Buddy the Elf gets hired in Asda's holiday ad that uses footage from 'Elf'

Spot from the U.K. supermarket chain features Buddy causing chaos on his trial shifts

Published On
Nov 04, 2022

Editor's Pick

U.K. retailer Asda has "hired" Buddy the Elf in this year's Christmas campaign, creating an entirely new story out of scenes from the original Will Ferrell movie.

In a TV spot involving some ingenious visual effects, the supermarket chain took original footage, lines and actions from "Elf" and placed the character at the heart of a bustling Asda store as its newest recruit. Ahead of the launch, the campaign theme was teased by Asda running recruitment ads in newspapers for a new "extra special Christmas colleague" who's "joyful, kind and likes to smile."

The 90-second film, created via agency Havas U.K., veteran director Danny Kleinman of Rattling Stick and post-production company Framestore, opens with a homage to Elf’s iconic ‘"street crossing" scene. This time, it’s a bunch of Asda shopping carts, rather than a New York City cab, that causes Buddy to exclaim “sorry!” as it crashes into him. 

The ad goes on to show Buddy causing chaos on his trial shift, singing loudly over the store loudspeaker system and, similar to the movie, decking out the entire shop floor in fairy lights and festive decorations overnight while re-christening the self-checkouts as "elf checkouts." In each scene, Buddy interacts seamlessly with Asda employees using footage from the movie.

After the TV ad breaks Friday night on U.K. TV in ITV's "Coronation Street," Asda customers will hear in-store announcements from Buddy himself, and there will be Asda-exclusive Elf-themed food and clothing.

It's the first time "Elf" has ever been licensed for brand marketing; Ferrell has famously refused to make a sequel to the 2003 movie and is known to be very protective of the character.

According to Havas U.K. Chief Creative Officer Vicki Maguire, the agency worked closely with the star, who saw "every version" of the script, plus "Elf" director Jon Favreau and Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products. Licensing of "Elf" was managed by David Born and Amber Cheung at Born Licensing and Will Ferrell by Talent Republic. Ferrell agreed to the ad after briefings about Asda's business and in particular, about its community projects. 

The team had to ensure that everything was true to the original movie, right down to the food that Buddy eats. For example, for a scene in the ad where Buddy eats pigs in blankets, Ferrell pointed out that Buddy doesn't eat anything that isn't sweet or sugary. So, Asda suggested its pigs in blankets with maple syrup. (The scene in which he eats them was recreated from the movie scene where Buddy eats chewing gum in the subway.)

"We had to use everything in the film," said Maguire, who said she watched the film "multiple times" in order to pick out the most pertinent lines. 

The spectacular post-production by Framestore rotoscoped Buddy out of the original film, then helped fit an entire new world around him; no deepfake was allowed to be used.

Danny Kleinman's attention to detail made him the perfect choice to direct the film, said Maguire, as he focused on fine points such as knowing what lens Favreau used in the original footage and what grade was used in the original scenes. "We needed someone who was really going to geek out on how to bring it to life."

Kleinman commented in a statement: "For me this was a unique challenge, working with an A list Hollywood actor, without him being there in person, and crafting other actors around his iconic performance. It was important not only to make the action seamless but also convincingly transport him to a Christmas Asda store, creating a Hollywood feel to Asda’s Christmas celebrations.”

Asda isn't the only retailer leaning into movie nostalgia this holiday season; in the U.S., Walmart (which once owned Asda) this week launched a holiday campaign that resurrects the cast of the 1999 movie "Office Space.

To find out more about how Asda made the "Elf" ad, you can watch the brand's Behind the Scenes video, below. 




Nov 04, 2022
Client :
Agency :
Senior Director Brand Communications & Marketing :
Stephi Brett-Lee
Head of Campaigns :
Rebecca Holmes
Campaign Manager :
Amy Kennedy
Production Manager :
Claire Ibbotson
Xavier Rees
Chief Creative Officer :
Vicki Maguire
Chief Client Officer :
James Fox
Creative Director :
Dan Cole
Creative Director :
Andy Garnett
Associate Creative Director :
Rob Greaves
Associate Creative Director :
Sam Daly
Senior Art Director :
Richard Gorton-Lee
Senior Copywriter :
Mark Wilson
Senior Designer :
Sam Kallen
Creative Production Director :
Dean Trendler
Head of Strategy :
Britt Iversen
Strategy Director :
Flo Sharp
Senior Strategist :
Jack Lewis-Barclay
Managing Partner :
Dave Owen
Business Director :
Jamie Bolton
Account Director :
Cherith MacRitchie
Account Manager :
Sophie Hodges
Account Executive :
Caitlin Toohey
Head of Production :
Katie Keith
Head of Film :
Louise Bonnar
Production Lead :
Olivia Riddle
Senior Producer :
Adam Henderson
Senior Producer :
Barney Ferguson
Producer :
Rhy Hogan
Assistant Producer :
Ella Myerscough-McClymont
Agency :
Spark Foundry
Chief Client Officer :
Katharine Baker
Managing Partner Planning :
Felicity Bowen
Business Director Planning :
Jon Hill
Account Director Planning :
Sarah Codd
Account Manager Planning :
Clare Miles
Group Account Director Activation :
Lyndsey Terrill
Group Account Director Activation :
Mike Lawrence
Head of Performance Planning :
Mark Oldfield
Digital Excellence Lead :
Callum Sergison
Paid Social Business Director :
George Tilbury
Agency :
The Hut Group
Agency :
Cow PR
Agency :
Creative Race
Production Company :
Rattling Stick
Director :
Daniel Kleinman
Executive Producer :
Johnnie Frankel
Producer :
Amy Appleton
Ben Smithard
Production Designer :
Joseph Bennett
Costume Designer :
Verity Hawkes
Make-Up & Hair :
Beverley Pond-Jones
Casting Director :
Greg Kyle
Editor :
Eve Ashwell
Post Production & VFX :
Creative Director :
Kamen Markov
VFX Supervisor :
Jules Janaud
Compositing Supervisor :
Ben Taylor
Head of Advertising :
Helen Well
Executive Producer :
Anna MacDonald
Grade :
Colorist :
Stef Perry
Previs :
The Third Floor
Sound :
Sound Engineer :
Sam Ashwell
Music Supervisor :
Daniel Breheny
Artist :
Frank Sinatra
Music Supervisor :
Neil Athale
Licensing :
Born Licensing
Senior Licensing Executive :
Amber Cheung
Anne Batz
Managing Director :
Charlie Powell
Senior Account Executive :
Ella Barker
Researcher :
Louise Urwin

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