This Marks & Spencer Ad Is a Winter Wonderland of Sparkling Edibles

Raising the bar for perfectionist holiday hosts

Headshot of Angela Natividad

You won't find kitschy stockings and hardened fruitcakes at a Marks & Spencer home.

Building on its "Adventures in …" campaign, the British retailer is launching a multifilm series to showcase its holiday-themed food. "Adventures in Surprises," the first film of the season, both whets the appetite and feeds party planning ideas.

Because has anyone you know ever made a penguin-themed cake?

Among other things, the ad is a menagerie of glittering goodies that bring to mind the imagination-driven Lost Boys feast from Hook (without the unpleasant '90s-era zingers flying over the table between Rufio and Peter Pan). 

Chocolate-covered popcorn cascades through the air, and bonbons are covered in golden sprinkles. A sliced chocolate cake bleeds rich molten gold. A clamshell opens to reveal a glistening pearl treat made of salmon. And penguins, mushroom trees and even what appears to be an edible candle add a storied touch to a table fit for fables. (Interestingly enough, the assumed table never actually appears, giving the treats an out-of-context sense of enchantment.) 

The thinking behind this idea was to "make Christmas magical," creative director Chris Hodgkiss of RKCR/Y&R tells AdFreak. The "Adventures in …" concept, which has been running for over a year, is about "showing the breadth and wonder of the food on offer at M&S Foodhalls," Hodgkiss adds. 

In the case of "Adventures in Surprises," the idea was drawn from "M&S Christmas products which have little surprises within, like the penguin cake with the penguin face hidden inside and the salmon mousse 'pearls,' " says Hodgkiss. 

The igloo-shaped penguin cake, and a shot of the face inside, appear below:

Like previous ads in the series, Clean Bandit's "Rather Be" track is used as background music, but was "given a special festive remix, approved and written in collaboration with the band," Hodgkiss says. 

"Customers' festive culinary experience is no longer focused on just the Christmas Day feast," adds Marks & Spencer head of brand and marketing Nathan Ansell. "'Adventures in Christmas' reflects our desire to inject more gourmet inspiration into the season's calendar." 

Six videos will appear over the course of the season, the last of which will be released on Dec. 29. National press, radio and digital out-of-home will support the TV ad, according to account director Leigh Roberts of RKCR/Y&R. 

Below is a video of how the penguin cake was made, but you can find other handy videos—like how to wrap an awkwardly shaped Christmas presentdecorate your tree, or even bake edible gifts—on the M&S YouTube channel. 

What good would an ad like this do if you couldn't replicate the experience at home?


Client: Nathan Ansell, head of brand and marketing, Marks & Spencer

Executive Creative Director: Mark Roalfe

Creative Directors: Pip Bishop, Chris Hodgkiss

Account Director: Leigh Roberts

Agency Producer: Alex Shillingford

Directors, Production Company: Michael Roulier, Philippe L'Homme @ Food Film

Producer: Francesca O'Brien @ Food Film

Editors: Bruno Herlin @ Food Film, Bruce Townend @ The Quarry

Postproduction: MPC

Sound Design: Parv & Aaron @ Wave

Typographer: Tivy Davies

Director of Photography: Michael Roulier @ Food Film

Media Planning, Buying: Mindshare

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.
Publish date: November 20, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT