John Lewis’ Always a Woman to Me – Oh Really?

by Katie on April 26, 2010

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OK, John Lewis. You’re now officially on a yellow card. Enough already with the in depth ‘fly on the wall’ programme (“Inside John Lewis”, BBC2 ) charting your brand turnaround and your quest to update your image and customer profile, now you’ve gone the whole hog with an albeit slick, £6 million overtly sentimental ad to make you gush with tears. However, the only gushing I was likely to do was of the sickness variety.

This ad is meant to chart the life of a woman in a minute and uses all the heart grabbing cues to do so and tug at the heart strings. ie:-

Cue 1: Baby to toddler to children’s party to girlhood, wedding, children, grandchildren blah blah…you get the picture.

Cue 2: Hazily shot film like a personal cine camera (they have apps for these things these days – Try Hipstamatic) to ad a personal homely, family touch.

Cue 3: All centred around the home or garden as, guess what, that’s what John Lewis is great at from the ‘cradle to the grave.’ They’ll always be there.

Cue 4. Fyfe Dangerfield of The Guillemots reinterprets Billy Joel’s heart (sick) rending song, “Always a Woman to Me” which is way up there with Chris de Burgh’s “Lady in Red” as the ultimate, patronising, stomach wrenching pile of dog poo in melody format a woman can ever have thrust at her. (Note to possible suitors, NOT how to win my heart and I do, contrary to popular opinion, have one).

The ad has certainly polarised the female blogging and tweeting community. From “oh god..John Lewis ad is gorgeous..made me well up!” @britbeautyblog to my personal favourites from @gracedent (always a witty, intelligent woman), “John Lewis ad; my life as a woman passing before my eyes in 1 minute, bumming me out every ad break. Never knowingly underfu**ing depressed” and “think I’ll have a massive gin and watch John Lewis ad again and then put my head in the oven.” Singer and songwriter and generally brilliant all round specimen of woman, @tracey_thorn also says, “Oh, apparently John Lewis ad is supposed to make you cry. Me and my sis rolled our eyes at each other and said “what’s THIS bloody selling?”.

I’m with Tracey and Grace on this one, but then again, I haven’t exactly had the the safely scripted type of life that John Lewis imagines for Miss to Mrs Britain. I’d imagine Kirstie Alsopp would be their image of womanhood perfection, all Middle England and waiting on a call for a peerage etc.

While I appreciate the ad’s content, message and targeting, millions of British women’s lives don’t exactly pan out like this. They certainly haven’t included binge drinking, bustier wearing teenagers, out of wedlock pregnancies or single women 40+ professionals with this ad and that’s the problem. This coming general election has made it all too clear that Britain’s populace is changing and John Lewis’s twee world is all a bit too safe as John Lewis furnished houses.
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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Beckerina April 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm

You spoke my mind!

I saw the ad for the first time at the weekend and at first I was like – who on EARTH is using this inane drivel of a song as a marketing tool which then moved to intrigue and finally a welling up of water-like substance in my eyes. I was slightly moved, and ENRAGED at it’s ridiculous sugary view on women and it’s presumption on our lives.

I love JL, but they’ve taken a wrong turn here with this one.

Realisically and more cedibly it would’ve bode better to show those moments either side of the life changing chapters such as: the falling over as a little girl, crying with heartbreak over a boy at 15, passing exams with mates, the wobble with Ma or Pa before walking down the aisle, the stress of being pregnant and trying to move house… etc etc you get my drift.

For that, I’d still shop there and nod my head at them for having some insight and balls.


RedlegsinSoho April 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I think it is sexist claptrap. Is a baby incubator our sole role as consumers, I think not, pass the gin!


Katie Chutzpah April 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Thanks girls. I can’t abide sugary clap trap. Is *this* what British womanhood has come to…being talked down to in an ad?


Retro Chick April 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm

I agree.

The first time I watched it and she went behind that fridge I rolled my eyes and said “she’ll be pregnant when she shuts that fridge.”

I notice they left out the dribbling in a nursing home bit at the end too.

It’s sentimental nonsense, patronising and ridiculous as an advert for a department store.


North West London Girl April 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I saw this add at the weekend for the first time while watching (can’t remember what) with my middle chap. He said “all that’s missing is the coffin, will they be selling those next”…x


Anonymous April 26, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Make me a sandwich.


Anonymous April 28, 2010 at 10:43 am

That’s because it’s targeted bang slap at ABC1 Housewives, Miss Chutzpah. None of what you’re saying applies to that demographic. Stick to the fash and cock a snook to the mass market x


Katie Chutzpah April 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm

To my last coment poster, there is no such thing as a traditional ‘housewife’ these days. Most women work most of their lives and are often the breadwinners. I’d have been more impressed had you shown her with an actual job (if not a career). Or don’t you realise that the one of the biggest changes in UK demographics is the increase in single person households. By 2031, 18% of English households are expected to consist of just one person, compared to 13% in 2006. Do your research JLP bods (who this is obviously from!).


Anonymous April 28, 2010 at 10:01 pm

So no issues here then! I enjoyed the music


Lucy May 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Very, very clever. It’s got people bitching/crying/up in arms over it – well done John Lewis.


5 star wedding directory May 3, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Simply loved it. It has the whole nine yards.

Love JL from 5starweddings


Jacquie Martin May 10, 2010 at 7:50 am


Ads are meant to sell things, not get the country going – papers do that.

I think I’m a bit older than some of the posters – a baby boomer. But I bucked the trend even then. This ad was the most patronising piece of shite I’ve ever seen. No woman’s life is ever like that, unless she’s living a lie. Should have the strapline – never knowingly undervalued.

Also, my ISP has sent me an incentive to get someone to sign up to their broadband – a 25 quid voucher from JL. I wrote back telling them what I thought of the ad, and said I want either M&S so I could do Plan A or amazon so I could learn rather than shop like some middle class hausfrau.


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