25 days of Ausmas: Paul Swann, Thinkerbell Sydney on Irn Bru's The Snowman

Every day an advertising creative from Australia and New Zealand will offer their own favourite Christmas campaign from over the years as we celebrate the best work from the festive period the world over and hear their views on what is best in class.

For those not familiar with Irn-Bru, it’s a carbonated soft drink from Scotland. Apparently, it’s ‘made from girders’ but I can neither confirm nor deny if this is true. I was also once informed that in its home country it outsells Coca-Cola, making it one of only a few places in the world where Coca-Cola is number two in terms of market share. It’s little wonder that Irn-Bru is such a commercial juggernaut when they produce advertising of this calibre.

The brand has a history of subversive and often controversial communications and this Christmas ad from 2006 is part of that tradition. The spot is a refreshingly irreverent pastiche of the Raymond Briggs’ illustrated masterpiece ‘The Snowman’.

In the original story, a boy makes a snowman which magically comes to life and adventures ensue. The book was itself brought to life through an animated version in 1982. Irn-Bru’s rendition takes the saccharine sweet original and subverts it brilliantly, with the snowman ultimately stealing the boy’s drink before letting him plummet to earth. Unlike some parody’s the execution (of both the animation and the music) is on par with the original, it really does look and sounds fantastic. It even ticks all the boxes from a branding point of view too, with the product appearing early and often, both visually and audibly during the 60” film.

What I think is particularly clever about the ad is that it taps into our sense of heightened nostalgia during the festive period, but it does so on their terms. The tone and humour are spot on and would have cut-through among the more sentimental fare that is traditionally served up at Christmas.

The spot was such a hit that it was followed up years later with a sequel that showed the next chapter of the story as the boy emerges from the snow to take up the chase for his beloved beverage.

Paul Swann, executive creative director, Tinker Thinkerbell Sydney

Check out the latest holiday ads from Australia and New Zealand here, and keep an eye on The Drum's ongoing Christmas coverage.

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