In Britain, where Christmas ads are a pretty big deal, the battle for this season's supremacy continues with the Tesco ad below, from Wieden + Kennedy in London. And it couldn't be more different from John Lewis's lavish animated production.
Is it bad that when I first watched the Tesco spot—which is made to look like old home-movie footage of Christmases past—that I immediately thought of Clark Griswold in his attic, killing time reliving the Decembers of his own youth? The approach is so sentimental, it's already borderline parody—though of course there's no slapstick punch line in the Tesco ad to punctuate how cheesy this kind of nostalgia can be.
Instead, it's earnest—in keeping with the brand itself. And the spot—directed by John Crowley and set to Rod Stewart's 1988 hit "Forever Young"—is interesting to watch largely because of the incredible attention to detail in the period sets and costumes, following one family in and around the same home from the '60s to the present day. Crowley shot on 8-millimeter film for the '60s and '70s, then on videotape beginning in the '80s, and a smartphone for the present day. The agency sourced actual Tesco products in their actual vintage packaging from a brand museum. There were 12 different setups, and of course, plenty of hair and makeup work went into aging the couple.
The tagline is: "There's nothing better than Christmas."
Does it work? It might depend on your tolerance for sentimentality. For me, professional camerawork that takes pains to look amateurish can be distracting. (Plus, it marginalizes the director's own skills of framing and composition, which don't have to be at odds with a nostalgic theme at all—see BBH London's brilliant KFC spot from 2011.) And there's the issue, too, that watching someone else's (faux) memories of Christmas have only so much bearing on your own memories, even at a holiday with so much shared imagery and custom.
That said, the spot undeniably captures Tesco's down-to-earth spirit. "We had great fun building sets and laughing at fashions and toys of years gone by. We wanted to show what a real Christmas is all about—not a perfect, airbrushed one—but the ones we recognize from our own lives," says David Wood, Tesco's U.K. marketing director. W+K creative director Ray Shaughnessy adds: "Let's face it, Christmas isn't perfect and Tesco's point of view is, nor is it supposed to be. … Through the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly bits of real Christmases, Tesco properly get under the skin of things, and show that it's the being together that really counts."
Now, if someone could just fall through some attic stairs at the end, we'd be all set.
Spot: Christmas 2013 :A Family Christmas"
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, London
Creative Directors: Dan Norris & Ray Shaughnessy
Copywriter: Sophie Bodoh
Art Director: Dagmar Hoogland
Producer: James Guy
Account Team: Charlotte Evans & Ollie Pym
Executive Creative Directors: Tony Davidson / Kim Papworth
Executive Producer: Danielle Stewart
Production Company: Tomboy Films
Director: John Crowley
Executive Producer: Barnaby Spurrier
Line Producer: Production Manager – Ella Herlihy
Director of Photography: Rob Hardy
Editorial Company: Final Cut
Editor: Struan Clay
Post Producer: Frankie Elster
Post Executive Producer: Michelle Corney
VFX Company: MPC
VFX Supervisor: Bevis Jones
Flame Artist: Bevis Jones, Christopher Fraser
VFX Producer: Marianna Bruynseels
Titles/Graphics: W+K Studio
Music and Sound Design
Sound Designer: Aaron Reynolds
Song: "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart
Producer: Amber Clayton
Music supervision: Major Tom
Mix Company: Wave Studios