Buddy the Elf Returns in Asda's Charming Christmas Ad in Britain

Havas weaves footage from the film into holiday spot

If smiling is your favorite, you're going to like Asda's Christmas ad.

Will Ferrell returns as Buddy the Elf, from the classic Christmas movie, in a skillfully made spot from Havas London that takes original footage from the film and weaves it into new scenes set at an Asda supermarket.

This approach can often be clunky, but the visual effects by Framestore are pretty seamless, and the overall results are quite charming—a nice kickoff to the renowned Christmas advertising season in Britain.

Asda | Have Your Elf a Merry Christmas

This is the first time the character from the 2003 film has been used in advertising. (Buddy was licensed for use from Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products.) Asda says Framestore's VFX—on which so much relies here—are "first-of-its-kind" and included rotoscoping Buddy out of the original film and building a world around him "that was faithful down to the last eyeline, shadow and cast interaction." An intricate process of match grading then paired the vintage film with the modern footage.

Having a 20-years-older Will Ferrell shoot entirely new Buddy footage could have been fun as well, though in many ways it's nice to see the character frozen in time—and uttering the iconic lines that have become familiar to so many through a bazillion viewings over the past two decades.

"No one embodies the feeling of Christmas more than Buddy the Elf," says Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer at Havas London. "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 colors! It's the perfect partnership for Asda to ensure everyone is able to have the Christmas they deserve this year."

Danny Kleinman of Rattling Stick, who directed the spot, adds: "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."

On the agency side, associate creative directors Rob Greaves and Sam Daly and creative directors Dan Cole and Andy Garnett spearheaded the campaign. Media planning and buying was done by Spark Foundry, with social and photography by THG. 

"Like Buddy, we absolutely love Christmas—so we're thrilled to welcome him to our team," says Sam Dickson, acting chief customer officer at Asda. "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."


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

ELF and all related characters and elements © & TM New Line Productions, Inc. (s22)

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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