The story behind Sainsbury's 'Christmas in a Day' campaign

Mark Given, head of brand communications, Sainsbury's
Mark Given, head of brand communications, Sainsbury's

With seven weeks to go until Christmas, the great British countdown has now well and truly begun, writes Mark Given, head of brand communications, Sainsbury's.

But at Sainsbury’s, our countdown to Christmas started some 14 months ago as we embarked on what I think is the boldest, most exciting project we’ve done. It’s also the campaign of which I’m personally most proud.

It all started while we were planning our 2012 Christmas campaign; we asked ourselves whether we really understood what Christmas means to our customers.

Magical time

They’ve told us over the years that Christmas is still that magical time when ordinary life stops and they rediscover the simple pleasures of spending time with family and friends and a renewed sense of community spirit.

But they’ve also told us that it’s a time surrounded by conflicting emotions - anticipation and excitement, but also high levels of expectation that come from wanting to give their loved ones the best Christmas they possibly can.

We wanted to capture this richness and diversity and lift the lid on how Britain really celebrates Christmas.

We wanted to capture this richness and diversity and lift the lid on how Britain really celebrates Christmas - to show the real Christmas rather than an airbrushed, picture perfect version that few people can really identify with.

So we decided to work with an expert who could capture all the raw authenticity of the season – someone that I personally have admired for a very long time.  That expert was Kevin Macdonald, the Oscar-winning director of 'Life in a Day', the YouTube sensation that captured real life across the globe on a given day.

When we approached Kevin, it became clear that he had wanted to make a film about Christmas as far back as when he was cutting 'Life in a Day'. Sainsbury’s funded Kevin to make the film he wanted to make and last December, Kevin invited the people of Britain to film their Christmas and share it with him.

We took a deliberately experimental attitude to the project. Kevin had total creative freedom and we accepted that there was no way of knowing what the end result would be or what we would do with it.

People responded to Kevin’s call with humbling generosity and provided some 360 hours of footage, which Kevin has turned into a remarkable and moving 47 minute film called 'Christmas in a Day'. I had no idea what to expect when I saw the film for the first time, but when I did, I was so struck by one of the stories that I really struggled to keep my emotions in check and had to leave the room to compose myself. When people watch the film, I think they’ll know exactly what I mean.

Thank you

But it wasn’t just me who felt this way. When we saw the film as a team, we knew it was something very special. That’s when we decided to make it the central plank of our Christmas campaign driving  people to watch the film on YouTube when it is released on 29 November. These trailers will reach more than 40m people, and I hope they will do their job and encourage people to go online and watch the film as they did with Life in a Day.

As for the incredible people who shared their Christmas to make the film and trailers possible, we will be saying thank you to them in person at a special premiere at BAFTA in London, hosted by Kevin on 28 November. My team have been up and down the country meeting the people who will become so familiar to so many through the trailers and they are very excited and proud to be part of Christmas in a day

But for now it’s over to our customers – where the whole project started. I hope they’ll be entertained, uplifted and maybe even shed a tear as I did.

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