Every year, there’s a multi-million battle for our cash at Christmas, via the blockbusting TV advert.
Last year, John Lewis spent £7m on their Christmas ad campaign. Money well spent, when you know that every £1 spent on a successful TV advert brings in £24 in profit.
This year, most of the “biggies” have had a go – Aldi have Kevin the Carrot, Boots have a sweet version of a Robbie Wiliams song, Marks and Spencer’s have Holly Willoughby, John Lewis have Elton John.
But many people would agree that this year’s Christmas ad “winner” is Sainsbury’s, featuring Harrison Willmott – a 10-year-old lad from Broughton Astley.
If you’ve seen the ad – and 2.6 million have, on youtube alone – you’ll have noticed Harrison. He’s the human plug who turns on the Christmas lights with a running jump into a socket at a lavish school nativity play.
“I was like ‘this is confusing, I’m a plug’,” said Harrison, recalling the moment he first saw his costume at a London studio. “So I’ve got to get into a socket and it’s like really hard because you have to like put your face on the socket, kind of, you’re like mmmmff.”
The Sainsbury’s ad depicts a school Christmas show, set to the classic 90s song, ‘You Get What You Give’.
There’s a human ‘star’, and a supporting cast of children playing a host of weird and wonderful Christmas characters, from a Nativity camel to baubles. But Harrison almost steals the show as the diving plug.
Sainsbury’s started work on the Christmas ad back in January.
The company’s marketing team worked with their advertising agency, Wiedenand Kennedy, to “create and develop the concept”.
Then they put out casting calls to after-school drama, dance and singing groups as well as children’s agents.
The advert features almost 60 children from across the country – some as young as six years old.
Harrison has been attending acting classes since he was seven, and within his first year, he won his age category at the Nuneaton Festival of Arts.
He travelled down to London to get to the auditions for the advert.
“When my parents see the performance they’re gonna be really excited” said Harrison. “They’re gonna be like ‘oh that’s our son, that’s our son!”
And mum and dad didn’t have to wait to see it on TV.
When the Christmas advert was filmed – in London in September – many of the cast had their real parents in the audience.
Other media and Sainsbury’s themselves have been saying Harrison comes from Rugby - but it turns out this was due to a misunderstanding at the auditions.
The family were asked where they had travelled on, and they said ‘Rugby’ having gone down to London on the train. This was then recorded as their home town, and passed on to the media when the advert launched.
Despite that, Harrison was invited along to the Christmas light switch-on in Rugby last weekend!
Laura Boothby, Head of Broadcast Marketing at Sainsbury’s, said: “The school show is a flagship Christmas moment for many.
“This made it the perfect setting to bring our Christmas message to life – watching little ones give all they’ve got, for their loved ones, watching on.”
The advert was directed by Michael Gracey – who also directed the big 2017 musical, The Greatest Showman.
“We set out to craft an ad that embodies the joy and imagination of the festive season” he said. “We hope it’s a message that resonates with people from all walks of life.”
The ad premiered on TV in a prime time slot during Coronation Street.
Harrison said it was “really cool” to see himself on television for the first time, and that his friends at school all liked the advert
But the successful ad for Sainsbury’s was only a quick taste of acting for Harrison.
His dream now is to be a singer and actor, preferably in a West End musical.