Ad of the Day: Sainsbury’s Recreates 1914 Christmas Truce in Stunning New Ad

Ringan Ledwidge directs AMV BBDO's remarkable story of sharing

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Monty the penguin has his first real competition for best Christmas ad of the year, as Sainsbury's just rolled out a remarkable long-form spot that couldn't be more different than the John Lewis masterpiece.

The U.K. supermarket chain and the Royal British Legion unveiled "Christmas Is for Sharing" on Tuesday night's airing of Coronation Street—a brilliant three-minute-and-20-second spot from AMV BBDO that travels back a century to the trenches of World War I to tell the story of the famous 1914 Christmas truce that British and German soldiers observed in the first holiday season of World War I.

Ringan Ledwidge, the Rattling Stick director who famously shot "Three Little Pigs" for the Guardian in 2012, handles directing chores here, and the film really is stunning—it's as cinematic as any war movie, rich and evocative and entirely believable. The story, which Sainsbury's calls a "creative interpretation" of the events, shows a young British soldier who—as the enemies hear each other singing "Silent Night"—ventures into No Man's Land and offers friendship, and a football match, to the other side.

In particular, he meets a young German soldier and they share a bond—sealed in the quiet reveal of the final frames.

Sainsbury's and the Royal British Legion tried to make the details as authentic as possible. They based it on original reports and letters from the time, and worked with historians throughout the process.

And while the story is a century old, the campaign couldn't be more modern. The chocolate bar that plays a key role in the narrative will be sold at Sainsbury's stores this holiday, with proceeds going to the Royal British Legion, which works to support servicemen and women.

"Christmas is a special time of year when people come together to share simple moments and kindnesses," says Mark Given, head of brand communications at Sainsbury's. "This year, we wanted to reflect that theme of sharing in our Christmas campaign through the lens of one of the most extraordinary moments of sharing in modern history, when on Christmas Day 1914, British and German soldiers laid down their arms, and came together on neutral territory to share stories, mementos and even a game of football."


Client: Sainsbury's

Agency: AMV BBDO

Director: Ringan Ledwidge

Production Company: Rattling Stick

Media Agency: PHD

Grade: Aubrey Woodiwiss, ETC-

Edit: Rich Orrick, Work

Audio Postproduction: Aaron Reynolds, Wave, Woodwork Music

Postproduction, Visual Effects Company: The Mill

Executive Producer: Gemma Humphries

Shoot Supervisor: Hitesh Patel

2-D Lead Artist: Andrew Wood

2-D Artists: Joseph Tang, Gary Driver, Dan Adams

Matte Painting: Aurelien Ronceray, German Casado

Assistant Producer: Clare Melia

Colorist: Aubrey Woodiwiss, ETC

DCP: Mick Vincent

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.