The Christmas 2011 John Lewis advertisment ‘The Long Wait’ depicts a young boy counting down the minutes until Christmas Day. Typical Christmastime activities such as opening an advent calendar and dressing up for a nativity play are included which set the scene and give the viewer a clue to what the child is so impatient about. A cover of the iconic British song ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I want’ by The Smiths plays in the background, leading the viewer to believe that the boy is waiting to see if he gets the Christmas presents that he wants. At the very end of the advertisement, the viewer realises that the boy was waiting to give his parents their Christmas present rather than to open his own presents.The overall message is to remind the viewer that one of the true pleasures of Christmas is to be able to give to family and friends rather than to receive, at a time when many other advertisements are trying to push products for the viewer to purchase for themselves or ask other people for as gifts, which make the advertisement stand out.
The advertisement takes places in a nondescript family home and the actors used are ordinary people in plain dress. These seemingly average people doing normal daily things can be described as ‘Just Plain Folks’ and therefore the similarity altercast is used to influence persuasion. Berscheid (1966) found that similarity was effective in promoting influence if shared similarity was directly relevant to the issue, whilst Festinger’s (1954) social comparison process states that people have a tendency to turn to similar others as referents for opinions. The use of a ‘cute’ child as the main focus tugs at heartstrings whilst evoking empathy and nostalgia as the viewer remembers what it is like to be a child waiting impatiently for Christmas to arrive. Batson, Duncan, Ackerman, Buckley & Birch (1981) found that when female college students watched another female student receiving electric shocks, students with high empathic emotion were more likely to help out by taking some of the shocks themselves even when escape was easy, suggesting that higher empathy leads to an increase in altruistic behaviour.
Batson, C. D., Duncan, B. D., Ackerman, D., Buckley, T., & Birch, K. (1981). Is empathic emotion a source of altruistic motivation? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 290-302.
Berscheid, E. (1966). Opinion change and communicator-communicatee similarity and dissimilarity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 670-680.
Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 117-140.