The ad has it all. It's timely (Paddington 2 is released this week and the C-word is coming soon-ish), has snow, a heart, humour and good cheer, a familiar speaking bear, marmalade sandwiches and product placement to boot.
Marks & Spencer today unveiled its Christmas ad, a lavishly produced Paddingtonesque M&S Christmas special. The eponymous bear inadvertently knocks a burglar – in a red hoodie and red stocking – down by opening his circular roof window and bashing it into the burglar’s face, and mistakes him for the usual red-clad visitor.
Paddington offers to help “Santa” to deliver the sack of presents back to all the houses where he stole them from (cue scenes of mixed-race family joy through the snow-tinged window, and the visibly softening heart of a hardened criminal).
The bear's subsequent attempt to manage Santa's sleigh – a rooftop decoration – leads to glorious chaos and the sleigh hurtles to the ground, where it is sighted by a small boy, and ultimately leads to a Santa-Sighting-with-Helpful-Bear-on-the-Streets TV news story from quintessential British newscaster Angela Rippon. And all in a mere 90 seconds.
This year's M&S ad, Paddington and the Christmas Visitor, is angling for a family market, and is a departure from last year's twist which featured a stylish, badass Mrs Claus played by Janet McAteer (and M&S's first increase in Christmas clothing sales for six years), and previous years which plumped for celebrities including Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry.
This year, the company went for comforting sentimentality and fun for the family after what its global brand and marketing director Rob Westonsays has been a year packed with “lots of unsettling news”.
At one point in the ad the bear snaffles some M&S mince pies, and apparently the M&S Christmas range will include 90 Paddington-themed products including children’s blue duffle coats, marmalade and soft toy bears.
The ad, which took four months to create, using using original street and indoor scenes from the movie, was in partnership with film producer StudioCanal, and is the latest in what has become this side of the pond’s Superbowl equivalent for advertising, with retailers seeking to outdo each other (and their own previous efforts).
The ad will be shown in cinemas in the slot just before the movie and makes its TV debut on ITV tonight. As well as the 90-second ad, there are shorter 60-second and 30-second versions
The ad was spendy (thought they haven’t confirmed how much), especially with such a high-profile film connection; nonetheless Weston said it cost less than last year’s M&S ad.
The nostalgic, humorous ad ends with the line “Spend it well”, a neat encapsulation of the commodification of Christmas.