damage Cover with our Home Insurance, this would cover a range of major and minor home disasters – which includes unintentional breakages caused by children in the family. We carried out customer research on the advert prior to its launch and this was well received.”

Not sure who they were talking to, but it doesn’t sound like it was a particularly robust piece of research!

What happens next?

Only a few days after the ad’s debut it has now been withdrawn due to the Financial Conduct Authority considering the content to be “potentially misleading and could cause customers to be confused about John Lewis’ new home contents insurance offering”.  

As if Christmas doesn’t pile on enough pressure to those battling it out for the retail top spot following this latest exposure, John Lewis needs to pull it out of the bag now. I guess this could get very interesting, I’ll be ready and waiting for their Christmas premiere… perhaps with gloves on this year and not just to keep my hands warm!

I’d be keen to hear your thoughts too, feel free to drop me a line lisa@chalkward.com and let me know what side of the John Lewis camp you sit!

Gemma Boss, Director