A toy is not just for Christmas – can the John Lewis advert do it again?

With Hatchimals, FurReal Pets and Fingerling Monkeys topping this year’s Christmas list, it would be easy to think that tech has taken over even the cuddliest corner of the kids market.  However, it seems it is the power of a simple soft toy that’s inspired many of the retailers with whom we’ll actually shop.


Whilst merchandisable marketing has been around for ages (Kellogg’s cereal bowl anyone?) creating toys out of a one-off, Christmas advert campaign is a recent phenomenon. John Lewis, of course, pioneered the practice around 5 years ago, when their Christmas campaigns had reached gold status with ‘The Bear and the Hare’. The book, toys and pyjamas that followed fed the desire of their audiences to connect with and keep a piece of their Christmas magic. This year there’s a wealth of Christmas ad stuff to buy: Aldi is bringing back Kevin the Carrot with Katie the Carrot joining the Christmas party; M&S has beautifully brought Paddington Bear into their Christmas campaign; VERY have Ulfie the wolf, the much-loved toy of a little girl delivering presents in the snow and ‘Moz, the monster under the bed’ at John Lewis are fueling the frenzy for their Christmas ad. Sainsbury’s – will you bring back Mog?


The fact that people are connecting to these one off characters adds to the sense that we are in something of a golden age when it comes to Christmas advertising. Each year there seems to be more investment and more filmic quality Christmas commercials on our small screens. Through merchandising, retailers are creating mini stars from their ads, for a generation of children who are used to making tangible the characters they watch on the telly or tablet. From a retailer perspective, the toy or t-shirt offers a straightforward, low investment way to enhance their biggest campaign of the year. With a limited run (no one wants leftover stock of this type after Christmas) the natural by-product is a sense of FOMO for shoppers who know this stock will only be on the shelves for a couple of months. Who can resist a collectable?


It seems just as we have grown accustomed to our most beloved retailers and brands pulling at our heartstrings at this time of year, they step up further providing us with campaigns we can not only talk about, but to take home a piece of.