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Opinion and Insight

Feliz Navidad! Christmas Ads, the Spanish Way

A brief history of the Spanish Christmas Lottery films that have been brightening our festive seasons for years

Feliz Navidad! Christmas Ads, the Spanish Way

The British media has been whipped up into a frenzy over the Christmas commercials airing this week (When will the John Lewis one be revealed? Did M&S really drop the ‘F’ bomb in their ad?). For several years now, following the lead of John Lewis’ various festive spectaculars, brands have bundled in to grab a slice of the Christmas ad phenomenon. Spain loves Christmas too, of course. But for now the seasonal advertising mania is focused on just one commercial that is fast becoming a tradition. 

The annual spot for the Spanish Christmas Lottery (the Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad or simply Lotería de Navidad) is now anticipated around the world. Affectionately known as ‘El Gordo’ or ‘The Big One’, the prize draw is a cultural phenomenon in itself. With more than 46 million entrants it’s widely considered to be the world’s biggest lottery. It’s also the second longest-running lottery in history, dating back to 1812, uninterrupted even by the Spanish Civil War.

Since 2014, Leo Burnett in Madrid has created a narrative short film to build hype for the competition. Each story revolves around the uniquely communal nature of the lottery. As Leo Burnett Madrid’s Chief Creative Officer Juan Garcia-Escudero told LBB’s Addison Capper last year, “sharing in the draw is at the core of it”. The lottery works on a unique system where numbers are divided into smaller parts so groups of people can play together, sharing a number. And if that number is drawn, everyone with part of it wins.

As Leo Burnett’s series of films demonstrates, the lottery is usually played by communities, such as the regulars at a bar or the employees at a workplace. Everyone buys part of a number so they can share the joy of winning together, but what if someone forgets to buy their ticket? That was the nightmare scenario presented in the first big film, three years ago. Directed by Santiago Zannou, the story of Manuel and Antonio stimulated tear ducts across the globe, earning well over 4 million views on YouTube.

Manuel’s success paved the way for Justino - the adorable old nightwatchman at the mannequin factory, who lifts the spirits of his co-workers with his nocturnal creativity. The animated spectacular was directed by Againstallodds with Passion Pictures and Blur Films and clocks in at 3:39 compared to 2014’s 2:32. It was bigger and more ambitious in almost every sense and coincided with a bumper prize draw - the maximum total amount available for all prizes of €2.52 billion. The spot went on to win heaps of awards, cementing the Spanish Christmas Lottery ads as a festive tradition Leo Burnett are unlikely to let go of.

Last year took the idea of a community coming together to new heights. With RCR’s Santiago Zannou return to the series, nobody wins the lottery in the story of Carmina, beloved grandmother who’s got her dates muddled up. But that doesn’t stop her whole town celebrating. Clocking in at almost five minutes and made with a crew of over 400 people, it was a massive extravaganza, proving that you don’t have to get rich to celebrate the communities you’re part of.

Previous ads in the series have aired around the middle of November, so we could find out where this emotional rollercoaster will be taking us next very soon. There’s so much anticipation that the director of the film has already been revealed. Alejandro Amenábar, Spanish-Chilean director with nine Goyas, two European Film Awards and an Oscar to his name will helm this year’s celebration of togetherness and if the previous instalments are anything to go by, it'll be hitting us all right in the warm and fuzzys.

Category: Events , Sports and leisure

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