Sainsbury’s heroes premium range in Christmas ad starring Alison Hammond

Driving awareness and salience of the Taste the Difference brand has been a core mission of Sainsbury’s throughout the year, head of campaigns Laura Boothby says.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference premium range takes centre stage in the supermarket’s Christmas ad this year, which takes a humorous look at the divisive nature of the traditional Christmas pudding.

The campaign is in stark contrast to last year’s ‘A Christmas to Savour’, in which a camera zoomed around a frozen snapshot of a family Christmas day. While the ad “met the objectives we needed it to”, the supermarket’s head of campaigns Laura Boothby tells Marketing Week, this year Sainsbury’s wanted to put more of a focus on humour.

“One of the insights we had for this year was actually can we create something even more joyful and humorous, because I think that is what the nation wants at the minute. And just putting food and Taste the Difference a little more at the heart of it,” she explains.

Created by ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, this year’s ‘Once Upon a Pud’ is a medieval fairy tale starring presenter and TV personality Alison Hammond, who plays an intimidating Countess as she selects the food she wants served at an upcoming Christmas feast.

Presented with a Christmas pudding by a nervous young chef, the Countess says she’s not a “fan” and demands he come up with a better offer. The chef embarks on a quest to reinvent the pudding, working day and night to create a new and improved version of the divisive cake.

Finally he presents the revamped pudding at the feast, a Taste the Difference version with added caramelised biscuit. There’s a tense moment as the Countess tries the pudding, before happily declaring, “that’s a bit of me”, and festivities resume.

Stephen Fry also takes part as the voice of the ad, which is set to a medieval instrumental version of Wheatus’s Teenage Dirtbag.Sainsbury’s: Premium sales remain resilient despite cost of living crisis

According to Boothby, it was seeing the Taste the Difference caramelised biscuit Christmas pudding and hearing the insight behind its development that inspired the idea for the ad. But the pudding isn’t the only Taste the Difference product highlighted, with crab thermador crumpets and cider glazed gammon also making an appearance.

The campaign continues to build on one of Sainsbury’s core missions this year, which is to drive its overall quality perception, as well as awareness and salience of the Taste the Difference brand, she adds.

“It’s an absolutely core part of our brand and who we are,” the marketer says. Earlier this year, Taste the Difference launched a major sponsorship deal with Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off, the largest in the show’s more than 10-year history.

Taste the Difference sales in the first six months of 2022 rose by 14% compared to the same period three years ago, the last pre-Covid comparator. In its interim results announcement yesterday (3 November), Sainsbury’s claimed this growth is “outperforming the market”.

The supermarket plans to launch 300 new Christmas products this year, 50% of which will be in the Taste the Difference range. Some 160 new Taste the Difference products have been launched over the first half of this year, a 40% year-on-year increase.

In July, CEO Simon Roberts said consumers were continuing to indulge in premium food products despite the cost of living crisis, particularly when it comes to special occasions. Taste the Difference sales jumped 12% year on year over the week of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June, for example.

“One of the really interesting things we’re currently seeing is that while customers are clearly very focused on value for money, they still want to treat themselves,” he said at the time.

[Christmas is] still seen as a really special time and [customers] want that to be a day where they don’t have to think about all the worries they’ve got going on.

Laura Boothby, Sainsbury’s

A focus on value will emerge through Sainsbury’s wider Christmas campaign, Boothby says, but the brand made the decision not to make it the focus of its hero film.

“People just want a bit of joy and light-heartedness at the minute, and we wanted to face into that and create something really joyful and humorous that would lighten the mood,” she explains.

“We are seeing that customers want to protect Christmas. It’s still seen as a really special time and they want that to be a day where they don’t have to think about all the worries they’ve got going on and can have the best Christmas ever.”

In terms of measuring effectiveness, Sainsbury’s will be looking at the ad as a driver of brand rather than a driver of direct response and sales, Boothby adds. While understanding the impact on sales will be important, the emphasis the ad puts on certain products will make it difficult to delineate it’s direct impact.

The 60-second film launches today (4 November) on TV, with 20-second and 30-second cuts to run across TV and social. The full 85-second film will be available to watch on YouTube.

“We go in all channels because we know that customers are everywhere and there is a lot more fragmentation of media,” Boothby says, adding that the campaign will also include more innovative media elements as a “trial”, such as contextual advertising on ITV and advertising on Amazon Prime.

For those who, like Hammond’s Countess, have also dismissed Christmas puddings without having tried it, Sainsbury’s is opening the ‘Pud You Dare Café’, where visitors can try a traditional pudding or the Taste the Difference version for free. The pop-up will be open from 24 to 25 November in London.