Published on: November 21, 2018
by Kate McMahon
It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside. But I was indeed moved to tears five chords into Elton John’s signature ballad, “Your Song,” when I saw him in a recent concert and then again when I watched a new TV commercial being shared by millions around the world. (Which you can see at left.)
The retailer John Lewis & Partners’ just-released Christmas “advert” featuring the iconic showman is to the United Kingdom what the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is to the U.S. – the annual feel-good kickoff to the holiday season.
In past years, the high-end London-based department store chain has premiered nostalgic ads each November replete with adorable animals or a kind monster, all set to heart-tugging tunes. This year’s much-anticipated commercial “The Boy and The Piano” opens with a pensive Sir Elton himself playing “Your Song” in a quiet living room. The two-minute, 20-second clip then takes viewers down a veritable rollicking Yellow Brick Road of his musical career, back to the moment it began: when he was 3 and received his grandmother’s piano for Christmas.
The tag line: “Some gifts are more than just a gift.”
I think the ad is “spot-on” as the Brits would say, especially since John Lewis is introducing a line of pianos and keyboards for the first time in 70 years. According the British press, customers at John Lewis’ London flagship store on Oxford Street will find a mock-up of the set, be able to play a grand piano, sit in a ‘70s style recording studio, and try on recreations of John’s trademark, glitter-encrusted costumes.
The world-wide reaction to the ad has been overwhelmingly positive in mainstream media reviews and commentary on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, where it has 9.7 million views. As for Elton John himself: “I’ve truly loved every minute of being a part of it.” There is even a behind-the-scenes video showing how the short was developed and filmed, with a series of actors portraying the star showman over almost seven decades.
There are, of course, Grinches, in the mix. According to the tabloid The Sun, many viewers complained bitterly on Twitter the ad was simply not “Christmas-y enough” or was just an over-priced “shameless plug” for Elton John’s farewell concert tour and upcoming biopic Rocketman.
Retail competitors also jumped in the fray. Discounter Lidl tweeted about its electric keyboard vs. the pricey pianos at John Lewis, saying: "Just because you don't have £872 to spend on a piano, doesn't mean you can't be the next Elton.”
John Lewis’ sister company, the supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners, responded with an ad entitled “Fast Forward” featuring a teenager encouraging her parents to watch the Elton John commercial. They smile, grab the remote and fast-forward through the video in order to get to their holiday Stollen cake. The tag line: “Too good to wait.” According to The Independent, the John Lewis folks took the mocking ad in stride.
Count me in the camp that thinks “The Boy and His Piano” is wonderful, and a heart-warming way to begin a frenetic season. And you can tell everybody.
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- KC's View: