The Virtual Reality of #BusterTheBoxer and the John Lewis Christmas Advert

Christmas is now well and truly on the way, and how do we know that, because Christmas adverts are on-air, and we’re lucky enough at PrettyGreen to have been involved in bringing John Lewis’ advert to life (it will be our fourth year, don’t you know).


We started talking to the John Lewis team back in June about how their advert could be experienced instore. From the very beginning the ambition was big, and was always to create a virtual reality experience of the advert in their flagship store, whilst also enabling experiences to be built across the country.


The Big Virtual Reality Challenge



The challenge we knew we had to overcome was not ‘is anyone interested in VR?’. We all know that VR is no longer the preserve of the dedicated gaming minority; headsets are available from multiple retailers at multiple price points. In addition to that, brands are constantly using VR to develop truly immersive experiences for consumers. The big question was how do you make a VR experience more than an individual experience?


At PrettyGreen we believe in the 1, 9, 90 model and work to create experiences that have a wider reach than just the people who put on a headset, whilst also remembering the space needed to both accommodate merchandise and provide plenty to see and do for customers who didn’t want to engage with the core activation.


A Beautiful Setting



We wanted to create a “room set” for every customer to experience with a themed retail space that could be fully merchandised by the John Lewis team, which became Buster’s Garden, where you could see all the animals (who doesn’t love a badger, fox, squirrel and a hedgehog).


Integrating technology into any experience to make it feel seamless was important, so we set about setting TVs into topiary walls whilst introducing the all-important trampoline structure to house the VR.


Having developed a space that told the story of the advert, and allowed some customers to fully immerse themselves in a virtual world, we turned our attention to the ‘lighter touch’ users – people who might want to interact in some way but perhaps wouldn’t have time to queue for virtual reality (the ‘9%’).


Making Headsets Look Less Like a Headset



To compliment this, John Lewis developed a 360-degree video that can be viewed via their Christmas hub and we decided to add a little extra magic to the viewing experience if you came to store. Using character renders developed for the advert we created 3D printed character masks which encased phone operated VR headsets… creating not just a glimpse into the virtual world but a photo opportunity in the real one!


Developing VR experiences that can be experienced by a wider audience will continue to be the holy grail for the events world, but we think this experience is taking a step in the right direction.


You can visit John Lewis Oxford Street to experience Buster’s Garden on the 4th floor until 23rd December. As well as being able to have a photo opportunity with Buster at one of 12 other locations across the country (ever wondered how you install 13 builds overnight? Have an amazing team on hand who work through the night to make it happen), so get enjoying.