Sainsbury's Returns to Dickensian London for Its 2019 Christmas Ad

A visit to the original shop in 1869

One of the most beloved Christmas commercials of all time is the Sainsbury's film from 2014 that traveled back 100 years to tell the story of Christmas Day 1914, when British and German soldiers emerged from the trenches of World War I to exchange gifts and play football.

Five years later, the British supermarket is traveling back even further in time, for another anniversary, to the Dickensian London of 1869—the year John James and Mary Ann Sainsbury opened their first shop on Drury Lane in Holborn. 

The spot, by Wieden + Kennedy London and director Ninian Doff, tells the tale of an orphan chimney sweep named Nicholas who gets in some trouble while passing the Sainsbury's table of apples, eggs, bread and clementines in the street.

Nicholas the Sweep | Sainsbury’s | Christmas 2019

While not as emotionally affecting as the "1914" work, the new spot is gorgeously crafted to capture the time period, with some amusing modern touches (e.g., the "Zeo Emissions" sign on the horse and cart) and fantastical elements thrown in. 

The film is part of the brand's 150th birthday celebrations. 

"It's been a special year for Sainsbury's, and we felt it was fitting for our Christmas advert to look back and celebrate the role we've played in making Christmas Christmas for the nation for the past 150 years," says Laura Boothby, head of broadcast marketing at Sainsbury's. "We've always helped to bring a bit of sparkle to everyone's Christmas, be it through the delicious turkey, brussel sprouts or even exotic clementines." 

"Amazing cast, crew and agency. Had a lot of joyous madness on this and so great to be allowed to put so much of my weird brain into such a massive job," Doff, the director, wrote on Instagram.

The spot breaks Tuesday night on TV during Emmerdale on ITV. 


Client: Sainsbury's
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy
Director: Ninian Doff

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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