It’s usually hard to get excited about Christmas when you’re still two months away, and the marketing around it can be especially exasperating so early in the calendar. But here’s a worthy exception.
British catalog retailer Argos today unveiled this year’s holiday season ad, and it’s an instant classic.
Created by agency The&Partnership, the long-form spot is essentially a music video for 1985’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds. But don’t expect any Breakfast Club references. This spot is fully devoted to the story of a dad’s Christmas dream, which becomes even more special once it’s shared with his daughter.
Here’s the full-length, 3-minute spot, which will also run in shorter cuts on TV and in digital:
The high-level concept of the spot is simple: that thumbing through the Argos catalog is a traditional way British families start the Christmas season. That usually means kids turning to the catalog to create wish lists, but in this case the brand decided to try a different angle.
“Initially we tried lots of different dreams,” Ludo Thomas, creative at The&Partnership, tells Adweek. “We tried a kid’s dream, but it’s easy to make it quite sweet, and we didn’t want that. What if it was a dad’s dream? We were going through the book and found a drum kit. There’s something about a drum kit that’s just badass. It’s always in the back of the band, and it’s never really front and center.”
From the expanding set (created without CGI) to the meticulous timing and sound engineering needed to sync the drummers with the decades-old track, the spot was a logistical challenge from start to finish for the creative team.
The&Partnership creative director Danny Hunt came up with the idea of the music video but left the song selection up to the team.
“We just around and around and around,” says creative Arthur Harry. “We listened to almost every song from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Once we had gotten to Simple Minds and found that track, it was like, ‘How can we better it?'”
In the United States, the song is inextricably linked to The Breakfast Club, the movie for which it was written. But in the U.K., the track is more associated with the Scottish band that performed it, which explains why Simple Minds even gets to share the screen time in the ad. “Some people do know it’s from The Breakfast Club,” Hunt says, “but it’s not as big of a thing here.”
Importantly for the ad’s conceptual needs, the song is relatively drum-forward, as compared to one where a defining drum break comes in late into the song, such as Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” used in Cadbury’s 2007 “Gorilla” ad.
Another challenge with finding the right song was that the creative team wanted one that would feel right for a Gen X dad but still feel timeless and fresh.
“It was quite a tricky brief,” Hunt says. “You had to remember it’s dad’s dream. So it had to be a song that dad resonated with but was still cool for kids today. And we wanted a song that hadn’t been used too much.”
In the vein of a Spike Jonze ad, the set seems to magically expand and evolve through practical effects, turning a kitchen into a concert stage. Typically, that might be the most difficult part of an ambitious spot, but in this case it was the timing and audio of the video that would require intense effort.
When the daughter emerges, for example, her slide down the bannister and into the drummer’s stool required precise timing, and then the sound team had to find a way to match the custom drumming in the spot with the exact sounds of Simple Minds’ instruments and studio. Creating a seamless music video was no small feat.
Nor was casting.
While finding a father-age drummer might not be too taxing, finding a young girl with the chops to pull off the spot’s concept was one of the team’s toughest tasks.
“We needed a really young drummer, one who looked like she shouldn’t be able to play like that,” Hunt says. “We went right down to the wire. It was actually really stressful. Without a girl who looks like she can play drums like that, to me the ad would die.”
They found their star in 9-year-old Nandi Bushell, a British drumming prodigy who already has more than 50,000 Instagram followers.
Here’s a clip of her jamming with Lenny Kravitz during a recent British tour:
The creatives say she was a perfect fit and, rather than being intimidated by the part, was thrumming with excitement.
“We created this mini-gig,” Harry says of the ad’s final scenes, “and backstage she was just itching to get onto the kit in front of these people.”
Agency: The&Partnership London
CEO: Sarah Golding
Executive Creative Directors: Yan Elliott / Micky Tudor
Creative Director: Danny Hunt
Creatives: Ludo Thomas / Arthur Harry
Head of Planning: Rebecca Munds
Senior Planner: Claire Carmichael
Managing Director: Gary Simmons
Account Director: Lucy Almond
Account Manager: Hannah Gray
Senior Producer: Andy Roberts
Producer: Alfie Glover-Short
Media Agency: PHD
Production Company: Stink Films
Producer: Traktor / Richard Ulfvengren
Producer: Icon Films / Millen Nickolov
Director of Photography: Joost van Gelder
Editor: Ryan Beck @ Final Cut
Production Designer: Nick Foley Oates/Eva Vento
Post Production: MPC
Colourist: Jean-Clement Soret
Shoot Supervisor: Kamen Markov
VFX Supervisor: Jake Nelson
Producer: Phil Whalley
Song: “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”
Artist: Simple Minds
Music Supervision Company: Leland Music
Music Supervisors: Codie Childs
Music Arranger: Chris Hill
Drum Supervisor: Brad Webb
Sound Designer: Munzie Thind @ Grand Central