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Early Christmas Ad Melts Millions Of Hearts Online

If you think it's too early for Christmas ads, you're not alone. But the new seasonal spot from British retailer John Lewis is something of a sensation, with nearly 12 million people having watched the tear-jerking video since Thursday.

Aside from the nearly 7 million people who have watched the "Man on the Moon" ad on YouTube, another 5 million have seen it on Facebook.

Telling the story of a young girl's attempts to connect with an old man she spots living on the moon, the ad fits with the quietly sentimental approach that has made Christmas spots from John Lewis much-anticipated in Britain.

The ad is part of a campaign that, in addition to touting John Lewis' wares, also raises awareness for "the million older people who will go for a month without speaking to a friend, neighbor, or family member," according to the retail chain. The company says it's partnering with a charity called Age UK to try to reach some of those people.

A selection of the top online comments on the video show that it has provoked a range of strong responses:

"i'm not crying, there's just a chrismas tree in my eye" — from YouTube

"Seriously disappointed with this ad....not very Christmas more depressing...I'd much rather see something happy that includes the elderly....after all Father Christmas is old...couldn't he have been involved somewhere?? P.S loved your last two years of Adverts...but this one was pants...sorry" — from Facebook

"I wish people could just comment on the Christmas ad, this is about making people think about the elderly, we live in a very selfish world but one thing we all share is ...we will all get old ( if we are lucky ) everyone must know someone who is old and this ad says to me ....Give a little of your time and make a difference to their time. Well done John Lewis." — from Facebook

"oh my god I wanna hug my grandparents" — from YouTube

And in a different take, The Guardian's Stuart Heritage asks, "Why has the old man been sent into space? Is he a war criminal?" — in a cheeky piece that's titled in part, "Who is Moon Hitler?"

Heritage also takes John Lewis to task for suggesting that the telescopes it sells are capable of identifying humans walking on the moon, echoing other critics, including some who have pointed out the perils of shuffling around on the moon with nothing thicker than a flannel shirt for protection.

The Telegraph reports:

"Putting aside the huge liberties taken with the laws of astrophysics, it is a beautifully-shot and touching two-minute film. John Lewis helps itself by taking no risks with its winning formula of recent years. Namely: using the ad agency Adam&Eve/DBB, casting cute children, ensuring no one speaks, a plot about giving rather than receiving, and commissioning an up-and-coming singer to cover a well known pop track."

That track is "Half the World Away," the 1994 Oasis song that's performed here by Norwegian singer Aurora.

And in keeping with the commercial motives that underpin holiday messages, the song is now available on iTunes, John Lewis says.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.