It’s been an unseasonably challenging couple of years for Christmas ads, as brands were forced to grapple with how to address the festive period in the wake of the pandemic. This year has brought little respite either, thanks to the rapidly unravelling cost of living crisis.
Unsurprisingly, some retailers, such as TK Maxx, have focused on cost-saving in their Christmas ads this time around. In contrast, Sainsbury’s is hedging its bets on consumers treating themselves to small luxuries with its product placement-heavy spot – starring the supermarket’s fancy new Christmas pud.
“We’ve focused on the Christmas pudding specifically because we know it’s divisive – people love it, or they hate it – and that’s why we’ve created the Taste the Difference Caramelised Biscuit Pudding,” says Sainsbury’s head of campaigns, Laura Boothby. “Pudding lovers can still opt for the traditional dessert, but those who aren’t fans can try our innovative take on the Christmas classic instead.”
Fittingly titled Once Upon a Pudding, the story is set in an imaginary medieval world where a decadent festive feast is being planned. Created by Sainsbury’s long-time agency Wieden + Kennedy London, the spot opens with a wide view of a castle surrounded by mountains and a voiceover from Stephen Fry.
TV personality Alison Hammond stars as the far-away land’s countess, who is in charge of choosing the menu for this year’s feast. Things start off well, as the countess happily receives dishes such as crab thermidor crumpets and cider glazed gammon. But her distaste of Christmas pudding means it is strictly off the menu – that is, until a young cook manages to change her mind.
While the ad’s product-heavy focus detracts a little from the fantastical storyline, Hammond’s down-to-earth charm shines through with one-liners such as “that’s a bit of me” and “well done Babs”. Plus, she’ll likely resonate with the army of reality TV fans who have grown up watching her on institutions such as Big Brother and I’m a Celeb.
The slightly bizarre instrumental version of Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag that soundtracks the spot also cleverly taps into the current TikTok mania for #bardcore – which involves people taking iconic pop songs and transforming them into medieval bangers, obvs.
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London
Creative Directors: Freddy Taylor & Philippa Beaumont, Juan Sevilla & Joe de Souza
Executive Creative Director: Susan Hoffman
Agency Artworker: David Brodie
Design Directors: Phil Rosier, Alex Thursby-Pelham
Designer: Emma Cope
Production Company: Anonymous Content
Director: Tim Godsall
Editorial Company: Final Cut
VFX Company: Time Based Arts