Behind the Idea: how AMV BBDO celebrates 'Xmess'

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We can all relate with the young man in the Merry Xmess Christmas ad.

It is the ones we love the most that make the biggest mess at Christmas time. Parents, lovers, siblings, other relatives – but that's exactly what makes Christmas special. We are all together, we have a good laugh, and move on. After winning a pitch with Plenty at the beginning of the year, AMV BBDO went on to produce a lovely Christmas ad in the middle of the lockdown, celebrating all those messy moments of the festive season.

In short, if you want to find out how a cat pooping machine works, keep reading.

Today we are getting Behind the Idea for one of the best 2020 Christmas ads, an irreverent and cheeky campaign that few brands out there could have pulled off this well.


What was the brief?

At the start of this year we pitched for the Plenty account with a new platform idea: ‘love is messy’. Our brilliant strategist Margaux Revol observed that that the ones we love the most – kids, partners, family, friends, pets – make the most mess. But we love them all the same. We wipe it up, laugh it off and move on; and that’s a lot easier to do with a good kitchen towel like Plenty. We figured there is more love and more mess at Christmas than most other times of year so it seemed appropriate to launch the platform at Christmas. We also liked the challenge of a humble kitchen towel competing in the Christmas ad battle as a way to earn fame for the brand.


How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?

We wanted to do a Christmas ad no one else would or could, and show the truth about Christmas: it’s not the most wonderful time of year. It’s messy and chaotic. It’s a test of love. There’s real emotional conflict in that, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We borrowed from the comedy writing process, putting together a ‘Writers’ room’ of creatives. Andy Vasey, Prabs Wignarajah, Jamie Starbuck and Dan Warner have been through the family-Christmas-ringer many times so there were no shortage of tales from Christmases past – we picked the truest and the funniest.


Tell us more about the concept. How did it come to life, and why was it the right choice?

There’s no point in having the right notes in the wrong order. We didn’t want a montage ad, for it to be a proper Christmas ad it needed to be a story. So we then sequenced them into the chronological order of a typical family Christmas day, to build the relentless onslaught of mess our central character has to deal with. Then we shaped that into an emotional journey - so that early in the day he’s thinking ‘why do I do this every year’, then he accepts it, and by the end of the day he’s resolved that there’s no place he’d rather be.  


What was the production process like? What was the biggest challenge?

The main challenge was the year 2020. We were thrilled when Steve Rogers agreed to direct. But then it hit us. We can’t travel - he’d be shooting in Australia and we’d be in our homes in London shooting remotely on Australia time. The seemingly impossible was made possible through Somesuch/Revolver and our amazing producer, Edwina Dennison.  We were able to shoot great actors in a real house after they all self- isolated and took tests before filming began. 


What is one funny or notable thing that happened during the production of the campaign?

Somesuch and Steve Rogers pulled a rabbit out of a hat so we could pull tinsel from a cat’s bum. We had a special cat pooping machine made for the litter tray scene. Taking our clients through that was a very interesting meeting. Turns out there’s believable cat poo and not so believable cat poo.

What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?

The ones we love most make the most mess. But our love for them overcomes the frustration and disgust we may feel, and Plenty is strong enough to help us absorb it all. It matters because it’s taking the stress out of the mess and helps us all accept and love each other, in all our messy imperfection.


What is one unique aspect of the campaign?

Plenty is the first brand adopting a radical honesty where life with our loved ones is depicted the way it really is: messy and sometimes downright revolting. We think we’re the first to portray clearing up mess as an act of love. And definitely the first to feature cat bum tinsel.

How long did it take from inception to delivery?

As this was an idea that won a pitch at the start of the year, with the usual research and testing, it was probably the best part of 10 months all-in-all. 


What do you hope it achieves for the brand?

In the short term we challenged ourselves to ‘win Christmas’ with a very different story of Christmas love. In the long term we are building a new platform, ‘love is messy’ which we hope will run for years and years.

Credit list for the campaign?

Creative Agency: AMV BBDO
Creatives: Andy Vasey, Dan Warner, Prabhu Wignarajah, Jamie Starbuck.
Creative Director: Toby Allen & Jim Hilson
Executive Creative Directors: Nicholas Hulley, Nadja Lossgott
Agency Planner: Margaux Revol
Agency Account Team: Sara Abaza, Harry Buggé, Terrance Obeng
Agency Producer: Edwina Dennison
Media Agency: Zenith Media
Media Planners: Anna Shaw, Nicola Gow

Production Company: Somesuch x Revolver
Director: Steve Rogers
DOP: Simon Duggan
Photographer: Derek Henderson
Art Producer: Fiona Bailey
Design & Typography: Max Henderson
Production Co. Producer: Caroline Kruck, Seth Wilson, Lee Groombridge
Post-production Company: Time Based Arts
Business Affairs: Michelle Holmes, Cate Killeen
Audio Post-production: Sam Ashwell @ 750mph
Editor: Rich Orrick, Jamie Hodgson @ Work Editorial
PR (UK): Hannah Craig, Senior Account Director, FINN Comms (UK)
PR (Global): Olivia Sealy, Ketchum (Global)

Essity global:
Martina Poulopati, Global Marketing & Communications Director
Julia Safonova, Global Brand Communication Manager

Essity UK:
Nicola Coronado, Marketing Director UK, Ireland
Iain Lavelle, Marketing Manager (Plenty Brand)
Leanne McLeod - Brand Manager (Plenty)

Essity France:
Jennifer Diaz, Marketing Manager
Arnaud Montcru, European Marketing Director, Household Towels
Alix Arnaud - Web / Digital Content Manager
Juan Pava, Brand Manager



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