British grocer Waitrose on Sunday launched #HomeforChristmas, a holiday ad that follows a robin—apparently the U.K.’s favorite bird—trying to make it home to those he loves.
The voyage is based on the actual migration of Scandinavian robins. Created by adam&eveDDB, Rogue Films and The Mill, our heroic robin crosses mountains and seas, narrowly missing the claws of a predator, before arriving at a dish that a young girl has set out for him.
Waiting there is a Waitrose mince pie and the robin’s companion.
Even if you’re not a member of the Audubon Society, the feathered hero’s story may resonate. It’s been a rough year for many, with an epically contentious ending. If you’ve felt dragged through the cobblestones, this bird has too: A couple of near-death experiences make this trip feel like a Herculean, once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.
“Coming home is a central theme at Christmas when welcoming, hosting and providing a special meal for loved ones at the heart of celebrations,” says marketing director Rupert Thomas of Waitrose.
“Sharing the best possible food and drink with family and friends is one of the great joys of the festive period, and we hope that the determination of our robin resonates with viewers as they follow his journey back to where he belongs. It’s a story of love, courage and the importance of enjoyment with family and friends.”
The ad is buttressed by music from Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who adapted his track “Cambridge, 1963” from The Theory of Everything. A 90-second version launched yesterday, during the X Factor results show.
The robin itself was brought to life with the magic of CG, which sounds a bit trite, given all the work that went into it.
“Working with specialists in robin behavior helped us with our detailed observation of the classic behaviors of the robin,” explains creative director Jorge Montiel of The Mill. “The way robins move, their size and their lack of facial expressions meant that the bird’s personality had to be evoked almost entirely through its body language. Every little breath, heartbeat, twitch had to be present, and in time, allowing this tiny creature to take center stage among the dramatic landscapes behind him.”
“Building on our previous knowledge of feather work, we knew that creating a photo-real robin was going to be our most demanding bird job to date,” adds Adam Droy, The Mill’s lead 3-D artist. “With that in mind, we went about crafting a bespoke feather tool that would allow us to create such accurate feather simulations, down to the micro details such as how many barbs a feather has, how soft they feel and how each feather reacts to the light.”
TV versions of the ads will run for the next six weeks, in addition to social media support, a cinema presence (in 3-D, even!), VOD and digital display takeovers. A game, created by Manning Gottlieb OMD, will also give social viewers the chance to engage with the robin’s homeward journey.
“We’re really proud of this plucky little fella and his plight to get home for Christmas,” concludes executive creative director Richard Brim of adam&eveDDB. “It’s a warming story that speaks to the spirit of togetherness in the festive season and the joy of just coming home to where you belong. It feels like a great way to wrap up a great year for Waitrose.”