Sophie Bennett
Sophie Bennett
Account Director
12.11.14

Step Aside Pingu, Penguins Are Going Digital

Over the last few years the Coca Cola ad has been usurped from its position as the quasi-official marker of the start of the magical countdown to Christmas, by the tear-jerking John Lewis Christmas ads.

This year of course was no different: Monty the Penguin has become an overnight internet sensation after becoming the face (and beak) of this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert.

The department store’s boss, Andy Street, may have pledged to keep the launch low-key, but the £7m campaign is once again bidding to be one of the media events of the year.

Signaling the start of a commercial battle to release the most sentimental and memorable campaign in the hope it will translate into profit, Monty the Penguin has melted hearts and John Lewis are counting on him to open wallets as the star of their Christmas television advertisement.

After the success of last year’s The Bear and the Hare animated ad which attracted more than 10m views on YouTube, John Lewis has raised its game with the help of Monty, a CGI-animated penguin, and some of the biggest names in the tech world.

This year, the retailer opted to premier their £1m ad on the digital channels YouTube and Twitter, using the hashtag #MontyThePenguin, ahead of Monty’s TV debut over the weekend.

This digital launch tied into a larger Twitter campaign, which lit up followers’ timelines and sent an animated tweet as the John Lewis sponsored Oxford Street Christmas lights were turned on in London.

What John Lewis do best (apart from melt hearts), is demonstrate how to run a fully integrated campaign across all channels…

Supporting the TV ad is an audio app of the tale narrated by Dermot O’Leary, which can be turned into a 360º virtual world for visitors to explore via the Antarctic-themed Monty’s Den, which has been installed at stores across the country. Utilising Google Cardboard, which has been aptly nicknamed Monty’s Goggles for the campaign, the virtual reality headset turns Android smartphones into a winter wonderland, allowing you to interact with Monty in-store.

Perhaps the most impressive bit of tech will be their Oxford Street flagship in-store activation – Monty’s Magical Toy Machine. Children are invited to bring their favourite cuddly toy, and store employees will scan and render them in 3D for their (little) owners to interact and play with on a big screen. The Telegraph reports that John Lewis has teamed up with Microsoft to create the booth, which uses three DSLRs to photograph the toy (which is suspended in mid-air using wire clips) and snapped 17 times to generate a 3D representation.

Those images are then processed by an X1 custom built computer running Windows 8.1, which displays a digital model of the toy on three 75-inch displays equipped with the latest Kinect sensors. Kids can see their toy wake up, wave and dance, keeping them amused before their parents drag them around the rest of the store.

We’re in no doubt that making the entire country coo like turtle doves came at a whopping cost– but it turns out the retailer only needs to flog around 74,000 plush penguins in order to recoup the campaign budget, as a Monty of your own will set you back £95,  so let your kids fall in love with him at your peril.

Author’s note: The £95 price tag obviously was no match for Monty’s emotional appeal – the stuffed penguin is out of stock as of the time of publishing.

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