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Why SPAR Went Back to Its Roots This Christmas



Publicis Dublin on revamping the 2012 ‘Finding Trees’ campaign and bringing it into 2022 with a ‘Treequel’ that nods to the past, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

Why SPAR Went Back to Its Roots This Christmas

Ten years ago, around the festive season, SPAR’s Christmas campaign focused on ‘Finding Trees’ in everyday life. This year, to celebrate the 2022 Christmas season and channel the legacy from 10 years ago, SPAR and Publicis Dublin have thrown it back to the original concept, while bringing in modern creative concepts.

In this aptly named ‘Treequel’ viewers look for trees across Ireland as SPAR locations become a signpost for evoking the Christmas spirit. The team behind the campaign explain how they had the choice of creating something entirely new, or focusing on reviving the old classic – and why they opted to go for the upcycling route. With two original cast members from 2012 and the soundtrack of ‘The Christmas Song’ by Water’s Edge, the store’s latest spot will have you keeping an eye out for trees you wouldn’t normally see.

Publicis Dublin’s team, featuring strategic planner Niamh O’Shaughnessy, executive creative director Ronan Nulty, account director David Carter and the campaign’s director Chris Balmond, told LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about what it took to reimagine a classic ad. 

LBB> When did you know that you wanted to revisit the ‘Finding Trees’ theme of SPAR’s 2012 Christmas ad? 

Niamh> The client gave us a very open brief to refresh the campaign (despite no discernible wear-out). As such, we explored two ways: a sequel (‘treequel’), or doing something completely new. 

Ronan> While there were some very tempting and brilliant ‘new’ approaches, in the end, it just felt unnecessary to throw away everything that 10 years of a much-loved ad had built up… so we decided to upcycle.    

LBB> Why was it important to come full circle and what are some of the aspects you included to make this happen?

Niamh> It’s easy for people to ignore, misappropriate and dislike brand advertising - especially at Christmas. We felt we had a better chance of being noticed, remembered and loved if we built on what was very familiar and already embraced by the consumer. 

Ronan> The aspects we felt were important to keep were the discovery of trees, the music in some form, the absence of too much cheese, and the essential ‘Irishness’.

LBB> What was SPAR’s reaction to recreating the classic ad? What were they keen to include in the spot?

David> Like ourselves, SPAR made sure it was a very considered decision, and not just ‘let’s do a remake’. They were keen to keep the spirit of the original, avoid the Christmas cliché, and retain the quirky unexpected tone. As a retailer, they play an important role in local communities around the country, so they were eager - as we were - to depict suburban, urban and rural locations. They wanted to represent Ireland in 2022 as a diverse population. Finally, they stressed the need for a sustainable approach to production. 

LBB> The music - which really embodies the Christmas feeling - is one of the first aspects viewers are introduced to. How did you decide on using this cover of ‘The Christmas Song’?

Ronan> In 2012, we listened to two million Christmas tracks. The Raveonettes song, despite the title, isn’t an obvious joy-fest. However, it complemented the offbeat quirky approach to the visuals (directed by the duo D.A.D.D.Y). Once we decided on a sequel, that also meant a reinterpretation of the track. Again, the obvious thing might’ve been to get a high-profile cover version, but instead we gave some young, local emerging musicians an opportunity to do their version - creating a little supergroup.

LBB> What was the process of creating moments where people find SPAR’s iconic trees? Can you tell us about some of the ways you incorporated the original concept in a contemporary way?

Ronan> There is a thread of Christmas stories throughout the locations: a ‘coming home’ scene at the airport, the classic ‘Christmas swim’, the school nativity etc. Rather than using real Christmas trees, this time we wanted a mix of ‘found’ and ‘created’ trees. Some were to be analogue, some VFX or augmented, some found by the viewer, some by the characters, and all of this was done to keep it interesting and watchable (in case it needs to run for another 10 years). A bunch were pre-planned through location scouting. A few were members of the team snapping triangular shapes they came across. One was the ‘Wonderful Barn’ from the town I grew up in. Chris Balmond went on an Irish ‘tree-spotting’ mission. 

LBB> Can you tell us about some of the locations and sets you shot on and how long it took to film?

Chris> We shot over five days, from Dublin to Galway. The biggest challenge was that many of the scenes needed to be filmed in low light, so there was a lot of careful scheduling, waiting, and then short bursts of mad panic on set to get our shots in the right conditions.

LBB> With all of the different ‘Treequel’ moments, how did you edit the spot to ensure everything felt cohesive?

Chris> It was a balancing act between making sure the viewer spotted the motif without the edit feeling overly repetitive, so we placed a few of the more obvious trees up front to allow the viewer to get on board with the idea before we fed in some of the more abstract ones.  

LBB> What was the most challenging part of creating this campaign and how did you overcome it?

Ronan> Like most sequels probably, the most challenging part was resisting the urge to just change absolutely everything. We were tasked with judging how far to take the sequel while still capturing the essence of the original. 

LBB> So far, what are some of the most memorable reactions to the ad that you’ve seen?

Ronan> Before we shot, an Irish expat in London who loved the original warned Chris Balmond not to f*ck it up. She welled up when he showed her the new one!

LBB> Are there any moments we should look out for, that we may have missed when watching the ad for the first time?

Ronan> The two girls in the café also featured in the original as schoolgirls in a similar scene, looking out a window to see a tree. 

LBB> Would you like to share anything else with us?

Ronan> The track is due for Spotify release, and there are plans for a special live performance by our supergroup.  

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Publicis Dublin, Tue, 22 Nov 2022 17:16:00 GMT