By Katie Deighton | Senior Reporter

November 9, 2017 | 3 min read

Vaughan Arnell and Anthea Benton, the darling directing duo of the 80s and 90s, went 20 years without speaking after they split in 1996. Now they’re not only back in touch but are working together again, selecting House of Fraser’s Christmas story of sisterhood through the decades as their first spot of the 21st century.

The festive ad was created by 18 Feet & Rising as a marked departure from the upbeat, choreographed creative of the brand’s Christmases past. Driven by story more than aesthetics, ‘Bring Merry Back’ focuses on the bond between an older and younger sister across two timeframes – the 80s and today – and aims to revive the festive joy felt by children in House of Fraser’s adult audience.

The choice of sisters over any other familial relationship was an important one for the indie agency’s executive creative director, Anna Carpen.

“I don’t think the sisterly bond has been represented in advertising that much because I don’t think people know how to write it, actually, without it being cheesy,” she said. “One thing we didn’t want was two little girls dressed up in pink dresses. That’s not how girls behave – they run around tearing up paper chains and causing chaos.

“We really wanted to show girls and women being themselves and not being part of a stereotype that advertising believes.”

The biggest challenges for Arnell and Benton were recreating the flat, graininess of 1980s cinematography and finding a cast of two young girls and two women with the right facial similarities. The directors found these two production briefs were interlinked, with the latter solved by casting two real young sisters with minimal acting experience and pairing them with a duo of unrelated but comically connected actors.

“The vintage look [came] more from the casting,” Arnell told The Drum. “People’s facial structures were different in that [80s] period. Once we found the real sisters we could then design the look, the costume and the colours. We based it on people’s real photographs from the 80s. We took those and examined the grain and the whole look.”

How was it working together after two decades apart?

“It was like nothing had ever happened,” said Arnell. “We’re much stronger than we used to be and we’re just gagging for more opportunities.”

The hero ad will go live on Sunday (12 November) during ITV’s The X Factor. Its digital and social spin-offs will roll out on the same day.

Advertising Brand

Other episodes in the series

Episode 1

Casting the Three (gay) Bears, the stars of Rowse Honey’s hairy pro-porridge cookery show

Rowse Honey’s new content series may have been inspired by the fairytale of The Three Bears, but it's the casting of a jovial trio of modern ‘gay bears’ that the brand hopes will connect with a fun, young consumer.

Episode 2

As it unveils A Christmas Love Story, Vodafone reveals how Martin Freeman is its gift of relevance

Martin Freeman has found himself embarrassed at a wedding and in a criminal mix-up in a car park in his tenure for Vodafone’s ads so far. Now the actor finds himself as the lead role in an epic love story for the telecom brand’s Christmas campaign, which has been built on subtle, self-deprecating humour to win favour with a UK audience.

Episode 4

Inside BBC One’s Christmas spot: the CGI/stop-motion success for the Beeb’s in-house creatives

BBC One’s thoroughly British Christmas trail for 2017 has not only impressed (most of) the nation in the festive spot stakes but also proven the creative prowess of the corporation’s in-house agency.

Episode 5

British Red Cross prizes segmentation to create a brand platform rooted in national kindness

The British Red Cross (BRC) is visualising the warming power of small acts of kindness in its latest brand platform, a fresh mobilisation strategy developed after extensive research revealed the need to highlight the ‘British’ in its brand name.

Episode 6

Inside Kopparberg's 'Outside is Ours': a kite flying break from its underground Swedish roots

Kopparberg hopes its latest campaign platform – a sun-kissed depiction of the outdoor festival life – will mark a graduation from niche Swedish cider into an aspirational, mainstream global brand.

Episode 7

How to direct a cow and a Cornish language script, by Kelly's Ice Cream's creative team

Kelly’s of Cornwall has released its second ad spoken entirely in the Cornish language – a challenge only compounded this time by an unpredictable seaside location and the starring appearance of a cow.

Episode 8

The BBC's operatic, embroidered World Cup 2018 film: how it was made

The BBC’s World Cup trailer is an operatic montage of historic and memorable events from football’s biggest tournament, all of which were painstakingly embroidered frame by frame and photographed into a 60-second trailer. The BBC Creative duo behind the spot explained how their idea came to life in The Drum’s latest Anatomy of an Ad.

Episode 9

'Cousins, not twins’ – inside the first united campaigns of Virgin Holidays and Atlantic

Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic have released their first creative work since jointly appointing AMV BBDO, choosing to release two separate campaigns that share a playful ‘visual language’ rather than merging the creative accounts entirely.

Episode 10

Opening up the Royal Opera House: inside the venue’s stroboscopic brand identity

The Royal Opera House has unveiled a new architectural design, one it hopes will open up worlds of ballet and opera to a wider audience both physically and perceptually via a dramatic, photographic campaign.

More from Advertising

View all