Thu, 06 Apr 2023 10:16:00 GMT
Christmas adverts are their own tradition in the UK, and as a result they’ve become a good insight into the public’s mindset every year. No better is this exemplified than in the contrast between Waitrose’s Christmas ads over the last two years. 2021’s campaign had Ashley Jensen starring in a humorous spot that featured Heston Blumenthal for a tongue-in-cheek bit about taking credit for his brand of mince pies. The most recent spot from 2022, ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’, doesn’t provide such star power, but instead spotlights real Waitrose Partners and suppliers in their year-long commitment to providing food and produce in time for the holiday. The spot was created with the intention of showing that, like dogs, Christmas isn’t just for Christmas - it’s part of a cycle that doesn’t just end when the decorations come down.
Conceived by adam&eveDDB creatives Andy McAnaney, and Christian Sewell, the concept was helped along the way by creative directors Feargal Ballance, and Matt Gay, who were sure to focus on a more grounded narrative than we’d usually expect of Christmas adverts this year, saying “We just didn’t feel that was the right approach, considering the social climate. So when we saw a script that had a unique take on Christmas, it felt like a refreshing way to go.”
With a hook that lends itself to a more intimate, grounded aesthetic, it’s no wonder that adam&eveDDB went with award winning talent behind the camera to bring it to life.
Director Henry Alex-Rubin (from Smuggler) and editor Scot Crane (The Quarry), who have worked together previously on spots for EE, Telecom, and more, collaborated again for ‘It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas’. Scot is always excited to work with Henry, saying “He wants to see what I can contribute first before we start collaborating. He lets me get on with it, and doesn’t interfere with my first edits” making for a creative space, where decisions can be worked upon together after both director and editor have had time with the footage.
A good example of their teamwork comes via the music choice - although the song itself was settled on early in the process, the final decision was a toss-up between two versions; one being the Crosby version, and the other being the equally iconic version by Perry Como. In the end, they settled on the Crosby version because, as Scot said “it ends with the lyric ‘it’s Christmas once more’, which fits the theme of the spot more directly than Como’s version.” It’s a small but important detail that really drives home the spot’s message, and gives the finished work that bit more of authenticity and artistry.
Scot also mentions that the beginning of the spot was actually the hardest part to get right in the edit, as they needed to anchor the theme and the chronology within the first few seconds, so they went through a lot of options, ultimately deciding that the wreath being pulled down from the door set the scene best. Director Henry Alex-Rubin also dreamt up quite a crucial addition to the beginning of the spot, in order to further clarify the concept of Christmas preparations as a year long cycle - the visual of calendar pages being torn from the last day of one year into the first day of the next.
From that point on, footage of hard work takes over from the Christmas imagery for a while. Apart from the family at the end of the spot, all the people we see throughout are actually Waitrose Partners and suppliers in real life, lending more authenticity to the message that Waitrose and adam&eveDDB were aiming for in celebrating the work that goes into making Christmas special. Due to the diverse range of weather on display in the spot, anyone would be forgiven for thinking that it was shot throughout the whole year, however everything was actually shot during a particularly wet October, but producers Ray Leakey, Fergus Brown, and the rest of the production team at Smuggler were well able to organise a fantastic shoot, and the crew were able to capture excellent footage that maintained the illusion of different seasons.
Ironically, the ending was the first footage shot for the film, and is also the only part to feature any dialogue. As the only actors in the spot, it’s a good thing they cast as well as they did - Scot remarked that “That kid was the most amazing actor. He could just turn his tears off and on in an instant, then be laughing and playing in between takes,” of course referring to the scene-stealing little boy, whose character has a pig-in-blanket shaped hole in his life.
We’re months away from knowing what this year’s Christmas adverts will look like, but we can be sure that there are plenty of people working hard right now in order to make sure everything is ready in time for the holiday season.