Asda x Elf

Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf returns to screens for Asda's Xmas Cheer

Created by Havas London, the campaign has been directed by Danny Kleinman

By Creative Salon

Son of a nutcracker! Asda has introduced a very special festive colleague, and star of its 2022 Christmas campaign: Buddy the Elf, under license from Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products.

After scattering a trail of festive breadcrumbs – causing fans of the 2003 movie classic to exclaim ‘I know him!’ – Christmas-loving character Buddy the Elf is confirmed as Asda’s newest seasonal recruit in its jubilant and cheer-spreading Christmas advert.

Created by Havas London, it uses original footage from Elf to plant the beloved Buddy right at the heart of a bustling Asda store in the build-up to his favourite time of year, Christmas. Reprising iconic lines from what has been voted the UK’s favourite Christmas film1, the ad, which premieres on Friday 4 November at 8.45pm on ITV1 in the Coronation Street ad break, charmingly captures Buddy’s wide-eyed wonder and unbridled passion for all things festive

The film opens with a loving homage to Elf’s iconic ‘street crossing’ scene – except this time, it’s a train of Asda shopping trolleys, not a New York City cab, that causes Buddy to exclaim “sorry!” as it crashes into him. This marks the beginning of a wondrous (for Buddy), if chaotic (for everyone else) trial shift, which sees Buddy marvel at Asda’s selection of Christmas goodies including some enticing icing sugar sprinkled Extra Special mince pies, eat all the free maple pigs in blankets samples, distract colleagues with his Christmas plans, and – of course – take the chance to sing loudly over the store Tannoy system.

However, when the store closes and Buddy adds his own magic touch, decking out the entire shop floor in fairy lights and festive decorations (while re-christening the ‘elf checkouts’), it’s quickly apparent that when it comes to Christmas, Buddy and Asda are a match made in heaven. He’s got the job – and to his delight, he can stay. As he dashes – enthusiastically, of course – out of the store, he runs straight into the same shopping trolleys he encountered on his way in, causing a bemused colleague to smile, as the line ‘Have your Elf a Merry Christmas’ flashes up on-screen.

Sam Dickson, acting chief customer officer at Asda says: “Like Buddy, we absolutely love Christmas – so we’re thrilled to welcome him to our team. We know this has been a tough year for so many people, which is why we want to create some little moments of joy for families this year with our Christmas campaign, and more importantly, our amazing products. We hope that with a little bit of help from Buddy, our joy-filled Christmas offering will create some festive magic and helps give families a Christmas to remember together.”

In order to seamlessly integrate classic footage into an all-new production, Framestore relied on meticulous planning and deft-touch VFX techniques. Having skilfully rotoscoped Buddy out of the original film, the team helped fit an entire new world around him that was faithful down to the last eyeline, shadow and cast interaction. Intricate match grading then provided the final festive touch, bringing our modern world closer to the look, feel and spirit of the beloved original film.

The campaign also sees in-store Tannoy announcements from Buddy himself, and Asda-exclusive Elf-themed food and clothing. Asda will also highlight 12 iconic products spanning its mid-tier, general merchandising, Extra Special, and George ranges through a number of product-led TV, social and print ads.

Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer at Havas London says: “No one embodies the feeling of Christmas more than Buddy the Elf. We can all identify with that wonderful, wide-eyed anticipation and childlike wonder at every bauble or flake of snow. He lives for Christmas – and right now, that sense of unapologetic joy is just what we need. So, who better to be hired as an Asda seasonal colleague – he’s even branded in Asda colours! It's the perfect partnership for Asda to ensure everyone is able to have the Christmas they deserve this year.”

The campaign – the first time Elf has been licensed for brand marketing – was created by Associate Creative Directors Rob Greaves and Sam Daly, Creative Directors Dan Cole and Andy Garnett, and Chief Creative Officer Vicki Maguire at Havas London. Media planning and buying is from Spark Foundry, and social and photography from THG. The ad was shot by multi-award-winning director Danny Kleinman through Rattling Stick, and brought to life through state-of-the-art, first-of-its-kind VFX from Bafta and Oscar award-winning creative studio Framestore. Licensing of Elf was managed by David Born and Amber Cheung at Born Licensing and Will Ferrell by Talent Republic.

