By Ellen Ormesher | Senior Reporter

November 16, 2020 | 7 min read

Tesco’s seasonal offering recognises the tough year we have all endured and encourages customers not to worry about any past ‘naughtiness’ – encouraging them to, instead, look for small moments of joy and indulgence this Christmas. The brains behind the operation at BBH explain how they landed on this sentiment, and how they just hope it gives the nation a laugh.

As a brand, Tesco has always aimed to reflect the mood of the country in its advertising. That angle has never been more prescient than at the current moment, with Brits in dire spirits under varying degrees of lockdown, and an especially strange Christmas on the horizon.

Developed by agency BBH, and directed by Raine Allen-Miller from production company Somesuch, the ad absolves customers of anything that might have landed them a place on the ‘naughty list’ this year – from bad video call etiquette to buying too much loo roll – and instead encourages them to indulge as much as they want this Christmas.

Tesco ad: woman eats biscuits

Taking the temperature

The spot is soundtracked by everyone’s not-so-guilty-favourite anthem, Oops I did it again, by Britney Spears, and prioritises relatability and good humour over escapism.

Tesco’s message is based on real insights from consumers, who expressed that in the midst of the pandemic, they wanted to see something lighthearted this year.

“If you think about Covid-19 overall, Tesco as a brand, and we as an agency, were probably among the first to react. From putting out safety comms, to doing our ’Food Love Stories’ in April, we’ve really been producing stuff from the start. So we wanted to remain that customer-centric,” says BBH account director Matt Sims.

“As a brand overall, we aim to be as helpful as we can to customers, so that hasn’t changed.”

Sims explains that the concept of the campaign germinated as the situation did. With lockdown rules and restrictions constantly in flux since March, the team had to keep their ear to the ground in order to strike that right tone with customers.

“I think we probably did more research this year than we’ve ever done before,” he explains. “The concept and the content [of the ad] has changed throughout the year, because if we had used the research that we did in April, for example, as opposed to the research that we did in August, then the mentality of the nation had entirely changed.”

“We’ve had to adapt throughout and make sure that we were talking to customers all the time because we really did want to be as helpful as possible this year. We thought that the best way to do that was by bringing a bit of joy, and hopefully making people smile.”

Tesco haircut

Rooted in reality

The team stressed that in order to make people smile, they wanted to make the content of the ad as relatable as possible, says copywriter Steve Hall: “When we first heard the brief from Matt [Sims] and Tesco, who said they wanted the ad to be joyful, we knew from pretty early on what we wanted to do.

“It felt weird to completely ignore the year. Even from as early as April, we knew we couldn’t ignore what had been going on. We knew we had to lean into it, and that especially felt like the right thing to do for Christmas, which is always a reflection on the year.”

Throughout the spot, characters reveal the things they have done this year that they might feel guilty about. Hall explains how, when the early versions of the script went in for research, the people in the focus groups began adding confessions of their own, many of which were woven into the final version of the ad. “Everything really was based on truth,” he says.

Tesco BTS

Daniel Seager, art director at BBH emphasises that they were particularly keen to lean into the “shared experience of the nation.”

“In one of the scenes, for example, we show people wearing face masks, and we did have a debate about whether to include that. But then we decided that given that we all have to wear them now, let’s just embrace it.”

Of course, the necessity of lockdown safety measures presented challenges to the production of the ad. However, the team were keen to not shy away from the reality of the situation and instead used it as a way to present the stories as authentically as possible.

Sims says: “Creatively, we always wanted to lead with the idea first, and then when it came to production, do what we could with the rules that were in place at that time.” Seager highlights the use of real-life families in the ad as an example of the team’s flexibility.

“If we cast someone we particularly liked, we just brought in their whole family because of the need for social bubbles.”

“So, in any of the scenes that depict a big family, they actually are family in real life. From a production point of view, that was great, because it can be really hard to generate that sense of a family dynamic on screen. Instead, it just happened naturally on set.”

A message to the nation

The ad itself is pacey, keeping up with the beat of Spears’ well-known tune, and making good use of mid to close-range headshots that bring to mind the Zoom frames we have all become too familiar with this year.

Seager emphasises that despite the Covid-19 restrictions on production, the team tried their best to bring a sense of reality to the ad, in order to bring the ad’s message of absolution to as wide an audience as possible.

“We really did try to capture as many types of people as possible, in a way that felt honest.”

Tesco cake

“Everyone’s been worried about Christmas being ‘cancelled’ and I hope this is a message that everyone can just treat themselves, and hopefully when they see the ad they smile and have a laugh.”

Hall adds: “Yes, we still don’t know what Christmas Day is going to look like, but the one thing we can do for certain is treat ourselves to that extra slice of cake or whatever.”

The reality of Covid-19 means that many families are unlikely to spend Christmas together this year. But, as Hall concludes: “We might not all be able to be together, but we can still enjoy some good food and have a nice time. We hope that people take that away from the ad, and if it gives them a smile, then that’s even better.”

Watch the ad below.

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