Sainsbury’s 'Christmas in a Day' by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Thinkboxes November/ December 2013 winner

Retailers’ Christmas TV ads have become a British institution as each tries to garner headlines, appeal to shoppers, build a social-media buzz and outdo one another on the creative. But Sainsbury’s 2013 offering featured a fresh and compelling theme. Sainsbury’s and its creative agency, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, hired director Kevin Macdonald to cast a documentary-style eye over Christmas, portraying how real people celebrated the day in a diverse range of households across the nation.

The TV commercial was three-and-a-half minutes, while a longer version could be viewed on YouTube. The ad went from the joyous to the forlorn; among those featured were a family sending a video message to their soldier dad in Afghanistan, only for him to appear in person and be mobbed by the children, and a pensioner presenting his spreadsheet to ensure a perfectly timed Christmas dinner for one.

Mark Given, Sainsbury’s head of brand communications, said: “It was something of an experiment – we weren’t exactly sure what we’d find, but hoped to reveal something truly new and authentic about the way we celebrate Christmas in Britain. Kevin’s film exceeded all our expectations – and, as the reaction showed, is something very special indeed.

It really resonated with people and helped deliver a record market share for Sainsbury’s.

Mark Given Head of Brand Communications

Client Mark Given; Ad agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO; Creative team Phil Martin, Colin Jones, Mike Hannett, Tony Strong, Michael Durban; Production RSA Films, Scott Free Films; Director Kevin Macdonald

Other ads on the podium

John Lewis: The Bear and Hare (2nd)

  • Creative agency adam&eveDDB
  • Creative team Aidan McClure, Laurent Simon
  • Client Craig Inglis
  • Production companies Blinkink, Hornet
  • Directors Elliot Dear, Yves Geleyn

Google Nexus 7: Far from home (3rd)

  • Creative agency Joint
  • Creative team Damon Collins
  • Client Arvind Desikan
  • Production company Thomas Thomas
  • Director Kevin Thomas

Also shortlisted

KFC: Come together

  • Creative agency BBH
  • Creative team Matt Moreland, Chris Clarke, David Kolbusz Marc Hatfield
  • Clients Jennelle Tilling, Meghan Farren
  • Production company Biscuit Filmworks
  • Director Tim Godsall

Marks & Spencer: Magic and sparkle

  • Creative agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/ Y&R
  • Creative Pip Bishop, Chris Hodgkiss
  • Client Duncan Morris 
  • Production company Black Label
  • Director Johan Renck

A view from a Thinkbox Academy member on this month's picks...


The best, for me, is Sainsbury’s. The lump in the throat delivered by real people in real life. Not by formula or advertising confection. How brave to shoot a Christmas ad a year before it aired… They stuck their necks out and it paid off

Justin Tindall Executive Creative Director, M&C Saatchi

Click here to see who won the previous award

Click here to see who won the previous award

You might also like

Breaking ads

We update this gallery weekly with a collection of the latest and best ads breaking on TV.


The best ads from the Super Bowl 2022

The biggest moment in the annual global sports calendar, our gallery showcases the best TV ad creativity from the big day.


Great TV creative from around the world in 2021

The best in TV advertising creative from around the world according to Thinkbox's Associate members.