As Asda brings Elf to their TV ads, Born Licensing’s David Born discusses the complexity of making it happen

David Born on bringing Buddy the Elf to Asda ads… And seasonal joy to TV viewers everywhere!

Welcome back, David. You came to mind when Asda unveiled its new Christmas ad… It features Will Ferrell as Buddy from the film Elf! First of all: kudos! Brilliant execution!
Thank you! We’re so thrilled with how this has been received! It’s everywhere, and the general consensus is that it’s going to take the prize for best Christmas advert of 2022.

How did it come about?
The campaign was developed by Asda’s talented advertising agency, Havas. Many months ago, they came up with the idea of incorporating Buddy the Elf – from the movie Elf – into the creative…

Other than the fact that he’s associated – very nostalgically – with Christmas, was there a particular reason they went in that direction?
I think they identified that Buddy is very similar to Asda’s brand values – “Wonderfully positive, sees the joy in everything, really funny and big and green” as Vicki Maguire, Chief Creative Officer at Havas put it. And we’d discussed licensing IP with Havas for years, so naturally they called on us to help.

So you teamed up with Havas, who are teamed with Asda… Who else is involved?
As you can see in the campaign, they’ve rotoscoped Buddy out of the original Elf film and cleverly placed him in new scenes shot at an Asda store. In order to be able to do that, they not only needed to license the IP but also had to get permission from Will Ferrell.

David Born, Born Licensing, Elf
Oh, is that right?! So it’s not just the IP? The actor needed to sign it off?

Exactly right. Born Licensing managed the IP licensing with the team at Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products. Meanwhile, our friends at Talent Republic worked with Will Ferrell’s team.

And the rotoscoping itself?
Framestore did all the incredible post production work. They’ve seamlessly integrated the Elf footage into the campaign material. The incredible Director was Danny Kleinman of Rattling Stick.

It’s come together incredibly well; no wonder it’s striking a chord with people.
There’s a short ‘Behind the scenes video’ on YouTube if you’d like a look at how it all came together…

Fantastic! I’ll put a link in to that; I imagine that’s fascinating. For those unaccustomed to using fictional characters in advertising, what’s the process, generally speaking?
Each campaign is different and the use of fictional characters can vary greatly depending on the creative idea. Licensors also have different ways of working, and can sometimes have different processes for different IP. The campaigns we’ve worked on which involved licensing characters for advertisers such as Direct Line, Moneysupermarket, British Airways, GEICO, Barclaycard, Old Navy, Google and many others were all very different from each other…

And different from the Elf campaign with Asda?!
Absolutely! Generally, though, it’s about ensuring the characters are being used in an authentic way, and aren’t doing anything that would be damaging to the IP. It’s also important that the timing for development is feasible, and that the proposed usage terms are agreeable.

I must say, David, as soon as Buddy the Elf flashed on screen, I imagined you must have been in the mix. What else have you been working on?
We’ve also played a part in Tesco’s Christmas campaign this year. That’s just been named Ad of the Day by Campaign UK. In a mission to remedy Britain’s ‘joy shortage’, they deliver a special broadcast with a manifesto that includes a referendum to see if Love Actually is the greatest Christmas film. We managed the licensing of Love Actually.

David Born, Born Licensing, Elf
Terrific! I’ll look that up… And what’s next for you?

We have a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline, as always. Stay tuned for some more great campaigns going live over the coming months. I’m also gearing up for a busy 2023, where I’ll be spending a lot of time in the US engaging with advertising agencies and raising the profile of licensing IP in the advertising space.

Our goal is to strengthen our position of being the best at what we do and build on the success we’ve already had in the US, working on advertising projects like Envestnet’s fun new campaign starring Mr. Krabs; GEICO’s Angry Birds campaign and Uber’s Halloween campaign with SpongeBob, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Scooby-Doo.

Brilliant. Thank you David. Always a pleasure to hear what you’re up to; please come back and let us know how you’re getting on.

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