This Dutch Supermarket Tackles a Tricky Subject—a Family Member’s Death—in an Unusual Yuletide Tale

JWT Amsterdam delivers a poignant surprise for the holidays

A special Christmas memory. Plus Supermarkets / JWT Amsterdam

Before the big reveal, some viewers might get a sixth sense about where this 90-second holiday ad is heading.

Last year around this time, J. Walter Thompson and Plus Supermarkets in the Netherlands memorably delved into divorce with an affecting spot that had viewers reaching for the Kleenex.

Though the subject matter is different in their new work below, the team employs a similar style, with muted, wintry visuals leading to a Christmas twist at grandpa’s house:

Did you guess that the family matriarch recently passed away, even though she appears to be guiding her daughter through cherished traditions and preparations for the holiday meal? Even if you did, that doesn’t detract from director Ismael ten Heuvel’s clever staging or mitigate the feels at the end.

Success in these types of stories depends on balance. You can’t make the denouement too predictable or over the top, or inundate viewers with maudlin messages and risk lapsing into self-parody. Here, all the elements work in harmony. The tale seems tricky yet familiar, sad but not too sad. Sure, it’s manipulative and derivative—but the sleight of hand still delivers an emotional gut-punch.

The song selection—a poppy/ethereal take on World Party’s “She’s the One” by British singer Frances (the best-known version was a 1999 hit by Robbie Williams)—effectively amplifies the mood.

What’s more, the whole thing feels righteously on-brand. Maintaining culinary traditions can indeed keep lost loved ones’ memories alive and bring families closer together. Such themes seem apt for a supermarket campaign.

“In this particular case, the hero of our narrative is that old recipe book, connecting the generations and ensuring that the family recipes will never get lost or forgotten,” says JWT Amsterdam creative partner Bas Korsten.

Did the agency feel pressured to top last year’s high-profile holiday ad package for Plus Supermarkets?

“The pressure is always on since Christmas is our Super Bowl,” Korsten explains. “Luckily, there’s a whole array of emotions that surround eating together, so we have a fertile domain going forward.”

Happy Christmas to all, and to all an M. Night!


Agency: J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam
Creative Partner: Bas Korsten
Creative Lead: Chris Sant, Dieuwer Bulthuis
Business Lead: Budi Gonzalez de Chaves
Senior concept producer: Charlene Thomas
Screen producer: Kiek Beljaars

Plus Supermarkets:
Manager Brand & Communication: Okke Wiarda
Marketing Manager: Esmée Blom
Campaign Manager: Marieke Lazeroms

Pink Rabbit:
Director: Ismael ten Heuvel
DOP: Martijn van Broekhuizen
Executive Producer: Mireille Lampe & Monique van Beckhoven
Producer: Floor Schroeijers

Editor: Martin Heijgelaar

Online & Special Effects:
Justin Baker & Daniël van der Kaaden
Grading: Barry Clarke

Music: Frances – She’s The One
Music Supervision: Bart van Liemt, Jarl Hector

Studio Alfred Klaassen
Jacco Lenstra

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.