‘Weird and wonderful’: How Tesco transformed people into festive objects for Christmas
BBH’s deputy executive creative director Felipe Serradourada Guimaraes explains how it devised Tesco’s ‘bizarre’ Christmas campaign.
Supermarket chain Tesco set BBH an objective to ‘Become More Christmas’ this year. The key insight driving that was that, for many people, the festive feels go way beyond the big day itself.
Research conducted by the retailer found that nearly a third of UK adults find the build-up to Christmas the most exciting part. But even despite that knowledge, it’s one of the later campaign launches, perhaps subscribing to the belief that there is such a thing as going too early.
To get as many people through the door as possible, the retailer needed to offer something a little special.
“Before we even got to strategy, collectively, we started with the tone of voice,” explains Serradourada Guimaraes. “We wanted the work to be funny and joyful, for that energy to come across. Partly because of what we had done in the past, we had been very reflective of the nation’s mood, be it Covid, politics, and we felt this time, let’s embrace everything that’s Christmas.”
Then, the team started focusing on the weeks before Christmas Day, intending to own that journey. Creative duo Elliott White and Will Maxey came up with the core idea that people will begin to feel jolly at different times, triggered by various stimuli.
Some enthusiastic people get into the spirit shortly after taking their Halloween decorations down. Others will not feel the festive fuzzies until just before dinner is served on December 25.
Serradourada Guimaraes jokes that he is in the latter camp, even though his father back home in Brazil is obsessed with Christmas decorations. They plaster them on every surface in the family home.
BBH knew it had uncovered a universal truth; all that was needed was the narrative to bring it to life. That’s when the idea of literally becoming Christmas was born.
Set to the 90s tune by OMC’s called ‘How Bizarre,’ the story centers around a young boy who couldn’t care less about the festivities, even though his family, neighbors and strangers are turning into trees, reindeer and gingerbread biscuits before his eyes. We watch him wallow in his teenage angst until, finally, as the big day draws closer, there is a touching moment where his father hands him a paper star from his childhood, and he begins to get into the swing of things, eventually becoming a sparkly tree himself.
Serradourada Guimaraes adds: “There was a real, conscious decision to make sure that, art directionally, how we cast and how we did performances, felt real enough that people could feel it and see themselves, but with enough of a magic that made it feel special.”
Being a father himself now, the creative relates to both the son and the dad in the script. “That was one of the reasons why we landed on the narrative. Every time we read it to someone, people get hooked emotionally to different bits,” he continues. “Tesco is a ubiquitous brand; everyone goes through its doors. So, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t too niche, wasn’t speaking to a particular group but embodying a feeling and a truth about Christmas that everyone can get into.”
By his own admission, the Tesco ad is a little ‘weird and wonderful,’ but the brand was fully on board. “Sometimes weird can be the ‘thing,’ but this was a way of dramatizing something that’s inside,” he explains. “It was a technique more than anything.” Serradourada Guimaraes adds: “There’s something about Christmas, which is just weirdly wonderful,” he laughs.
“I always reference that if someone showed up to your doorstep in September and started singing, you’d call the police. During Christmas, you’re like oh, that’s totally fine.”
When it came to the filming, the team favored costumes and prosthetics over CGI to find that magical, slightly bizarre sweet spot. This resulted in some funny moments on set.
“It is always humorous when people are in costumes during break time. You’ll be at lunch, and there will be The Nutcracker and Christmas pudding, chatting,” the creative laughs. “And you have a tree, having a smoke in the background. There’s this kind of weird world. I always find that really peculiar and quite interesting.”
The shoot lasted seven days in London, helmed by directors Marco Lafer and Gustavo Moraes. All the shots in the supermarket were filmed in the dead of night. Serradourada Guimarae jokes that looking at the shop’s fluorescent lights at 4am will test you.
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The ad premiered Sunday, November 19, on ITV during ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ at 9pm. It’s a ‘clear water’ moment for the brand after the influx of Christmas ads over the past few weeks.
“There is space for us to come out and get people to pay attention,” explains Serradourada Guimarae. “We had a really good conversation before anyone [competitors] went out, which was that we were all so incredibly proud of the work we had on the table that it kind of didn’t matter what everyone else was doing.”
Serradourada Guimarae wants to make people smile with this ad; he feels that the era of trying to make people cry with festive spots isn’t right for now. To coincide with the TV ad, there will also be free Santa’s Grotto activations in store that are available to families and also festive screenings at Cineworld cinemas for staff throughout the Christmas period.
“We want our seasonal campaigns to reflect how our customers feel as we know there’s been more anticipation for the festivities this year. Our Christmas Report revealed that, as early as September, nearly a quarter of the nation was already looking forward to celebrating Christmas more than usual,” added Emma Botton, group customer director at Tesco.
“This year, our ad captures our emotions and excitement as we draw closer to the big day. As Christmas approaches, we’re providing customers with all their festive favorites and some exciting twists, with quality and great value at the heart of it all.”