60-second Christmas advert is a collaboration between Karmarama, Gary Freedman and Absolute

Lidl’s 2021 Christmas campaign, ‘Always’, teleports cast members into future decades in an unambiguous, humorously executed, perpetual promise from the retailer; they will always be Lidl on price.

Devised by Karmarama, the spot is directed by Gary Freedman through Independent films. As the cast propel forward into future festive fantasies, the performance, script, and costume of each actor gets a space-age overhaul for the relevant decade. Uncle Gary goes from living in Spain, to the moon, to FOREVER and the turkey is cut by knife, then laser, then hologram machine. Meanwhile Oggy the dog goes from begging for a pig in blanket, to using a speech generating device, to mentally manifesting fot it – even though he’s since ‘gone vegan’.

Absolute were tasked with bringing the gift of VFX to 30 shots for the 60” edit, inspired initially by references such as ‘Back To The Future’,‘Fifth Element’ and ‘Beyond 2000’. “Christmas ads in the UK are a bit like Super Bowl ads,” says Absolute’s Creative Director, Jonas McQuiggin. “They’re competitive, awash with spectacle and full of anticipation. So, when the opportunity to join in came down our chimney, we couldn’t say no – especially when the script was loaded with comedy, VFX and, most importantly, Christmas dinner. With three assets to build across three renditions, the success of the execution was always going to be in the details. From initial concepting, to 3D modelling and 2D comping, our aim was cohesive: to fill the frame in a clever and humourous way. Working closely with Gary helped to ensure that the comedic timings of the VFX landed perfectly.”

A conventional holiday with an unconventional, targeted approach, Absolute’s CG Supervisor, Matt Burn, explains that the Yuletide spot is full of visual Easter eggs. “We dug deep into our stockings and pulled out a feast of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 3D treats, magic and goodies. From initial concept art to final in-shot realisation, we worked up a series of futuristic gadgets and appliances. Our team of talented CG artists were able to really explore and experiment, resulting in some lovely moments of the futurity of technology that we’re all really proud of.”

2D Lead, Chris Tobin, agrees: “The biggest challenge was the scale of detail required to emphasise the passing of time – nearly every shot needed something redesigned and composited. But Gary was super supportive of allowing us to explore different avenues, which is such a rewarding place to be creatively.”

“It was a major undertaking,” Jonas concludes. “But the collaboration between client, agency and production was nothing short of epic. What made it even better was that immediate chuckle at the first WIP… that’s always a good sign that you’re doing something right.”

Tanya Combrinck
Author: Tanya Combrinck

Tanya is a writer covering art, design, and visual effects. She has 15 years of experience as a magazine journalist and has written for publications including 3D World, 3D Artist, Computer Arts, net magazine, and Creative Bloq.