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Behind the scenes on Christmas ads

Ana Perez

Christmas is here again, and with it come the themed ads of major retailers across the UK. From heart-warming stories and nods to holiday classics to wacky wonderlands and even superheroes – brands always pull out all the stops. As a creative, you might be thinking about how they were made, so we took a look at our favourites of the 2022 holiday season and how they were made, and break down which tools your team can use to achieve a similar result for your campaigns.


Asda: Have your Elf a Merry Christmas

Watch Asda's ad here

Asda’s ad is a throwback to a beloved holiday classic: Elf, featuring then-rising star Will Ferrell. The ad uses CGI to insert footage of the original film into new footage of their store and staff. It mimics some story beats of the movie, such as Buddy the elf almost being ran over (this time by some shopping trolleys instead of a cab), getting a new retail job and being at odds with the staff there but ultimately delighting them all with his hard work and Christmas spirit.

From a creative perspective, the most interesting aspect of the ad is how seamlessly the character of Buddy has been added digitally. The integration of the old footage with the new is incredibly smooth, to the point where it could easily fool someone who doesn’t remember the lines from the film very well or is unaware of Will Ferrell’s current age.

The campaign was made by creative agency Havas London. They used lidar remote sensing technology to create a digital model of a real store onto which to integrate the original footage. To achieve this result, extreme attention to detail was necessary: the team even researched what cameras and lightning conditions were used in the original movie to be able to recreate the filming conditions accurately.

Content that, like this, relies on mixing footage from two different sources can be created with Adobe Premiere Pro, which allows you to edit footage into a different location using Effect Controls. Whether you’re cutting out a character and putting them into a different setting, adding an outlandish vehicle (Santa’s sleigh, maybe?) to an everyday setting like a road or parking lot, or even creating a conversation between two people that’s actually been shot miles apart – the possibilities for creativity are endless.


Boots: Joy for All

Watch Boots' ad here

In Boots’ ad we follow a woman, played by BAFTA nominee Lydia West, who finds a pair of glasses that allow her to see the desires of people around her. This power transforms the dull everyday into a colourful and festive wonderland. The ad ends by showing that the scene of her friends and family unwrapping presents (all purchased at Boots, of course) around the Christmas tree does not change when she takes the glasses off, a moment that manages to be sweet without being a tear-jerker.

The ad was created by WPP’s agency group The Pharm. The campaign puts the focus on the buyer and the experience of finding the perfect gift for your loved ones, and to really drive this message home, Boots has actually partnered with TikTok to show different iterations of the ad to different users, based on who they’re shopping for. This clever twist on data-driven marketing is sure to pay off for the high street retailer.

An important part of the ad’s style relies on clever editing, and much of it was filmed on-set – no CGI needed. The colour correction is crucial, as it’s the key to highlight the difference between the real world and the one shown by the magical glasses.

To ensure that your content is accurate to the colour palettes you’ve envisioned for them, we recommend adding to your workflow a reliable, high-quality monitor like those made by EIZO. Their products are perfectly calibrated to guarantee colour accuracy and a precision simulation of the final result.


Aldi: Kevin the Carrot in Home Alone

Watch Aldi's ad here

Kevin the Carrot, Aldi’s Christmas mascot, is back. This time, he’s starring in a parody of the film Home Alone, which sees him fighting off an intruder (later revealed to be Santa Claus) with increasingly ridiculous traps until he is reunited with his family for Christmas day.

Kevin and his family are, as in previous years, created and animated using CGI techniques. While other elements of the ad are also created using CGI, it also features human actors and real-life props and sets.

The ad was made by advertising agency McCann Manchester, which created Kevin back in 2016 and has been Aldi’s advertising agency ever since. In spite of some customer complaints that say a joke in the ad is inappropriate, the ad has still proven popular on the heels of their successful A Christmas Carrot campaign last year.

For smooth animations we recommend Adobe After Effects. The layer tools allow you to add an animated character to a background that can be also animated or real-life footage, and its seamless compatibility with the rest of the Creative Cloud apps means you can create graphics in Photoshop or Illustrator, then create your animation by selecting keyframes and save you significant time by automating the movement of your character between them.


