John Lewis’ Elton Ad Is Fifth Most Engaging Of Retailer’s Christmas Ads, According To Face-Reading AI

David Waterhouse
David Waterhouse
November 19 7 min read
  • AI company Realeyes ranks John Lewis’ festive ads based on how much attention, emotional engagement and positive sentiment they generate

  • “The Boy And The Piano” campaign a big favourite among women but overall fails to challenge for Christmas crown

John Lewis’ new Christmas ad, “The Boy and The Piano”, featuring Elton John, is the 5th most engaging festive campaign from the retailer.

That’s according to new data released today by AI company Realeyes, which used its face-reading technology to rank John Lewis’ Xmas ads based on how much attention, emotional engagement and positive sentiment they generated from viewers.

Realeyes, which uses its AI tech to help brands such as Coca-Cola and Mars maximise the impact of their video marketing, found “The Boy And The Piano” was a huge hit among women, but failed to generate sufficient emotional engagement overall to take John Lewis’ Christmas crown, held by the 2011 campaign “The Long Wait”.

The two-minute commercial, a heartfelt biopic of the ‘Rocketman’, attracted an overall score of 7.8 out of 10 after attracting the fifth most emotional engagement and continuous attention from viewers. It also generated the joint 5th highest proportion of positive comments (75%), driven mainly by the choice of soundtrack (”Your Song”).

Meanwhile, 18% of the comments were negative, with consumers particularly critical of John Lewis’s use of a big celebrity. Among women, however, the ad scored a lot higher, generating the second highest level of emotional engagement.

“The Long Wait”, which features a young boy counting down the days till Christmas morning, was top of the Christmas tree after scoring 8.8 out of 10 for overall effectiveness, putting it ahead of 2012 campaign “The Journey” in second with a score of 8.2.

The ad finished at the top of the pile after attracting the highest quality of continuous attention throughout and the second most emotional engagement. It also attracted the highest percentage of positive comments from viewers (85%).

“Buster The Boxer”, featuring a trampolining dog, bounced its way into third with a score of 8.1, while the retail store’s 2014 campaign, “Monty The Penguin” was fourth with an overall score of 8.0.

The ad which attracted the least emotional engagement, attention and positive comments from viewers was last year’s campaign, “Moz The Monster”.


Rank Campaign Year  Attention Emotion Sentiment (Pos) Score
1 The Long Wait 2011 8.5 8.6 85% 8.8
2 The Journey 2012 7.5 8.3 75% 8.2
3 Buster the Boxer 2016 5.2 8.9 79% 8.1
4 Monty The Penguin 2014 5.4 8.3 83% 8.0
5 Elton John Lewis 2018 5.9   8.0 75% 7.8
6 Bear and the Hare 2013 5.6 7.2 82% 7.7
7 Man on the Moon 2015 7.2 7.6 70% 7.6
8 Moz the Monster 2017 7.5 6.9 73% 7.5


> See a full breakdown of “The Boy And The Piano” 



Each John Lewis Xmas ad from 2011 onwards was tested on a sample audience of 300 people using Realeyes’ AI technology, which uses webcams to measure consumers’ attention levels and emotional engagement while watching. Viewers were also asked for their opinions on the creative.

Ad rankings are based on the following four:

  • EmotionAll® score: A 1 to 10 performance score which compares videos’ emotional engagement across our entire database of over 10,000 previously-tested videos;

  • Attention quality: The proportion of the video which respondents managed to keep continuously attentive for, on average;

  • Attention volume: The average volume of attention respondents paid to the content;

  • Sentiment: Currently in beta, this feature reveals the % breakdown of written responses by sentiment (positive, negative and neutral).

These scores were then fed into an algorithm to determine an overall score out of 10. The higher the score, the better the ad was at grabbing attention, eliciting strong emotional responses, and stimulating positive sentiment in its audiences. Realeyes has more than 15,000 ads in its database, of which the average score is 5 out of 10.


About Realeyes

Realeyes uses the power of AI to help brands measure their creative at scale. We’ve taught computers to read human emotions and track our attention levels, enabling marketers to transform the impact of their content, make more informed media decisions and eliminate media waste.






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