Sainsbury’s Releases Nostalgic, 3-Part Ode to Christmas and the Foods That Connect Us

Campaign by Wieden+Kennedy is a departure from the blockbuster holiday ads the retailer has become known for

Sainsbury's has stepped away from a blockbuster holiday ad this year in favor of three shorter spots. Sainsbury's / Wieden & Kennedy

LONDON—In what has been an unprecedented and tough year for many, U.K. supermarket Sainsbury’s has pared back its usual blockbuster holiday ad and instead released three shorter spots that are a nostalgic celebration of family memories.

Each story ends with the line “Food is Home. Home is Christmas”—and are an ode to the power that Christmas food, and the unique family traditions surrounding it, has to transport us back to happy memories shared together. The home-movie style films aim to unite feelings of loss, longing, love, and hopefulness, the retailer said.

The first of the three ads launched Saturday—a charming film titled “Gravy Song,” which tells how a father and daughter’s excitement for Christmas gets them talking about dad’s gravy and his “famous” family gravy song.

The song brings back memories of years gone by, as the daughter grapples with her embarrassment of her dad’s singing, while admitting her love for the gravy and the tradition.

The second spot, titled “Perfect Portions,” debuted today and shows a mother and son sharing happy memories of Christmases past and reminiscing about the way his late father used to carve the turkey years ago.  In his memory, the mother puts her own twist on his tradition.

The final film, titled “Big Sarnie,” will air Thursday and will show two cousins catching up and remembering Boxing Days of the past spent at their grandmother’s house, who used to give them huge turkey sandwiches, filled with gravy and stuffing.

Centered on family, the ads will be poignant for people in the U.K. who have faced into various lockdown restrictions since March—many millions of people have been unable to see loved ones, and there is huge uncertainty over whether families will be allowed to celebrate together this year.

“We know that this year has been different for everyone, so we wanted to take a different approach with our Christmas campaign by simply reminding people that Christmas dishes are gestures of love and care, served by up by those who matter most. It’s our memories of these dishes, prepared by the people we love, that have the power to transport us home—whether we’re there or not,” said Emma Bisley, head of broadcast marketing at Sainsbury’s.

Just like British department store John Lewis, Sainsbury’s holiday ads are a hotly anticipated moment in the U.K.’s advertising calendar.

Last year, its Christmas ad was an epic, Dickensian tale of the supermarket’s origin story (with a dollop of poetic license). The spot told the story of a young chimney sweep falsely accused of stealing an orange—only to be helped out by he store’s co-founder, Mary Ann Sainsbury.

Perhaps most famous of all is the retailer’s 2014 holiday spot, by AMV BBDO—an emotive ad set on Christmas Day 1914 during the first world war that told the story of how British and German soldiers laid down their arms and came together on neutral territory to share stories, mementos and even a game of football during the holiday season.

Creative Director: Darren Simpson
Creatives: Brand – Joe Bruce & Albert Pukies, Missions & Promo – Holly Hunter & Miriam Pick
Executive Creative Directors: Tony Davidson & Iain Tait
Group Account Director: Katherine Thomson
Account Director: Hannah Gourevitch & Sam Hunton
Account Manager: AV – Abi Devine, Print – Matt Whiteside
Account Executive: Olli Rosicourt
Chief Strategy Officer: Ben Armistead
Planning Director: Tarek Sioufi
Planner: Rory Foster
Comms Planning Director: Martin Bassot
TV Producer: Matthew Ellingham & Aran Patterson
Creative Producer: Rebecca Herbert
Design Director: Karen Jane
Lead Designer: Phil Rosieur
Designer: Jackie Hudson
Motion Designer: Jon Harris
Business Affairs: Alex Coomer & Lenya James
Production Company: Pulse
Director: 32 – Dylan Southern & Will Lovelace
Executive Producer / Managing Director: James Sorton
Production Company Producer: George Saunders
Editorial Company: Assembly Rooms
Editor: Nick Allix & Eve Ashwell
VFX Company: Time Based Arts
Colorist: Lewis Crossfield
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designer: Anthony Moore
Music Supervisor / Producer / Composer: Zebedee Budworth
Production Company: Angela Woods Ltd
Photographer: Aaron Tilley
Retouching: Stanleys Post
Motion: Time Based Arts

@saramayspary Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.