Each year Aldi delivers a brilliant mix of storytelling and product-placement in the form of Kevin the Carrot and his heartwarming adventures. Bringing back Kevin for a fifth chapter, this year McCann devised a classic Christmas storyline, for a pandemic festive season.
The adventurous master of puns, Kevin the Carrot, is back again for the fifth chapter of his story. Following a teaser ad that saw him ejected from a fighter jet by a gobbling turkey, Kevin must now make it home for Christmas, but not without a little help from his idol - Father Christmas himself. McCann's chief creative Dave Price explains why Kevin's journey is a crucial metaphor for our own pandemic Christmas.
Who knew that a charming 3p Aldi carrot called Kevin would become such a staple at Christmas time? A regular guest at each year's Christmas ad party, for five years, the world has watched Kevin grow from a baby chantenay with an innocent obsession with Santa, into an adventurous family man with little carrots of his own.
But while his story has progressed, the formula that makes him so popular has remained the same. Each year McCann has served up a brilliant mix of storytelling and product-placement, which has meant the viewer doesn't walk away feeling like Aldi rammed its Christmas range down their throat. Instead, their tummies rumble helplessly at the site of the supermarket's delicious spread.
“I’ve always loved the fact that we got a 3p carrot to sell Aldi’s finest stuff,” admits Dave Price, McCann’s chief creative. “When the creative team (Clive Davis and Andy Fenton) came up with him back in 2016, I remember thinking, this is either brilliant or mad.”
Price claims that this year is “probably Kevin's biggest yet.” In a teaser that sees Kevin ejected from a fighter jet by his turkey co-pilot, Top Gun-style, he later rides onboard a prickly hedgehog, before he finally meets his idol in real life. A nod to the hit movie E.T., Kevin wraps up in a blanket in Santa's bicycle, who delivers him home in time for Christmas.
“We’re never really sure whether to bring Kevin back or not,” Price admits. “It’s a huge decision each year. Do we go out on a high? But every year we try and beat the last. While we started work on this back in January, if I’m honest, we probably start thinking about next year even before the last Christmas ad finishes playing out.”
If the UK edition of The Office or Fawlty Towers is anything to go by, it's better to quit while you’re ahead. But, considering Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot was ranked as last year’s most ‘different’ and ‘emotional’ ad by Kantar, must all good things come to an end?
Price recalls that back in January, a time before Covid took hold, the team had a raft of campaign ideas - some with Kevin and some without. “We had lots of teams doing different stuff, and then it’s a bit of a shootout as to which campaigns get shortlisted,” he shares. “Then we go to research, which is very telling.”
At this point, Price said the UK went into lockdown which threw a spanner in the works on the direction they were going. “We had to look at new work to be cognizant of what was going on in the world,” he says.
“We tried to project forwards, but that is really difficult because all you’re all hoping for is to get out, get outside - and instead, all you’re thinking about is what will happen by Christmas.” But, he explains the work that went into the research and how that made the team more aware of the situation, and what might be happening come Christmas.
“Kevin is a bit like Star Wars,” Price explains. “You can go forwards and backward. You can introduce new characters if they’re appropriate. You’re always adding to the story.”
In the past four installments, fans have been introduced to the Russel Sprout, the leader of the ’leafy blinders’ an angry bunch of Brummie sprouts, ‘Pascal the Parsnip’ the root of all evil and Tiny Tom, a loyal cherry tomato. Not to mention his wife Katie, and their three children Chantenay, Jasper and Baby Carrot.
While Kevin's first installment saw him cross a Christmas spread to meet Santa, since then, the storyline has got bigger and more intense, with this year being the most fantastical yet.
“We thought about going back in time with one campaign, while another we projected forwards. We had a whole variety of different Kevin stories with all sorts of unusual characters that he would meet,” Price shares, refusing to divulge any more in case the plans make it forward to next year.
After researching the mood of the nation this year, the team felt people wanted a simpler, classic Christmas story. “We wanted something that would resonate with what's going on right now. And we felt the story of Kevin on a journey to make it home to be with his family would be appropriate at this stage," he explains. "The other ideas would have been too extravagant this year and we wanted to make sure we had the right tone.”
Once they had made the decision on the extent of Kevin's escapades, McCann started work with Psyop, the animation company that it has worked with from the very beginning.
A fan of parody, in recent years Aldi has spoofed the British period drama Peaky Blinders, Coca-Cola’s iconic Christmas truck and John Lewis’ ‘Man on the Moon’. This year, it decided to parody two movie classics, E.T. and Home Alone. The latter, with its choice of soundtrack, the former in the scene where Kevin wraps up in a white blanket, and Father Christmas places him in the front basket of his bicycle before flying across the moon so that his baby carrots see his silhouette in the night's sky.
“It's nice when there's a bit of parody - we've done it a few times with Kevin,” Price says. “We're mindful of what other brands are doing, but then it's also a little tongue-in-cheek - classic Aldi humour. We want to get the consumer smiling - that's the key thing.”
Unlike past chapters, this year was the first that the storyline blended animation with live-action, in the form of popular actor Jim Broadbent in the role of Santa.
“Kevin is always searching for Santa, and his quest is very much through a child's eye,” Price explains. “This year we thought it would be great if he really does meet him and something meaningful happens between the two of them. And that shows its a two-sided relationship: Santa knows Kevin, and Kevin obviously knows Santa. And the twist is Broadbent who has narrated the series is in fact Santa himself.”
And so Kevin the Carrot has made it home for five years running, can we expect another adventure next year? “I can't say. Every year we try to say 'let's leave Kevin on a high.' There is going to a year, it could be next year, but while people love him...” Price trails off, hinting that we haven't quite seen the last of Kevin the Carrot.
You can watch the ad in full below.
And the teaser ad: