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How to make an iconic Christmas advert

How to make an iconic Christmas advert

By Clark Turner

Irn-Bru’s ‘Snowman’ is a Christmas classic with TV viewers. Despite only being one year old, it was recently voted runner-up as the ‘Best Christmas Advertisement Of All Time’ in a poll commissioned by UTalkMarketing.

The humorous ad reworks the famous 1982 animated movie ‘The Snowman’ based on the book by Raymond Briggs and was created by The Leith Agency.

Last year it screened in Scotland and fast became a national favourite. Now on the back of phenomenal viral success – with more than one million viewings on YouTube – it’s to be screened UK-wide.

So what’s the recipe for success for creating an iconic Christmas advert? What factors will make it a viral winner?

Head of Marketing for Barr Soft Drinks, Adrian Troy (pictured), said, “From our experience, there is no formula.

“All the great Christmas ads have a spark of imagination and genius but it’s difficult to put your finger on it.”

What’s important though, is to stay true to your brand values for any campaign regardless of the creative treatment.

“You should never do anything that’s not true to your brand values,” he added. “In the Snowman ad, we tried to capture the Scottishness and sense of humour of the brand as well as carrying an underlying ‘great taste’ message.”

Key to the success of the ad has been the soundtrack – a new take on ‘Walking in the Air’, made famous by Aled Jones. By reworking an already famous track the ad became instantly recognisable.

Adrian said, “An ad’s soundtrack has a massive role to play in creating a mood. This worked for us in making the ad memorable.”

Choosing animation over using live actors might seem like an easy option but the Snowman involved a team from Sherbert Animation working on the film for three-months.

“The production process can be very complicated,” Adrian explained. “We start off with sketches, which are then developed in to drawings for the animation. If any changes are decided upon towards the end of the process then you have to go right back to the beginning.”

Which is exactly what happened. Three-quarters of the way through production, the team need to ensure that when the boy falls from the sky and lands in snow, it had to be made evident he was not hurt. There was no other option but to start again.
Comparing the production costs like with like to using live actors is impossible. How long is a piece of string?

“What I can say is that it wasn’t a cheap ad to produce,” revealed Adrian. “It created intense work for the animation team for three months.”

But what explains its viral take up? What elements should you include in an ad to give it viral appeal?

“It’s a difficult one to answer, but generally I think great virals include the unexpected and a ‘wow’ factor,” said Adrian. “The sense of humour in ‘Snowman’ struck a chord with our fans and it quickly spread by word of mouth.”

“It also was popular with Scottish ex-pats who were sent it by their friends back home.”

He added, “When we air this, it’s a signal that Christmas is coming. We think it will still be relevant for number of years but we won’t over use it to keep it special.”

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