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John Lewis’ “Buster” beats Body Shop to most engaging Christmas ad

After mixed reactions last year for being too sad, John Lewis has produced this year’s most engaging festive ad, according to an annual study which measures viewers’ emotions by tracking facial expressions.

Its Buster the Boxer ad scored 94.8% on the emotionally compelling scale, putting it top in a Realeyes/Lucid study of 65 ads, narrowly ahead of The Body Shop’s Jungle Bells (94.1%) – which is the highest scoring ad among men.

In contrast, women found Robert Dyas’ spoof of the Buster ad Not on my trampoline! the most engaging (97.8%). The findings involved Realeyes measuring the emotional reactions of 4,450 people, drawn from Lucid’s audience platform, using AI algorithms to track and interpret their facial expressions as they watched via their webcams.

“The purpose of advertising is to get the tills ringing and evidence is mounting that its people’s emotional responses that determine where they shop,” says Mihkel Jäätma, Realeyes’ CEO. “This year saw a marked shift from melancholy and sentimentality – exemplified by 2015’s John Lewis’ Man on the Moon – to more uplifting feelings.”

Jäätma points out that Waitrose’s Home for Christmas and Heathrow’s Coming Home for Christmas are the only Top 10 entries to tap into that more overtly sentimental side of Christmas. “Humour wins this year, exemplified by Febreze’s first-ever appearance in the Top 10, and Buster being John Lewis’ strongest ever ad, and the highest scoring ever of any brand among people under 30.”

Women reacted most positively to this year’s advertising, which Jäätma notes should pay “dividends” for retailers, as connecting more strongly with women is vital ahead of Christmas as they tend to handle a wider array of purchasing. He cites Robert Dyas who should be “particularly pleased” to engage women so well as it’s a brand more associated with men.

Top 10 Compelling Christmas Ads:

And the worst performers?

Grey Goose Vodka’s Lumiere was bottom of the pile, only managing 13.6% on the emotionally engaging scale, followed by House of Fraser’s Christmas is Coming for You and JD Sports’ Undisputed Christmas (16.7%). “All three ads feature glitz but lack substance, falling emotionally flat,” notes Jäätma.

"2016’s Christmas ads are some of the best yet, reflecting the evolution of powerful storytelling in advertising,” said Patrick Comer, Lucid’s CEO. “Emotional intelligence enables us to measure the rise in positive and broadly resonant messaging. Also, my children keep asking for a boxer puppy and a trampoline.”

Mulberry’s Win Christmas from 2014 remains the most engaging ad ever, scoring 99.5%. Realeyes’ emotional score is a combined measure of attraction, retention, engagement and impact.

The full scores for all ads tested are available here.