How Serviceplan made ‘The Wish’, Europe’s most-awarded ad of the past year
We dive into why Penny’s Christmas ad, ‘The Wish’, resonated with so many and landed a coveted place on our World Creative Rankings list.
European supermarket Penny is a discount retail chain that isn’t intimidated by the big issues. In Christmas 2021, while the world was in the grips of Covid-19, Penny, with long-time agency partner Serviceplan Munich (officially the most-awarded agency in EMEA), concocted a compelling story of missed youth and a mother’s wish for her son.
“We wanted to be the brand that is closest to daily life,” says Christoph Everke, creative managing director at Serviceplan Campaign. “It’s a melting pot. If you sit there at the cashier, which we do as a team once a year, there are a lot of very diverse customers. In a nutshell, it is the German society.”
The team regularly talks to Penny customers about what most worries them. That year, it became clear that nobody was talking about how younger people were coping with the pandemic. As Everke puts it, they were kind of a “lost generation” at the time.
From inception to the finished product, the Christmas ad took around nine months to complete. “It’s our baby, it’s like being pregnant,” jokes the agency boss. “Shooting this campaign didn’t take longer than other productions but the process was different,” he confirms. “It was a wonderful process. We had four shooting days, in Vilnius, which is a great location.”
What differentiated it from previous campaigns was the greater level of detailed preparation involved, the world was, of course, still locked down for the most part. A major concern was that everyone would remain healthy, especially as they had found the perfect actors for the spot.
“The relationship between the two actors was one of the miracles at the shoot, from the moment they approached the set it was very close and intense,” says Everke.
In the ad, the mother wishes for her son to lead a ‘normal’ teenage life by projecting all of the activities she knows he is not experiencing, like going through heartbreak or coming home drunk from a friend’s party. She longs for him to experience life to the fullest. Everke remembers one scene where the mother is arguing with her son in the kitchen, screaming that she knows he doesn’t care what she thinks.
“That was so intense I literally had to leave the set,” he recalls emotionally. “It gives me goosebumps because they were so in their role from one moment to the other. That was a real fight between mom and son, as I know it from my home.”
Another moment that touched the creative was the scene where the son came home drunk for the first time. Something that he and his wife experienced with their own child around that time too. That’s what makes the ad special, no matter who you are, there are aspects that are relatable to everyone, but there was the potential that it could overstep and become too sentimental.
Knowing this, director Marcus Ibanez pushed the project in the right direction so it wasn’t “too sweet or too harsh” overall. Navigating that balance was tricky, but it all comes down to the script, says Everke, and bravery from the client.
The relationship that the team has with Penny has been built over many years and a level of trust has developed over that time.
Everke divulges that after this ad aired, someone approached him to ask how much a film like this would cost and if they could have one too. Of course, he explained the amount but also advised against it. “The point is that this is a very strong relationship and an experience that we’ve built up for years. We could never have come up with this as a first idea, years ago.
“We are used to working in this process and the client has its own point of view on it. That’s why it takes so long, we develop a common sense and then we don’t have to pitch for anything because it just develops and that’s a very rewarding process.”