Did the John Lewis advert help Matt Terry win The X Factor?

The fact that Terry performed a song featured repeatedly during ad breaks in The X Factor final may have influenced viewers to vote for him, say experts

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On Sunday night, Matt Terry beat Saara Aalto to the 2016 X Factor crown in the closest final for five years. 

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Aalto, who had slowly gained ground on favourite Terry in previous weeks, was actually out in front when the voting was frozen after the first part of the final on Saturday night. 

But when the polls closed for the last time on Sunday, Terry had clinched it.

So what swung viewers back in his favour? One theory is that it was all down to his choice of song – and the fact that it was also the soundtrack to a certain Christmas advert that had been playing during the ad breaks on X Factor that night.

Terry’s final performance was a version of One Day I’ll Fly Away, the very same song that accompanies images of cuddly foxes, badgers – and eventually a boxer dog named Buster – bouncing on a trampoline in the John Lewis Christmas TV advert.

The version of One Day I’ll Fly Away from the John Lewis advert is performed by electronica band Vaults

John Lewis’s annual seasonal offering has been synonymous with the festive feel-good factor for years now, and it appears that has not gone unnoticed by at least one X Factor judge.

Back in 2012, the last time she was a mentor on the show, Nicole Scherzinger’s act James Arthur sang another song from a John Lewis ad on his way to victory.

His version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s The Power of Love ensured he made it to the final after having been in the bottom two just a couple of weeks earlier.

This year, Scherzinger has pulled the same masterstroke, but this time in the X Factor final, where the John Lewis advert was shown during every single ad break – along with idents featuring the music at the beginning and end of each segment – so that the strains of One Day I’ll Fly Away were pumped into viewers’ brains every time they got up to make a cup of tea or sat back down to watch.

Could this have influenced X Factor fans in their voting decisions? Industry experts certainly think so.

“We definitely feel that this kind of subliminal advertising really works and it’s something we are looking at more closely than ever for our clients,” Chloe Smith of communications and marketing group Havas tells RadioTimes.com.

“We want to think our musical judgement is about the quality of the song and performance,” says Dr Nick Southgate, an expert in advertising planning and behaviour change. “However, our judgements are also shaped by what comes most easily to mind. Psychologists call this ‘mental availability’. 

“What’s more, we tend to like things we find easy to think about, an effect dubbed ‘cognitive ease’. One Day I’ll Fly Away is not only an enduring classic with Randy Crawford’s original version, but has had frequent exposure through the Vaults cover used on the John Lewis ad. 

“There are few songs you could currently choose that so many people will find familiar, easy to recognise, and, therefore easier to like and vote for. 

“These effects couldn’t make a bad performance win – but in a close race the difference could be crucial.”

In the end, Terry won The X Factor by just 8% of the vote after coming from behind on Sunday. So could the extra boost of the John Lewis advert being shown during each of those ad breaks have been enough to give him that margin?

One thing’s for sure – each time he watches those trampolining foxes this Christmas, it’s sure to give Matt Terry the feel-good factor.

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RadioTimes.com contacted ITV for a comment