What is the point of advertising?

David Ogilvy, a man who knew a thing or two about advertising, used to say that the purpose of advertising is to sell. Here are some of his words on the subject:

‘A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.’

‘If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.’

‘I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information’

I wonder what David Ogilvy would have made of the latest Christmas TV advert from John Lewis?  If you haven’t seen it here it is:

Now I’m a big fan of John Lewis and I often think their advertising is spot on but whilst this one is charming I wonder if it meets any of David Ogilvy’s criteria? The advertisement is all about the creative, about the story of the bear and the hare, we have to wait right to the end to see a product. I wonder if an alarm clock is top of anybody’s Christmas wish list! We don’t even see the John Lewis name until the end of the two minute film so is this advertising that’s going to work?

Do the old rules apply?

David Ogilvy lived before the Internet became commonplace, before we had Facebook and Twitter, before ‘customer engagement’ became buzz words. Has the purpose of advertising changed in the 14 years since his death?

The John Lewis TV advertisement is part of an integrated campaign. Here’s the first email to announce the forthcoming ad. It introduces us to products, interactive books, the in store bear’s cave and more. I’m sure the theme will be developed on Twitter and Facebook as well as further emails and offline advertising in the coming weeks. So the campaign is built around ‘customer engagement’ but will this be as effective as one built around selling product?

Will this advertisement change your behaviour?

I don’t know about you but John Lewis would be one of the first shops I would consider going to when shopping, I don’t need a fancy film to make that decision. What I do need at Christmas is inspiration. I need gift ideas for those members of my family who don’t produce a detailed wish list and I really don’t want to fight the crowds to get those ideas. That’s when I respond to TV advertising. I want to see gift ideas, if I see something that looks right for one of my loved ones then I go to that shop or visit that website. What about you?

Will you go to John Lewis to meet the bear and the hare? Has the advertising made any difference to you? Are you more or less likely to visit John Lewis ‘in store, online or mobile’ as a result of this advertising? I’d love to hear your views in the comments here.

Glenda Shawley of The Training Pack helps owners of small businesses to develop and implement marketing campaigns that sell. If you would like to find out how I can help your business book your free, no obligation, 30 minute consultation here.

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7 thoughts on “What is the point of advertising?

  1. John Lewis has successfully managed to get us all talking about their advert and John Lewis. Personally I would always shop in John Lewis for inspiration and special presents, and am not good at Internet shopping. Perhaps they wanted us to emotionally connect with their advert. Whatever their intention they have successfully gained a great deal of free publicity, and their name is linked with Christmas. Lisa

  2. They’ve certainly got us talking Lisa but I’m not sure I would call it free publicity when the advertising campaign is reputed to be costing £7million. I’m sure getting us talking was one of the objectives, I would love to know how they will measure the success of the campaign. I read that last year’s campaign made them over £40million & it was in a similar vein so maybe this one will have as much or even more success.

  3. Pingback: book review: ogilvy on advertising a.k.a i hate rules | theWriteDose.com - Copywriting for Creative Agencies

  4. I agree with the first comment about connecting with Christmas. I believe John Lewis are selling us an experience. An emotion that Ahhwww, it’s Christmas time. The Christmas that we all want, rather than the Christmas that we will have, where we run around town, frantically chasing after that elusive killer present, that will “make them happy”. I believe JL know exactly what they are doing. They are suggesting that Christmas does not have to be stressful! Not, if you do your shopping at John Lewis! The ad creates the perfect mood and then cleverly connects that mood to the John Lewis Logo. I think they call it Mind Share (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_share). My money on on J.L.
    Manfred

  5. I don’t doubt that John Lewis know what they are doing Manfred and I suspect that you are right about their objective being mindshare, especially in the crowded Christmas market. This is something a company as well known and well loved as John Lewis can get away with but is not something for a smaller, less well known business to emulate.

    The ad has certainly got people talking, it was even mentioned at the conference I attended yesterday where the topic had nothing to do with marketing.

  6. Your point really resonated for me carrie. I’m australian. I’ve never heard of John Lewis nor seen any of their advertising. I watched the ad. LOVED it for the meaning of christmas and just assumed that they were a greeting card company like hallmark. So, I shared the youtube clip on Facebook to share the sentiment with friends. It wasn’t until I read the rest of your article that I got that the company making the ad sells clocks. And that wasn’t smart as I am an avid online shopper in USA stores! It brought home to me, for my business, that all the money in the world spent on advertising, means nothing without a hook and a ‘reel ’em in’. So, thank you for the lesson by way of a beautiful clip. And……Merry Christmas from Down Under. 🙂

    • Thanks for a really interesting perspective from Down Under Leigh. I think your understanding says it all. John Lewis is actually one of our most respected department store chains whose strap line is ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ they sell far more than alarm clocks. I know the ad is directed at the British market but your point about online shopping being a global enterprise is well made. Thanks for your contribution, you have a good Christmas too.

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