John Lewis Christmas ad stars young alien experiencing first festive celebration

The John Lewis advert features a young alien, as M&S and Sports Direct hire big names for their festive ads. Credit: John Lewis/M&S/Sports Direct

This year's John Lewis festive advert stars a young alien experiencing her first Christmas – complete with mince pies and a novelty jumper.

The highly-anticipated ad is set to be released around a fortnight earlier than usual and comes as the retailer revealed Christmas-related searches on its website are up 50% on this time last year.

It's a return to form for the retailer as it attempts to tap in to customer enthusiasm for a traditional Christmas season after last year’s muted celebrations amid pre-vaccination Covid.

Titled “Unexpected Guest”, the two-minute ad stars space traveller Skye crash-landing at the height of festivities in the woods near the home of 14-year-old Nathan, who introduces her to the traditions of eating mince pies, decorating the tree and, to her slight confusion, wearing novelty jumpers.

The ad first airs on television at 8.15pm on Thursday on ITV during The Pride of Britain Awards, after launching at 6.30am for members of the ‘My John Lewis’ loyalty scheme via email access.

Space traveller Skye in a scene from the 2021 John Lewis Christmas ad. Credit: John Lewis/PA

The retailer also launched a preview from 8am on its website and social media channels, leaving Twitter and Facebook users a little watery-eyed over their morning coffees with many saying the release of the advert "officially" marks the start of the festive season.

One commented on the video proclaiming "and now it's Christmas", while another told John Lewis "you know how to put Magic in Christmas".

Others appeared to get emotional at the ending of the heartwarming advert, with one writing "Gosh! I think I've got something in my eye", while another wrote: "Every flipping year @JohnLewisRetail - just for once could you do an advert that doesn’t make me well-up please? #UnexpectedGuest", said another.

Many also praised the young actor who "superbly" played Nathan, with others praising the core message of the advert, as one said: "Absolutely beautiful. The true Christmas spirit, love one and all no matter who they /you are. Stunning, beautiful, love it."

But, like every year, other users claimed it is not as good as previous adverts and listed their favourites from the past 14 years since the retailer released its first ad in 2007.

Others joked it was reminding them more of E.T. and The Boy From Space and said it was not "Christmassy enough".

Created with agency adam&eveDDB, John Lewis has refused to reveal the budget but said it was in line with previous years’ spending.

The soundtrack is provided by 20-year-old London singer and songwriter Lola Young, who performs a cover of Together In Electric Dreams, originally released by Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder in 1984.

The John Lewis clip comes as a host of retailers launched their star-studded adverts on the same day, as the battle of the Christmas ads begins.

M&S's storyline sees Spiderman actor Tom Holland playing the debut voice of its iconic Percy the Pig who enjoys his first festive season with the help of a Christmas fairy played by Dawn French.

Sports Direct is said to have spent £6 million on its advertising campaign this year, which sees 16 of the country's most famous sport stars competing in an epic snowball fight.

Tennis champion Emma Raducanu, England football star Jack Grealish, gold Olympic medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill are among some of the famous faces seen battling it out in the snow.

Meanwhile, Doctor Who's Jenna Coleman is the star of Boots's advert, directed by Academy Award-winner and director of The King's Speech, Tom Hooper.

Coleman stars as Joy, a young woman who saves Christmas with a bag full of presents.

And yesterday, Disney released their festive advert - which has been branded a "tear-jerker" - titled The Stepdad, which tells the story of a man who moves in with his new partner's family and struggles to bond with her two young children.

The ad focuses on a book telling the stories of Pixar and Disney classics such as Moana, Toy Story, Spider-Man, Black Panther Star Wars and Frozen. As the stepfather is accepted by the two children, he is able to make the stories come to life.

Following the release of John Lewis's advert, the retailer's customer director Claire Pointon said: “There is nothing more magical than discovering the joy of Christmas for the first time and enjoying your favourite festive moments with loved ones.

“After the last 18 months, we wanted our advert to really celebrate this as we look forward to a brighter future.

“We know our customers are excited for this festive season more than ever, as they reconnect with family and friends. Through the story of Skye and Nathan we celebrate friendship and are reminded of the joy of experiencing Christmas for the first time”.

A scene from the John Lewis Christmas ad 2021 featuring Nathan. Credit: John Lewis/PA

Shoppers can buy a version of the Christmas jumper that Nathan gives Skye – minus the added lights in the ad’s version, in a nod to environmental sustainability – for between £14 and £29 depending on size, with 10% of the profits going to the charities FareShare and Home-Start UK.

Every product in the ad is from John Lewis, with customers able to “shop key scenes”, including the decorated Christmas tree and dinner table.

Customers will be able to shop key scenes in the ad. Credit: John Lewis/PA

The campaign comes after the retailer “deviated slightly” last year from the style of previous adverts due to the backdrop of Covid-19 with nine different vignettes showing acts of kindness.

It also follows, just last month, the retailer being forced to pull a home insurance ad featuring a boy wilfully destroying his home after the Financial Conduct Authority found it could potentially confuse customers about the extent of the cover provided.

The partnership, which operates the John Lewis department store chain and Waitrose supermarket arm, unveiled a £29 million pre-tax loss for the half-year to July 31, representing a significant improvement from the £635 million loss it posted for the same period last year.