When Are 'Making of' Videos Worth Making?


The John Lewis Christmas ad is great advertising. But the 'making of' video lets it down. Rather like revealing a magician's trick, marketers need to add to the overall experience with 'making of' videos.

I am one of the millions of people who’ve watched the new John Lewis Christmas ad and loved it.

Loved it so much that I’ve watched it again on YouTube (it currently has over one million views) and seen it become a worldwide trend on Twitter. It’s clearly connected with the UK and is charming and captivating enough to encourage us to talk about it.

When our TV screens are dominated with ads telling us to buy more this Christmas, here’s an ad that does it with charm. Rather than tell us that John Lewis has the perfect presents for us this Christmas, it reminds us of a truth that when we find the perfect gifts we can’t wait to give them. It positions John Lewis as the company that believes that “giving is more important than receiving”. And how refreshing to hear The Smiths used as the Christmas soundtrack, and not Noddy Holder.

One of the things I’ve also enjoyed about this ad are the other videos that surround it - in particular the mash-ups that people have made. There are versions of the ad re-written to music from The Shining, The Smiths Shoplifters of the World Unite, and re-cut with the infamous head in a box scene from Se7en.

They might be sinister re-writes but they show that John Lewis has created an ad that people want to remark upon.

However, I’m disappointed in the John Lewis “making of” video.

When everything else about the ad is beautifully crafted, this lets it down. “Making of” videos are only worth making if they tell us something of note, something we can then remark upon.

The John Lewis Christmas ad is a great piece of planning, creativity, directing and performance. But the “making of” video doesn’t tell me anything new. In fact, for me it lets light in on the magic. It reminds me that the film is in fact just an ad that’s been constructed to get me to shop more at John Lewis. Of course, this is the right intent, but I just don’t want to feel that I’ve been manipulated into it.

I do believe that “making of” videos can be worth making though and can have a valuable role for a brand. The Sony Bravia Balls “making of” video is really fun and interesting to watch. I wanted to see behind the scenes because I watched the ad thinking “that must have been fun/chaos to make” – I’d like to see how they did that.

The “making of” videos for Planet Earth and Frozen Planet- in particular the Snow Leopard pieceare incredible acts of brand building for the BBC – arguably more than the programmes themselves. They remind the viewers of the lengths the BBC goes to in order to bring its audiences something special.

The John Lewis Christmas ad is an ad that impressed with its emotion, not its technique. Rather like revealing a magician’s trick, marketers need to be adding to the overall experience with a “making of” video. Otherwise it’s better to leave your audiences happily basking in the crafted wonder of the original.

What did you think of the John Lewis ad? What elements make a good 'making of' video?

Clare Phillips, Head of Strategic Planning