Asda Enlists a Buddy to Bring Christmas Nostalgia


Have your Elf a Merry Christmas


The 2003 movie Elf is up there with Mariah Carey as a modern Christmas classic – the people who saw it as kids are now looking forward to sharing it with their kids, giving it the kind of generational connection which turns a pleasure into a tradition.

So there’s probably no better time for a Christmas ad to use Elf as its hook, and that’s what Asda have done this year, in a particularly clever way. They’ve taken iconic scenes from the movie itself and used green screen technology to splice them into a story of Buddy the Elf applying for a job at an Asda store. The edit job is good enough that it can fool someone who doesn’t know the movie into thinking it’s all-original footage.

How did viewers react? They really, really love it. “Buddy the Elf” is up there with Coca-Cola classic “Holidays Are Coming” and John Lewis “Excitable Edgar” as one of the most emotionally effective Christmas ads we’ve ever tested, generating huge amounts of Surprise and Happiness in viewers.

What makes the ad work so well? We’d say there are three main factors.

One – cultural references and nostalgia work brilliantly to get the “broad-beam attention” of the right hemisphere of the brain and to then turn that attention into emotional response. Being the first ad to get permission to use Elf is a coup for Asda that pays off in effectiveness.

Two – the way they use it combines familiarity – Buddy’s famous lines and moments – with the surprise of a brand new context. Again, this is a great way to get and keep attention.

Three – the ad is unabashed escapism and fun. There was a lot of speculation before this Christmas ad season that viewers would respond well to ads which took a more serious tone and acknowledged the cost of living crisis. There’s plenty of space for ads like that to perform well and stand out, but it’s definitely NOT the case that viewers have turned against fun and good festive vibes this year.

In fact, we’re on course for a record number of 5-Star Christmas ads. So while Asda may be top of the tree for now, there are lots of big names still to come.

As for Asda and Buddy, this is a job very well done. Unlike a lot of Christmas ads, though, there’s no real sign of a wider strategy “Buddy the Elf” might integrate into. Any big store could have made this (assuming they had the rights) so in the long run, unlike his movie appearance, Buddy’s ad career may be more of a one-hit wonder than an enduring Christmas classic.

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