JWT London Takes a Different Approach to Christmas.
By Jeff Finkle
It’s January, time to look forward to the New Year and reflect on the Christmas season of 2016 and we would like to thank Russell Ramsey, Executive Creative Director for J. Walter Thompson London and Europe for taking the time to talk.
AdForum: Russell, Americans, like myself, are prone to comparing everything to the Super Bowl, and Christmas ads in the UK, as you know, have become super-sized anticipated events. JWT London has had a different approach in the three campaigns it released during Christmas time. Was this a conscious choice on your end in your pitch to your clients to eschew the big, animated spectacle of the typical Christmas ad in the UK?
Russell: Hopefully, when you set about developing creative work, you shouldn’t know where you’re going to end up. We had three different clients all of which took different directions through the creative process and happily we ended up in three different places. There was no conscious choice to not do a do a big, animated spectacle. The ads developed their own tone of voice and personality depending on what they needed to achieve.
AdForum: In your ad for the Debenhams retail chain, your creative team focused on the actual gifts consumers would be clamoring for at Debenhams, as opposed to weaving a Christmas tale with a "Joy to the World" type message like most of the ads for retail chains this season. Was it your creative team’s idea to focus the campaign around a product-centric theme and how did you decide on a minimalistic approach to the TV spot to keep the focus on the gifts and the relatable joys of finding the perfect one?
Russell: At the beginning of the Debenhams project we really needed to understand the client’s business problem. They had selected various key products that they had invested in for Christmas. Their success would be measured on the sales of those key products. We could have showcased them within a story which we have in the past but this time we chose to bring humour and personality to them and show them in their best light.
AdForum: I’m always a big fan of humor in ads and I enjoyed spotting the celebrity voices of Jennifer Saunders and Ewan McGregor that popped up in the #FoundIt Christmas campaign. You definitely let the products do the talking in the spot. Will you be continuing the funny celebrity voiceover work in more ads to come throughout the year for Debenhams?
Russell: Last year we used celebrity voices but they were the gift givers. This year we thought it would be more fun to use the celebrities as the voices of the gifts themselves. The most important thing going forward is that we stay true to the brand idea, which is Found It. We then have the ability to flex that in different ways. We may revisit the voices of the gifts approach but more likely it will evolve into something else, keeping the warmth and humor of course.
AdForum: In your holiday campaign for WWF-UK, “A Tiger in Suburbia”, you featured a CGI tiger that gets nursed back to health by a doting family. The CGI work was visually stunning. The ad really brings home, so to speak, the horrific impacts of the wildlife trade. What did you do in the activation of this campaign, where children are encouraged to become “Tiger Protectors,” in order to separate the campaign from just a moving TV spot to one whose goal is to provoke action?
Russell: The thinking behind the WWF Tiger campaign was to get people to believe that they were the ones who could make a difference. The idea became WWF doesn’t save Tigers, you do. The film shows a family making a difference first hand, not just donating money. We produced a story book about a family who nurture a tiger back to health. The interesting part was that the book could be tailor made to include the names of the family members who ordered it. This gave the sense that the actual family had made a difference.
AdForum: We have always been fans of the various ways the Kit Kat brand has fun with the “Gimme a Break” slogan and your Kit Kat Break Claus ad was not only my favorite use of this theme but it was our most viewed ad in the month of December. What kind of feedback have you gotten about the ad in the weeks following the ad’s release?
Russell: The Kit Kat Christmas ad started with the very loose idea of showing Santa giving people breaks from their usual jobs. The director, Jonnie Malachi and the creative, Naz Nazli went onto the streets with a Santa and a camera. They filmed the reactions of real people as they were approached by Santa. A producer with a pile of release forms was running behind them. The result was fantastic. The film has a real, natural tone but retains loads of warmth. The reaction was really positive.
AdForum: I have one final question. If you could have Santa give you a break from your daily life and take over one part of your day, what part would that be?
Russell: I’d love Santa to give me a break from the public transport strikes we’re having in London at the moment.