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Sainsbury's Turns to the Crowd to Source Its Advertising

December 13, 2013

With nary a brand or a product in sight, U.K. supermarket Sainsbury's has used the experiences of real families during Christmas 2012 in creating a feature film and commercials to promote its Christmas 2013.

Variously described as "crowd-sourced" and a "user-generated feature," the film, "Christmas in a Day," runs 48 minutes on YouTube. It can also be seen in shorter snippets on television and online.

Compiled over 14 months by director, Kevin Macdonald (best known for The Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void), and produced by Ridley Scott's Scott-Free company, the film covers the full range of Sainsbury's customers from a newborn to a 106-year-old celebrating her birthday. All variations in between are depicted, from families to singletons, showing what the day means to them.

The final film was created from 360 hours of footage contributed by 114 families and was inspired by Mr. Macdonald's 2010 film, Life in a Day. Mr. Macdonald told Adweek, "When we were cutting that film, we talked about what it might be like if we chose a day that already had significance to people. The result is Christmas in a Day."

[Image: Sainsbury's Advert]

As well as more conventional ads in the run-up to the holiday, Sainsbury's launched the season with a three-and-a-half minute trailer. Two shorter, 40- and 60-second, versions are running through December.

Britain's Guardian said the ad "reflects a trend by retailers this year to create memorable films that will attract chatter and interest on social media sites as the internet becomes a core part of ad campaigns." The Las Vegas Guardian believes it "may lead to a whole new way of looking at how to sell goods."

Sainsbury's head of brand communications, Mark Given, said social media spend has increased and they wanted to do something that was not a "pastiche of Christmas" with "digital at the heart of the campaign." He added, "At this time of year people want to be entertained and engaged and sometimes we can shout too much about our products ... the film also tried to pick up on the idea of engaging with local communities," according to the Guardian.


Discussion Questions:

What is your assessment of Sainsbury's "Christmas in a Day" campaign? Does it offer lessons for reaching today's social shopper?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How effective do you think the "Christmas in a Day" campaign will be in promoting the Sainsbury's brand with consumers in its home market?


It's a great, heart-tugging film, but it does little to reinforce the Sainsbury brand. Social shouldn't sell, but it should reinforce the core story of a brand. While this may generate some good feelings towards Sainsbury, I doubt it will motivate consumers to change their shopping patterns.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

I think it was very well done and touches every emotion. I will be passing it along to friends and family as it reflects the true Christmas spirit. It also portrays Sainsbury's as a cut above other retailers for doing it. A great many retailers on this side of the pond could use the good this film rates.

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

It's an interesting approach to reach out during the holidays, but not sure if it will generate meaningful changes in shoppers' buying behavior.

I think it serves as a good example of extending the reach into social.

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Robert DiPietro, GVP Product Strategy & Business Development, Affinion Group

A campaign such as this needs to tell a story about the brand. This one did not! Just sayin'....

Lee Kent, Brings Retail Executives Together to Meet.Learn.Profit, RetailConnections

I disagree that Sainsbury's is not telling its brand story with this campaign.

While not in your face, "Christmas in a Day" illustrates Sainsbury's commitment to understanding the real life needs of its customers. In some ways, it reminds me of Chik-fil-A's powerful "Every Life Has a Story" training video, a powerful brand message in its own right.

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George Anderson, Editor-in-Chief/Associate Publisher, RetailWire LLC

It is a brilliantly conceived film. The connection to the Sainsbury brand is the core question. When brands and retailers have a real desire to serve their customer, their communities and their people as part of their true DNA, this can work. In the case of Sainsbury, I believe this is consistent with their branding and an authentic expression of their values.

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Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

I agree with Mr. Anderson. Sainsbury is a pretty smart and pretty sophisticated chain. They have some beautiful stores. Those that I have had the opportunity to visit ALL had darn great service and that is where Sainsbury can benefit.

This campaign will NOT get that customer driven by price, but this may resonate with those who are service oriented (regardless of social strata). Overall though, I think the benefits to be reaped are limited, but this is a GREAT undertaking that they did NOT have to do. I think a lot of people realize that and "feel good" sentiment will definitely be high.

William Passodelis, associate, ML Co.

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