The 2013 Christmas ad campaign from UK retail giant Sainsbury’s had to be good to stand any chance of competing against John Lewis and Marks and Spencer. In the cut throat world of festive advertising all eyes are on the big brands to pull something special out of the bag and while JL and M&S are winning praise for their emotive and whimsical efforts, Sainsbury’s have taken a different route.

They recruited Oscar winning director Kevin McDonald, the man behind the movies ‘Touching The Void’ and ‘The Last King of Scotland’ to edit 360 hours of Christmas themed user generated content together to create a 50 minute full length video feature. The original footage, submitted from individuals and families from all over the UK, focuses on their Christmas preparations and celebrations such as decorating the house with trimmings and planning the main Christmas Day meal. There’s also the obligatory heart tugging scene where a soldier dad surprises his kids with a visit home from Afghanistan.

The film has been in production for over a year and McDonald had free reign with the creative as long as he used real video filmed by real people. The director worked with film sent in by 114 families, and several clips from the long form video have already been released by Sainsbury’s online and on UK TV.


The full length film, entitled “Christmas In A Day” has its premiere at BAFTA in London on the 28th November and will be uploaded to YouTube the following morning. The film and the spin off ads come with a fully integrated social media campaign. You can see one of the short clips in this trailer:

Mark Given, Head of Brand Communications at Sainsbury’s said of the campaign:

People at this time of year want to be entertained, they want to be engaged. Perhaps sometimes we shout a bit too much about our products. But the business was up for doing something a little different at Christmas. This gave us an incredible insight into what Christmas is like for our customers and seemed a fantastic way of demonstrating that we really understand our customers and understand what Christmas is all about.

Although they are up against some stiff competition, Sainsbury’s decision to go with the long form format means they can keep up the momentum in the run up to Christmas Day. Theoretically they could release at least 50 separate clips from the film, all with their own social push. That kind of saturation won’t necessarily carry well with viewers but it does mean they have a lot of content to distribute in a lot of different places, which is a much needed advantage that they hold over their rivals.