British multinational retailer Marks & Spencer has brought its famous "Percy Pig" candies to life for its Christmas food campaign this year, with a CGI version of the character voiced by "Spider-Man" actor Tom Holland.
The move comes after the bright pink treats, which first appeared in M&S stores in 1992, have gradually become iconic, with the Percy character recently becoming a TikTok star. "It's a big global brand which gives people a reason to come to Marks & Spencer," said Sharry Cramond, director of marketing for M&S Food, speaking at a press event launching the ad in London.
The first ad in what will be a series of seven spots takes a "Night at the Museum" type turn, as the magic of the Christmas fairy (voiced by comedian Dawn French) awakens Percy and he explores an M&S food hall by night. The ad showcases various Christmas food products for this year, including the store's Golden Blond Christmas Pudding and Delicate Smoked Salmon. Future ads will see Percy explore different food products, including the store's famous Colin the Caterpillar trifle. Content will drop between now and New Year.
The ad is great fun and humorous in tone, with some funny lines by Sam Haynes and John Gibson, copywriter and art director at Grey London. The pair worked on the campaign with M&S' in-house team, which created and produced the ad. Grey was previously Marks & Spencer's retained agency, but is no longer working exclusively with the retailer. Dom & Nic at Outsider were the directors responsible for the animation.
M&S had fun with teasing the campaign on social media ahead of the launch with the question #whoispercypig before revealing that Holland featured in the ad. The actor (who has a large social media presence) has previously revealed he is a huge fan of Percy Pig, and said in a statement: "I’ve loved Percy Pigs for as long as I can remember, and when I was asked to be his voice—his first ever voice—it took me less than a second to say yes. Getting the snort right was a challenge, but I hope I nailed it and you all like what you hear! I did consider asking for a lifetime supply of Percy Pigs but I figured I’ve got to save room for all of that amazing M&S Christmas food!”
The retailer also unveiled a Christmas ad for its clothing and home goods, created by Odd London and directed by Autumn de Wilde. The fashion-focused film is nostalgic in style, featuring a model dancing through various Christmas scenarios, continuing the theme "Anything but Ordinary" that the brand launched for its Autumn/Winter campaigns. As with the food campaign, the creative will be executed across a range of channels—from print cover wraps to an activation at Waterloo station. M&S will also be taking over three large scale sites with hand-painted murals.
Social media will also play a large role in both campaigns, with a TikTok takeover for the Percy ad. Cramond said at the event that TikTok has become key to the brand's marketing and engagement of colleagues during the pandemic, with its store employees now serving as important players on that front. The company has over 200 TikTok accounts for its various stores and some of its staff have gone viral on the platform.