The Spot: Toy Overload

Paying for a gift is a lot easier than choosing one in BBH's Christmas ad for Barclaycard

Headshot of Tim Nudd

IDEA: It's no secret that holiday shopping, particularly offline, can be hell. Britain's Barclaycard, a credit- and debit-card company, doesn't claim to ease all the pain—just a portion of it. "Our personal view was that [Barclaycard's] previous ads depicted the whole purchasing process to be effortless just because the payment was. Well, that wasn't true," BBH copywriter Tom Drew and art director Uche Ezugwu told Adweek in an email. "Sometimes shopping can be a bit much, though Barclaycard always makes their bit easy." In 90 seconds of pandemonium, the company's new Christmas spot from BBH follows a father on a solo expedition through a toy store—its bright lights and jolly music concealing a heart of darkness where panic lurks. There, he is practically assaulted by toys pleading to be bought—and finds that using his phone to pay with Barclaycard is the only stress-free moment of his visit.

COPYWRITING: Inside the shop, Dad discovers a hidden world of human-size toys, all clamoring to be taken home. "Having three children and seven nieces and nephews between us, we understood that particular pain firsthand," the creatives said. Escorted by a friendly stuffed orangutan, the man meets a robot, a macho action figure, Bumblebee the Transformer and a baby doll—all of whom have pithy one-liners. A Barbie lookalike on a motor scooter prefers a pickup line. "Daddy, hop on," she purrs. ("They're plastic," the orangutan whispers.)

After zooming around in a toy car and dangling from a helicopter, man and ape fall on a whoopee cushion and the spot crashes to a halt. "OK, I've made up my mind!" Dad declares. After a quick swipe of his phone at checkout, he leaves with … his orangutan guide. "I wasn't expecting that!" the ape gasps happily. "A new way to pay. From Barclaycard," says the voiceover.

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Chris Palmer, who famously baked a giant car cake for Czech automaker Skoda and also directed T-Mobile's "Royal Wedding," shot this ad at Ealing Studios over two weeks. "We had a warehouse full of toys that Chris could decorate the spot with. We felt a little like our protagonist—we had too much choice," said the creatives. Toy Story is the obvious reference. "No commercial is ever going to be as good as the Toy Story trilogy, so we knew we had to steer ours away from it," the creatives said. "As long as we kept our story rooted in truth and revolving around the dad, we thought we'd be OK." To be more charming, they stayed away from CGI—every toy was puppeteered except the orangutan (a man in suit) and Bumblebee (stop motion). Each toy or group of toys was filmed on a separate layer and then composited in post by Framestore.

TALENT: The dad is good looking yet an everyman with a nice frazzled look. The orangutan worked well as the other main character because he isn't the obvious choice for a gift. "He had to be loveable, but maybe not at first sight—a grower," the creatives said. For his voice, they tried a bunch of comedians before finding "the perfect fit" in James Corden, best known from the BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey.

SOUND: The agency had a whole original track scored. "It all worked, but something was missing. It left us a little cold," said the creatives. Instead, they used a version of "Sugar Plum Fairy" from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. "From its mystical beginning to its emphatic crescendo, it's as if it was written for it," they said.

MEDIA: The spot launched Nov. 10 on ITV1 during The X Factor. Viewers can use Shazam to tag the spot and win prizes, each of which includes a £5 donation to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.



Client: Barclaycard

Global Brand Director: Gary Twelvetree

Spot: "Toys"

Agency: BBH, London

Copywriter: Tom Drew

Art Director: Uche Ezugwu

Creative Directors: Matt Doman & Ian Heartfield

Executive Creative Director: Nick Gill

Producer: Rachel Hough

Head of Film: Davud Karbassioun

Team Manager: Claire Carpenter & Rebecca Levy

Team Director: Paisley Wright

Strategic Business Lead: Paul Matuszczyk

Production Company: Gorgeous

Director: Chris Palmer

Producer: Rupert Smythe

Production Company: Passion Pictures

Technical Director: Neil Riley

Producer: Patrick Duguid

DoP: Jess Hall

Post Production: Framestore

Editor/Editing House: Jonnie Scarlett, The Quarry

Sound: Factory: Sam Robson, Factory Studios. Ben Baird/Nick Roberts, The Quarry

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