dotmogo UK Christmas Advert Round Up 2014

December 23, 2014
by Tim Rabjohns

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    We were deciding what to do as an appropriate Festive season post and we decided to have a look at the amazing VFX of some of the best of the Christmas commercials.  It seems that people no longer spend time talking about the Christmas idents of the various channels – dwindling budgets have meant a lot of recycling and less impressive productions.  Instead the John Lewis ads of the last last few years have kicked off a new tradition of feature film quality commercials for various retailers and brands like sky movies…

    First up – the godfather of the modern British Christmas ad – John Lewis.  As we reported before – in our post on Promax UK –  I attended a talk by Ben Priest and James Murphy from advertising agency adam&eveDDB who make these ads.

    There was a sense that in the first years there was some trial and error with combinations of children, animals, parents and levels of sentimanetality.  Then as time wore on and John Lewis started to realise that they could not only boost their sales and their image but also garner critical acclaim AND sell merchandise connected with their own advertising campaigns.

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    The upside to this is that other retailers started to realise that it was worth spending money on a quality commercial, with a bigger idea than just “show people buying product” or “people receiving gifts”.  As you can see from the making-of – MPC got to weave their usual animal magic – with no less quality of any feature film.  What all these commercials have in common is a very emotional (sentimental?) tone to the stories (check out the sound tracks for all of them) as well as a sense that any of them could easily become a film short.  I think this is one of the big differences between these and the product style ads – tha not only are the VFX and production of superb quality, but also the types of narratives are so much more multi layered.

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    The Mill created another extraordinarily detailed ad for Sainsbury’s, comissioned by AMV.  This retailer also took a slightly risky decision (in my opinion) to link Christmas with the trenches of the First World War – not what you would call a typical “Christmas-good-cheer-scenario”  However the random act of kindness, connection between enemies and the centenary of WW1 tie in this year somehow made it work.

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    The making of focusses more on the props and historical accuracy, but as is common with a lot of “real life” movies these days – there is also a whole lot of VFX work going on here.  The Mill’s VFX team helped bring the ad to life by seamlessly comping in a series of backgrounds and matte paintings to transport the soldiers back to 1914 No Man’s Land. Lead matte painter Aurelian Ronceray explained: “We used reference photos of trenches, burned and dying trees, foggy landscapes and No Man’s Land to start building up a concept look, which once approved, we set to apply to all shots in order to make the players seem like they were amidst war-torn winter on the Western Front.

    The feel good tie-in with this ad is that to mark Sainsbury’s 20 years of support for the The Royal British Legion (raising over £4.5million pounds alone in 2013) The chocolate bar featured in the advert is now on sale at Sainsbury’s with 100% of profit from each block being donated to the Legion.

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    Sky’s Step into the adventure is less emotionally led than the other two.  However its a clever idea and just looks like a whole lot of fun to make.  It animates a typical family into some iconic and vastly different movies like The Muppets, Spider Man Frozen and the Lego then whisks them back home.  This really takes the idea of “stepping into the movies” to a whole new level.

    Although it was created by UK agency WCRS – (Dave Cornmell and Jane Briers) and directed by Ivan Bird through Rattling Stick., there was a team of more than 130 artists, animators, crew, performers and producers worked on the ad in film studios in California, New York, Sydney and London.
    Unfortunately I couldn’t find a making of movie for this production (let me know if there is one, anybody!) However there is also another cool tie-in which is that visitors to Sky Movie  will be able to create pictures of themselves, family and friends with characters from the four films featured in the ad.

    I think it helps that they are all such iconic movies and that there must have been big buy in from the film studios in order to do it so well. They didn’t say if they got the original animators from each movie involved, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
    There is a much longer list of Christmas ads 2014 that I found on the Telegraph website  – personally I didn’t think that the others were as imaginative as the three here – to the extent that you can see how other agencies have tried to emulate some of the ingredients of the John Lewis ads (I can just hear the phrase “Can you do us a John Lewis?” by clients at creative meetings…), but without going far enough. See what you think.

    Sainsbury’s Christmas 1914 credits:
    Agency: AMV, Producer: Rebecca Scharf, Creative: Tim Riley, Production Company: Rattling Stick, Director: Ringan Ledwidge, Executive Producer: Sally Humphries, DOP: Alwin Kuchler, Original music & choir recordings: Woodwork Music, Editing: Work – Rich Orrick, Post-Production / VFX Company: The Mill, Executive Producer: Gemma Humphries, 2D Lead Artists: Barnsley, 2D Artists: Joseph Tang, Gary Driver and Dan Adams, 3D Artists: James Mullholland, Matte Painting: Aurelien Ronceray, German Casado, DCP: Mick Vincent

    Sky Step Into The adventure credits:
    Client – Sky Movies, Agency – WCRS, Creative Director – Barry Skolnick and Leon Jaume
Creatives – Dave Cornmell and Jane Briers, Agency Producer – Sally Lipsius, Production Company – Rattling Stick, Director – Ivan Bird, Producer – Polly Ruskin, Editing House – The Quarry, Editor – Jonnie Scarlett, Post-Production – Finish, Audio – Wave

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