Danny Kleinman, director, says: "For me this was a unique challenge, working with an A list Hollywood actor, without him being there in person, and crafting other actors around his iconic performance. It was important not only to make the action seamless but also convincingly transport him to a Christmas Asda store, creating a Hollywood feel to Asda’s Christmas celebrations.”

As part of its commitment to spreading Christmas cheer and making brighter moments possible for all this festive season, Asda will be giving a special festive surprise to five different community groups, to give them the chance to celebrate Christmas - that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do so without the retailer’s help. Asda will also be collecting toys for children’s charities as part of its gift appeal and stores will bring festive cheer to customers with local choirs and bands playing throughout December. In addition, Asda is also introducing several initiatives to help those in need this Christmas, including Asda cafés providing a £1 meal deal for OAPs, continuing its popular kids eat for £1 deal, as well as cost-of-living grants to support community groups with increased rent and bills.


Project name: Have Your Elf a Merry Christmas

Brand: Asda

Senior Director, Brand Communications & Marketing: Stephi Brett-Lee

Head of Campaigns: Rebecca Holmes

Campaign Manager: Amy Kennedy

Production Manager: Claire Ibbotson

Creative agency: Havas London

CEO: Xavier Rees

Chief Creative Officer: Vicki Maguire

Chief Client Officer: James Fox

Creative Director: Dan Cole, Andy Garnett

Associate Creative Director: Rob Greaves, Sam Daly

Senior Art Director: Richard Gorton-Lee (Chunky)

Senior Copywriter: Mark Wilson

Senior Designer: Sam Kallen, Miles Niblett

Creative Production Director: Dean Trendler

Creative Producer: Kieran Worboys

Head of Strategy: Britt Iversen

Strategy Director: Flo Sharp

Senior Strategist: Jack Lewis-Barclay

Managing Partner: Dave Owen

Business Director: Jamie Bolton

Account Director: Cherith MacRitchie

Account Manager: Sophie Hodges

Account Executive: Caitlin Toohey

Head of Production: Katie Keith

Head of Film: Louise Bonnar

Production Lead: Olivia Riddle

Senior Producer: Adam Henderson, Barney Ferguson

Producer: Rhy Hogan

Assistant Producer: Ella Myerscough-McClymont

Media agency: Spark Foundry UK

Chief Client Officer: Katharine Baker

Managing Partner, Planning: Felicity Bowen

Business Director, Planning: Jon Hill

Account Director, Planning: Sarah Codd

Account Manager, Planning: Clare Miles

Group Account Director, Activation: Lyndsey Terrill

Group Account Director, Activation: Mike Lawrence

Head of Performance Planning: Mark Oldfield

Digital Excellence Lead: Callum Sergison

Paid Social Business Director: George Tilbury

Social agency: The Hut Group

PR agency: COW

POS agency: Creative Race

Production Company: Rattling Stick

Director: Daniel Kleinman

Executive Producer: Johnnie Frankel

Producer: Amy Appleton

DOP: Ben Smithard

Production Designer: Joseph Bennett

Costume Designer: Verity Hawkes

Make-Up & Hair: Beverley Pond-Jones

Casting Director: Greg Kyle

Editor: Eve Ashwell @ The Assembly Rooms

Post production and VFX: Framestore

Creative Director: Kamen Markov

VFX Supervisor: Jules Janaud

Compositing Supervisor: Ben Taylor

Head of Advertising: Helen Weil

Executive Producer: Anna MacDonald

Grade: Company3

Colourist: Stef Perry

Previs: The Third Floor

Sound: 750

Sound engineer: Sam Ashwell

Music supervisor: Daniel Breheny @ Soho Music

Track: Frank Sinatra – Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Choir arranged, recorded and produced by Luis Almau for Soundtree Music

Music supervisor: Neil Athale

Licensing: Born Licensing

Director: David Born

Senior Licensing Executive: Amber Cheung

CEO, Talent Republic: Anne Batz

Managing Director, Talent Republic: Charlie Powell

Senior Account Executive, Talent Republic: Ella Barker

Researcher, Talent Republic: Louise Urwin


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