The Latest Lovely Christmas Ad Comes From an Unexpected Place

See Hobby Lobby's impressive debut spot

Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain, doesn't have a history of cinematic holiday commercials. Indeed, it has no history of broadcast ads at all—until now. 

The Richards Group has made Hobby Lobby's TV advertising debut one to remember, heading to Iceland to film a beautiful and touching 2:30 film (cut down into a :60 for television) that involves a young girl's quest to do ... something at the holidays. 

Only at the end does it become clear exactly what. 

The film, directed by Benito Montorio through Pulse Films, is Long Wait-ish in its focus on a passionate child whose efforts at the holidays prove remarkably selfless. The wordless acting here is impressive, too—all the more so given the mother and daughter aren't actually actors at all. (They are, however, really mother and daughter.) 

A second spot called "Card" was also produced. 

Muse spoke to David Morring, art director at The Richards Group, about the "Sheep" piece—where the idea came from, and how they pulled off the execution. 

Where did the idea come from to do such a long-form, cinematic piece?
From the moment the Hobby Lobby assignment came in, we wanted to create something that felt larger than a commercial. We knew this was their first brand and broadcast advertising, so we wanted to launch their brand in a powerful, cinematic way. The original assignment was to create 30-second and 15-second TV/video, but when the "Sheep" story was presented, everyone wanted it to be a long-form piece. The client agreed. We collaborated with the director, Benito Montorio, to shoot a 2:30 version and a :60 version. 

Did the tagline come first, or later?
The tagline is what spawned the story ideas. When we hit on "Christmas is what you make it," we realized we had an idea that worked on many different levels.

What was the scriptwriting process like? Why this particular story?
"Sheep" was the second story we came up with. The first one, which we still love and can't disclose because we may use it in the future, we really liked. But the idea of a little girl sewing a blanket for a sheep that she knew her father would be shearing, immediately became our favorite. We developed six scripts. "Sheep" was always at the top of the list. They also loved "Card." 

Where was this shot, and what were you looking for in the actors?
We always wanted to shoot it somewhere that felt cold and magical. We considered New Zealand, Chile, Canada and Iceland. When we saw the location pictures from Iceland, we knew it was the place. 

Casting was a huge factor in choosing Benito as the director. He wanted to street cast for real people, and look for actual families. We ended up casting in Iceland, Scotland and Sweden. The mother and daughter are actually mother and daughter. In our callback session there was a chemistry between them that couldn't be duplicated with actors.

The lack of dialogue is striking. Was there ever a version of the script with dialogue?
No, we never wanted voice or dialogue in the scripts. We intentionally excluded it. And the last thing we wanted was a voiceover. Our feeling was that telling the stories visually and then letting the tagline do the heavy lifting at the end was the purest way. 

Where will this spot run? 
The spots will run on all three major networks, Hallmark channels, Food Network, Cooking Channel, HGTV, CMT, DIY, Gameshow Network, Inspiration and various syndicated shows. 

CREDITS
Client: Hobby Lobby
Agency: The Richards Group
Campaign: "Christmas Is What You Make It"
Copywriter: Tim Tone, Creative Group Head
Art Director: David Morring, Creative Group Head
Broadcast Producer: Sheri Cartwright
Brand Management: Jon Lee, Nathan Godinez
Production Company: Pulse Films
Director: Benito Montorio
Executive Producer: Davud Karbassioun
Post Production: Cabin Editing Company
Audio Mix: Sam Casas, Lime Studios
Music: Mophonics

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of Clio Awards.