LUSH: Lord of Misrule

Watch LUSH' ad here

This refreshing ad reimagines the Lord of Misrule, a figure of traditional folklore that presides over the holiday revelries, as the superhero alter-ego of an ordinary man working at a biotech lab. The Lord of Misrule runs amok through the city, rewilding it with fantastical plants – aligning with LUSH’ ethos of promoting biodiversity and sustainability. It rejects the traditional concepts of Christmas marketing and aims more for the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon. This allowed LUSH to launch the campaign earlier in the year than most retailers without seeming out of touch.

The beauty company has walked a thin line with this approach: Lord of Misrule is one of LUSH’ most popular products and it’s sold year-round, but the hints of warm spices and vanilla in its fragrance make it a perfect fit for Christmas gifts. To highlight this seasonal aspect, LUSH has released more products in the range for a limited time only.

The animation was created by London-based animation studio FeralChild, which has partnered with LUSH before. They were afforded great creative freedom and as we can see it paid off, creating a campaign that memorable and multifaceted.

Once again, Adobe comes to the rescue with the perfect solution for 2-D animation – Adobe Animate. It allows you import vector drawings, helps you create more fluid animation by automatically creating tweening frames, and provides tools like enhanced easing and the ability to create wire frames for the characters to allow them to move more naturally. Another app, Adobe Character Animator, is optimised for digitally puppeting 2-D models to create fluid and fast-paced motion.


John Lewis: The Beginner

Watch John Lewis' ad here

The launch of the Christmas John Lewis ad is a yearly tradition in its own right, being one of the most anticipated and feeling like an unofficial kick-off for the holiday season. This year’s production follows a middle-aged man who’s trying to learn how to skateboard, and it’s later revealed that he is about to foster a teenager who loves skateboarding. Even though he injures his arm and does not master the tricks, the important thing is that he uses this experience to begin bonding with the child.

The retailer’s charity cause for the season is children in foster care, as John Lewis has partnered up with Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland to raise funds and donate items for foster care initiatives. The ad does not prominently advertise any John Lewis products, instead raising awareness of the cause and drawing attention to the experience of both carers and children in the system. As part of their wider “Building Happier Futures” campaign, they also want to become the employer of choice of young people leaving care.

The ad was created by adam&eveDDB and as usual for the retailer it’s designed to tug at your heartstrings, with a heart-warming premise and an emotional but appropriate soundtrack: a cover of All the Small Things performed by Mike Geier.

From a creative perspective, this ad may seem simple, choosing to eschew flashy special effects for a more honest simplicity that reflects everyday life realistically. But don’t let this plainness deceive you: it is still imperative to choose a workflow that can handle large media files to avoid loss of quality and issues during the editing process. We recommend integrating a storage solution like LucidLink, an innovative NAS solution that allows you to edit video and audio directly in the cloud. It can help you drastically reduce upload and download times and increase collaboration across locations when part of your team is working remotely.


The National Trust: Stay Cosy

Watch The National Trust's ad here

The National Trust’s ad features a series of felted toy animals, including mice, robins and bees, that sneak around the Trust’s shop on the night before Christmas, bringing each other gifts to the tune of a classic carol. The ad ends with two mice kissing under the mistletoe.

The premise is very simple, relying on showcasing the products (all the adorable toy critters are available for purchase, by the way) that have a focus on sustainability and ethical production, and reminding the viewer of the work that the organisation does for conservation and biodiversity, offering an alternative for ethical gift shopping. The highlight of the ad is definitely the stop motion technique used to animate it, which is what lends it its charm.

Wiltshire-based creative agency RedRocket returns after doing a similar ad for them last year. Their aim was to capture a nostalgic atmosphere reminiscent of classic children’s TV like Wallace and Gromit.

Stop-motion is a laborious technique, no matter how you slice it, but a good setup could save you some time and effort by preventing technical issues. You will need a high-quality camera and powerful software turn all separate frames into video. We have a wide range of high-end devices that can fit your requirements, like those from Blackmagic Design. Their DaVinci Resolve solution is perfect for shot sequencing and also allows for colour grading as well as other post-production tools.


To learn more about the tools we can provide your creative team, call us on 03332 400 888, email or fill in the form below.


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