Following the launch of our Christmas ads for Vodafone and Boots, we caught up with O&M London’s Chief Creative Officer, Mick Mahoney, to find out how he makes us feel all Christmassy.

When do you start making a Christmas ad?

For clients, Christmas is hugely important so there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on both them and us which means we must plan ahead. We started making our Christmas ads for Boots and Vodafone in the summer.

The challenge with this is imagining how you’ll feel at Christmas when you’re making the ad in August. Generally, people’s emotions shift in late November once Christmas films start to be shown on TV and the Christmas lights go up in city centres. This tends to be when people start to shift into a Christmas headspace.

How do you create that festive feeling?

Most of the year is spent thinking about travel or tech or numerous other things. At Christmas, the only things that matter are family and love – these are the eternal themes of Christmas. If you’re making an ad and you don’t play on these, you’re missing the point in my opinion. You need to be emotive.

How long does it take to shoot the Christmas ads?

We shot Vodafone’s A Christmas Love Story in one go across five days of filming in Glasgow. Although there’s not a set or ‘normal’ amount of time that it takes to shoot any ad. The Boots ad, which is a 60 second spot, was shot over four days.

You’ve also got to remember there’s a lot of post-production that goes into the ads. As we were shooting in the summer, we need to make sure it looks like winter. With Vodafone, part of the ad was shot on the beach, but as we were filming in August there were green leaves on the trees for example. So this was one of the things we needed to change in post-production, as well as adding things like snow to the scene to transform it into a winter landscape.

You’ve also got to think about things like how the weather affects the way a body will look. In the winter, the cold causes our skin to tighten whereas you don’t get this same look in the heat. So, when we shot the scene in the Vodafone ad at a train station, we filmed at night as it was colder which made sure the actors looked cold.

Tell us a bit about the magic behind the music. How do you choose a soundtrack?

Choosing the soundtrack for Boots was the most challenging. We covered over 1,000 tracks before we settled on the final. We then re-recorded the original song with a full orchestra for added effect. In fact, it’s actually being re-released.

As Vodafone is very dialogue-heavy we chose to use film score. We had an original, bespoke piece created especially for the ad.

Any secrets about our Christmas ads that you're willing to share?

In the UK, Christmas ad spend is equivalent to that of the Superbowl in the US. When making a Christmas ad, you have to do something people will connect with and talk about – it has to be something that will capture hearts and minds. With Vodafone, we went with a classic love story. In fact, when our writer a big northern guy from Leeds was reading it out for the first time, his eyes started to gloss over. At that moment, I knew it was right.

Casting is also everything. In fact, the women in the Boots ad are real sisters so their chemistry and connection is completely genuine!


Take a look at our Christmas ad for Boots, #ShowThemYouKnowThem, here.

Watch our Christmas ad for Vodafone, A Christmas Love Story, here.