Last week, in the ongoing Super Bowl of U.K. Christmas ads, Sainsbury's released "The Greatest Gift." This sweet stop-motion animation story is about Dave, a working cog who just wants to be home for the holidays.
Created by AMV BBDO, the West End-style musical film is set to "The Greatest Gift for Christmas Is Me," sung by James Corden and composed by Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie. Conchords fans won't be disappointed by the lyrics, which, while being slyly funny, convey truths that resonate with most adults, especially this time of year.
Choice lines include, "I wanna find the greatest gift I can give my family/But right now I don't have time to breathe," and "The streets are chaotic, the shops idiotic/There's a queue for the queue!"
Meanwhile, Dave is depicted running the hamster wheel of his life—waking up at 6 a.m., preparing lists on a packed subway train, putting out fires at a toy factory, and enduring uncomfortable proximity to his twerking boss at the holiday party.
By the time he gets home, his family is asleep. That's when he comes up with a perfect idea.
There's wry critique in the solution Dave comes up with, a reminder that what distracts us from what's really important is not all that serious. He co-opts the toy factory by night, transforming its manufactured delights into versions of himself—head-wagging Dave dolls, bespectacled robots, Stretch Armstrongs and even drones. These are handily dispersed among everybody who's angling for his time … while the real Dave focuses on his family.
But in addition to furnishing a happy ending for one man's frenetic life, the piece also beams a message into fraught social conversations about cultural belonging. Dave's family, friends and colleagues are refreshingly diverse—multicultural, varied in ethnicity, body type, hair and relationship structure (including a multi-ethnic lesbian couple with a baby).
While "The Greatest Gift" isn't about this specifically, the nod to real-world variety is a relief and a pleasure to witness, tugging at one last sensitive string.
And don't think we've forgotten James Corden. The "Carpool Karaoke" host has had a banner year. In September, he appeared in an Apple Music spot, where he pitches awful ideas to Apple execs. A month before that, Air New Zealand pitched the star to launch a new show: "Cockpit Karaoke."
He's currently starring in "Reserve What's Next," a Chase video series for which he's designing his own 3D-printed cars. Oh, and he amusingly made ad people (and Facebook) feel ashamed at last week's Ad Council dinner.
"The Greatest Gift" broke first on social media, then on TV during the show I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! Like ads from previous years, it ends with the tagline, "Christmas Is for Sharing."
In addition to this three-minute piece, shorter clips feature Dave's family and Sainbury's food. Versions of Gingerbread Dave and a "Greatest Gift" film animation kit will be sold to raise funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, which is planning to build on-site accommodation for families of the children who are treated there.
This also marks the last Christmas piece that AMV BBDO will be producing for Sainsbury's, which, after 40 years, is moving its $74 million account to Wieden + Kennedy.
"Christmas has been very successful for us, and we have enjoyed working together. Retail is a fast-changing environment, and we thought it would be an opportunity to work with a new partner with a fresh pair of eyes," says Sarah Kilmartin, Sainsbury's head of broadcast communications.
Last year, the Sainsbury's Christmas ad featured the "Christmas Calamity" of a CGI cat called Mog, a popular storybook character who saves the family's holiday from disaster. The year before, AMV BBDO revisited the Christmas Truce of 1914, in which World War I soldiers stop fighting and venture into No Man's Land, building bonds, sharing sweets and singing "Silent Night."
"Everybody knows the competition is as great as it has ever been," says Kilmartin. "The job to do is the same job we have been doing for a long time, but Christmas gives us a great opportunity to really revel in the work we do. It gives us a good platform for the rest of the year."