Christmas Adverts Bonanza - We Discuss The Best Ones With TV Producer Sabrina Belaïba

Dec 18, 2020

Health & Lifestyle | Lauranne Heres

It’s that time of the year again where holiday cheer fills the small screen. And I’m not even talking about the seemingly endless supply of Christmas movies being churned out. No, it’s Christmas advert time! My personal favourites this year are the Lidl adverts making fun of the traditional ads, including those by their direct competitor Aldi. If you love Christmas adverts, you’ll often have wondered how long it takes to make them, who comes up with ideas… We talk to Sabrina Belaïba, a TV Producer for over 10 years who produces and adapts adverts worldwide.

1) How many Christmas adverts do you work on per year?

I usually work on 50 or so!

2) When do you start preparing for Christmas adverts? Are they any different than regular adverts, and do you enjoy working on them?

My favourite time of the year is Easter. Not because I enjoy stuffing my face with chocolate bunnies and eggs (although, now that I think about it…), but rather because that’s the time of year when I start getting the first briefs for Christmas ads.

It’s important to know that the festive season is crucial for brands as they focus on interacting with a large number of consumers. They usually have rather large budgets and brands contact marketing agencies in order to make a film that will melt people’s hearts. Their ultimate goal is to have an emotional impact. Take for example John Lewis’ latest advert, which has an important message: “Give a little love”. This is immensely powerful today as we continue to live through uncertain times. It shows the solidarity that people witnessed during various lockdowns. It’s also their way of thanking the NHS who have worked so hard during this pandemic. This emotional impact, much more than the products they’re trying to sell and put forward, is what makes their adverts work year after year.

People don’t see it like an advert anymore, but rather like a story they can identify with.

3) Can you talk us through the process of creation?

Making an advert takes a lot of teamwork. We work with creatives who come up with ideas that they then submit to the clients, and then we take over the production of the film. Then comes post-production where the last bit of magic is sprinkled on top. The entire process can take between two and six months depending on the complexity of the project. This year has been particularly challenging for agencies as they’ve had to deal with lockdowns and restrictions on filming. The industry has had to double down and work incredibly hard to give the clients what they asked for in time, because if there’s one event you can’t move, it’s Christmas. You’ll notice that this year a lot of the adverts are animated, to avoid Covid-related issues.

4) Can you tell us about a particular advert you enjoyed making?

Last year, a famous toy brand approached us to create a 6 second bumper (or short – they’re the ads you see online before playing a YouTube video for example) to help promote a competition where children could win a bunch of presents for Christmas. We offered them different options, and they liked them all, but one in particular caught their eye. We were just about to discuss budget when they told us that it had been reduced by three! It was impossible in that situation to organise a shoot with actors and a whole film crew, so we had to rethink the whole creative side of the project and come up with a viable solution. We ended up going for a 3D animation with a touch of magic. It was a difficult task, but my team figured it out, made it work and I’m particularly proud of the result.