James Hammond, The Brand Doctor says:
The masters of branding have done it again. But The Happy Egg Company gets zero points.

The Christmas television advert for John Lewis is with us once again. (If you haven’t seen it, what planet are you on? Check it out here.)

John Lewis 2016 branding advertIt features a little girl called Bridget who loves to bounce, watched all the time by her boxer dog called Buster. (That’s him on the right.)

Her mum and dad buy her a trampoline for Christmas, and on the night it’s set up in the garden, all kinds of wildlifeemotional branding with animals (including foxes, a badger, hedgehog and squirrel) have great fun bouncing up and down on the new trampoline. A very unhappy – and jealous –Boxer watches through the patio doors, growling at their every move.

Next morning, the parents show Bridget her present, and she rushes out into the garden. But as she approaches the trampoline, Buster charges forward, leaps onto it and begins a hilarious bounce routine, while Bridget and her mum and dad look on with stunned faces.

John Lewis branding with BusterApart from the fact that the ad has got to be from John Lewis, the only connection to the store is the end line which says, ‘Gifts that everyone will love.’

Like all the previous television ads from John Lewis, this one is stunningly brilliant. Aside from the amazing CGI animation, the brief is spot-on, and the emotional connection is 100 per cent.

Of course, John Lewis don’t just stop at the advert. They have created Buster’s Garden at Oxford Street. Children can play with Buster and his friends and explore Buster’s Garden complete with Oculus Rift technology. There are gardens in selected John Lewis stores around the UK, where kids can take a photo with Buster and his friends and use an exclusive Snapchat filter.

Also, there is the usual range of Buster cuddly toys, along with some of his friends. This year, John Lewis will donate 10% of the sellingbuster-toy price of the toys to The Wildlife Trusts, another charity tie-up as in last year. There are also a number of educational resources and lesson plans for children, plus a prize draw for designing a ‘dream pet.’ Finally, if you like the soundtrack (‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ by Vaults) you can by that via iTunes or listen to it on Spotify.

I’ve covered John Lewis’ ability to turn a creative brief into a truly wonderful advert before.

In complete contrast, the current television advert for The Happy Egg Company displays some of the worst advertising work I’ve seen for quite a while. It’s so banal as to wonder how in the world the client could even accept such lousy work – unless the client is equally clueless.

If you haven’t seen it, you haven’t really missed anything except a few morons getting paid to do something really stupid. But you can watch the entire nonsensical offering by clicking here or on the image below.

Morons dancingFirst, we see some guy holding a crate of Happy Eggs he’s apparently just collected. But wait…he’s not walking towards the camera, he’s…he’s…dancing. Well, actually, his moves are so bad it looks like he’s simply trying to avoid all the chicken shit on the ground.

I get the feeling this actor (possibly needing the work) knows he shouldn’t be embarrasing himself like that, but he has to put food on the table, so let’s not be too hard on him.

Thankfully, the camera doesn’t stay on him for long before it switches to a woman in her kitchen. What is she doing? Preparing breakfast? Cleaning the kitchen tops? Oh, do tell. Err…no…she’s…erm…dancing. Well, it could be that she’s not too sure where the breakfast plates are as her dance seems to take her in several directions.

Cut to a little girl who is carrying a boiled egg on a plate to the table. But instead of simply walking, she…dances. Yes, she dances. And all the time, dipping her bread into the yolk. How many takes did that routine need during the shoot without her dropping the whole plateload? And if she carries on in that manner at breakfast, she is definitely going to be late for school.

Swing the camera again, this time to some guy with a sandwich who dances backwards and forwards – and then to yet another woman who makes a few moves before sitting down. Nothing here stands a chance of winning Strictly Come Dancing, but all are definitely contenders for Strictly Come Prancing.

This is a really terrible advert. It shows how some so-called ‘creatives’ assume that consumers are so vacuous and doltish that they’ll fall in love with this kind of crap. Maybe the client’s budget was small, but that’s no excuse for ultra-poor creativity.

I can just imagine the agency presenting this tv ad to the client:

Client: ‘Well, what’ve you come up with?’

Agency: ‘We’ve got a really brilliant, uber-creative idea.’

Client: ‘Talk me through it.’

Agency: ‘Well, we show some people doing a little dance.’

Client: ‘Err…okay. Then what?’

Agency: ‘That’s it. There isn’t anything else.’

Client: ‘But what about the eggs?’

Agency: ‘They’re Happy Eggs, so the dancers are showing that they’re happy.’

Client: ‘Oh, yes, of course. That’s fantastic. Really well done. It’s bound to win an award.’

A famous copywriter by the name of Alastair Crompton, sadly now departed, once said: ‘If it sounds too stupid to say it, then sing it.’ The Happy Egg Company and their agency have gone one better. For them, if it sounds too stupid to even sing it, then just hire a group of people who can’t dance to cavort around the kitchen, and it’s in the bag. Adding a decent soundtrack (the late Frank Wilson’s Northern Soul ‘Do I Love You?‘) doesn’t alter the dopey, unhinged tripe that attempts to pass for an ad. Seems to me it’d be a more appropriate commercial for March hares than hens.

In my recent Brand Blog, I talked about using animals to make great emotional connections. If The Happy Egg Company eggs really do come from well-looked-after hens, then there would have been many interesting, creative ways to involve those doing all the hard work. Live footage, cartoons, animations…the options are many. And that would lead to lots of other below-the-line marketing opportunities too. Sadly, this whole ad is bereft of anything useful or interesting.

(Mind you, if this undercover report from 2011 is to be believed, the hens are anything but happy.)

Without a doubt, the John Lewis 2016 Christmas ad is another winner for its creativity, understanding of its target audience and superb branding.

As for The Happy Egg Company and its clueless agency, it has none of the above.

In fact, all it has is egg on its face.


Brand Doctor: A brief bio.

I’ve spent nearly 40 years in advertising, marketing, design and branding. Starting life as a graphic designer and copywriter, I worked for Top-100 companies. I then progressed to heading up brand consultancies responsible for sales and marketing, branding, corporate identity and advertising for Yellow Pages, Virgin, AVIVA, EMI and British Telecom to name a few.

Throughout the years, I’ve also helped smaller businesses dramatically improve profits through building a powerful brand. (Not-for-profit organisations have seen their donor income increase using my brand approach too.)

I’m also a qualified psychotherapist. How people think and behave is crucial to knowing how to brand a business, and with 15 years of experience in the field of psychology, I'm better equipped than most to deliver brands that connect and engage with customers.

Psychology is a rare ingredient in marketing, but it should really lead the way. My psychotherapy work greatly influences the approach to branding I teach and formed the basis for my international best-selling book Branding Your Business.

‘James gave two consecutive keynotes for the past two years at our annual Indonesian Superbrands Conference. He is a breath of fresh air, bringing clarity and understanding to an audience of 400 senior marketing executives hungry for knowledge of ways to create leading-edge business and branding strategies.

James is now a Member of the Board of Advisors, Most Valued Business Indonesia, an exciting new initiative to recognise brands not just for their revenue, but for their social responsibility.

Whenever James comes to Indonesia, his fans eagerly await the latest from the Brand Doctor – and they are never disappointed. Thanks James – and good luck in all you do.’

– Alistair Speirs OBE
Chairman, Superbrands Indonesia
and Most Valued Brands

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