Sainsbury’s is to round off its 150th birthday celebrations by unveiling a Christmas advert harking back to its roots in 1869, in the hope of enticing new customers over the vital holiday period.
The advert tells the story of Nicholas, a young chimney sweep whose work master steals a hat full of clementines from the store.
The scene opens at the brand new J Sainsbury’s store in Victorian London’s Drury Lane, showing off its wares to the street.
Nicholas’s boss grabs the fruit, but the poor boy is caught red-handed as he bends down to pick up a clementine that has fallen to the ground.
Banished from London, young Nick is rescued by Mary Ann Sainsbury who, having seen the whole event, sets off to the snowy mountains to fetch him back.
As she gives him a bag of clementines, the boy says he cannot pay for them.
But Mrs Sainsbury retorts: “If you can’t do something special for someone at Christmas, then when can you?”
Nick then jumps down the chimney of the Manor House Children’s Home, filling the youngsters’ stockings with clementines, before walking off into the sunset wearing a red cape and hat.
The team behind the advert admitted they took liberties with history.
For instance, the first ever Sainsbury’s store only sold milk, eggs and butter, with no clementines in sight, according to Sainsbury’s website.
Perhaps more shocking is that the Shard and London Eye form part of the 1869 London skyline, or that it says “Emissions free” on the side of Mrs Sainsbury’s horse-drawn cart.
“Some of it’s based on true events; there was a shop in 1869 that was open for Christmas,” said Laura Boothby, the supermarket’s head of broadcast marketing.
Filmed in Romania, where the team found a ready-made Dickensian London film set, the short piece is designed to cheer people up.
“The ambition of our Christmas ad every year is just to create festive joy, people don’t want to see miserable ads … hopefully people just want a bit of cheering up, and this will help with that,” Ms Boothby added.
The advert went live online in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and will get its first broadcast screening on ITV during Emmerdale at 7.15pm.
Sainsbury’s did not reveal how much it had spent on the ad, but businesses across the UK are expected to fork out a record £6.8 billion on seasonal promotion, according to the Advertising Association.
Sainsbury’s follows Argos, and rivals Asda and Iceland in rolling out their Christmas TV ads.