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Earlier today saw the release of the first of this year's big Christmas campaigns, with Argos's Book of Dreams.

Created by The&Partnership and directed by Traktor, the fantastic, near three-minute film steps into the fantasy world of a father who sees that his daughter has circled a drum kit in a well-thumbed copy of the Argos catalogue, and who imagines himself taking centre-stage behind the mini-kit.

I wanted it to be a track that wasn’t Christmassy, that a dad would know, because it’s his dream, after all. It had to be drum based, and it had to have an arc. 

Cue a kitchen that turns into an amazing stage setting, the thumping, iconic sound of Simple Minds' Don't You Forget About Me, an additional drummer in the shape of the young daughter, and a stage-diving teddy bear. 

The campaign was created by Danny Hunt, Ludo Thomas and Arthur Harry, Creative Creative Director and Creatives respectively at the agency and, below, they tell us the thinking behind the spot, the difficulty in finding great drummers, and how Simple Minds got the gig over a host of other artists. 

Argos – The Book of Dreams

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Above: The 2019 Argot Christmas spot, Book of Dreams.

What was the brief from the client? 

DH: We approached Argos with ‘Christmas starts with Argos’... The support within the brief talked about the time-long tradition British kids have of looking through the Argos catalogue and circling all the gifts they want.

We checked its relevance today, did a load of research and it turns out lots of people still... go through the Argos catalogue and they mark the pieces they want for Christmas.

This is such a lovely and unique insight, one that Argos totally owns. So, we checked its relevance today, did a load of research and it turns out lots of people still do it; they go through the Argos catalogue and they mark the pieces they want for Christmas. That was it; we were away with an excellent brief. Now all we had to do was turn that into a great campaign.

How long did it take to hit on this particular idea?

AH: The catalogue existed and we had the insight into how we all circled our choices as kids, so the idea came quite quickly.

LT: We played around with different titles but kept coming back to The Book of Dreams.

DH: The Book of Dreams. Now that’s a big thought. You can go anywhere, and it only has four words. We decided to put those four words on the catalogue and change its name to The Book of Dreams.

AH: Then it all became about the best way to tell the story. That’s when we spent quite a lot of time thinking.

Above: Argos's Book of Dreams.

Was Simple Minds the initial choice and why was that the right track?

DH: No, definitely not. I presented the idea to the clients with Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics and heavily caveated that we’d need time to do a proper music search. I knew I wanted it to be a track that wasn’t Christmassy, that a dad would know, because it’s his dream, after all. It had to be drum based, and it had to have an arc. Easy brief wasn’t it, lads? 

AH: No, it was a tricky business. We knew we needed a track to shoot to, not cut to, so we properly went around the houses, listening to three decades of music; 70s all the way through to the 90s.

I’m Welsh and for me it was always a straight shoot-out between Bonnie Tyler and Tom Jones.

LT: Often getting told off by Danny for not knowing who the artists were.

DH: Boys, if there’s one thing you can take from this whole thing, it’s a better playlist.

AH: We knew we needed an iconic and timeless track that everyone, from all backgrounds, could relate to, and the 80s turned out to be the sweet spot.

We knew we needed an iconic and timeless track that everyone could relate to.

LT: Big shout out to Abi Leland and Codie Childs in particular for coming in with so many options. To be honest, I’m Welsh and for me it was always a straight shoot-out between Bonnie Tyler and Tom Jones, so I was gutted when Simple Minds pipped them, but fair do’s, it’s a banger. 

AH: And I’m French, so I had to quickly come to terms with the fact Serge Gainsbourg’s swagger wasn’t going to cut it.

Above: Jim Kerr, lead singer of Simple Minds, who appears in the spot on a TV screen.

Why was Traktor the right director to take this on?

DH: We was really cautious that this campaign could easily go into cheese mode, especially if we took ourselves too seriously. I also thought we should treat it like a music promo.

LT: Traktor’s reel speaks for itself, and when we met them they just got everything we were after and more.

The casting was stressful.

AH: There was a great balance of storytelling and humour in their treatment, and they had some really big ideas about how we’d transform the house. It was an ambitious task but they knew exactly what they were doing.  

DH: They were the only ones who wanted to do everything in camera; I thought that was very cool.

Can you tell us about the casting; how long did it take to find the two leads and can they actually drum? 

AH: We always wanted our leads to be real drummers because drumming’s something you can’t fake.

DH: The casting was stressful. We gave them an impossible brief; the girl needed to look too young to drum, but she needed to drum like a dream. But the problem with that brief was that it seemed that this kid only existed in our dreams. We couldn’t find her. We cast in the UK, LA, Japan, Brazil, online… it was stressful, and we went right down to the wire.

We all just relaxed, got our phones out and started filming. It was like being at a gig!

LT: Then Captain Andy [Roberts] and First Mate Alfie [Glover-Short, producers] showed us some Instagram videos of Nandi and we knew we’d found her. She was just unreal, and even better in person. Then Omar [the dad] came in and he could also drum, and the two of them just clicked. They looked great together and had wicked chemistry.

AH: We all just relaxed, got our phones out and started filming. It was like being at a gig!

Click image to enlarge
Above: Father and daughter take to the drums.

It has a sort of John Lewis approach (great music and focus on a singular product); was that something you/the client purposefully aimed for?

DH: I wouldn’t say being single minded and having a great track is a ‘John Lewis approach’, but it is a good ad approach. I didn’t want to show every product they sell like they have done in previous years. I felt this would hamstring our creativity, plus everyone knows Argos sells lots of stuff, we don’t need to tell them that. What we needed to do was make them feel something for the brand.

Argos has had some great Christmas spots in the last few years; how hard it is now to keep up that standard?

LT: We really liked the Fool ad last year. It was something different and made us laugh, and it’s always good to be aware of what’s come before; previous Argos ads were never the benchmark, for us it was always about trying to make the best ad possible.

Argos – Argos: The Christmas Fool

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Above: Argos's Christmas spots from 2018.

Additionally, how hard is it to stand out in such a crowded Christmas marketplace? 

 DH: It’s incredibly difficult, which is why it can’t just be a film; well not if you’re a challenger brand like us, with a limited budget. That’s why the activation was massively important. The fact we launched the idea socially and the website has already had 9 million views in its first week, before we’ve even launched the film, it’s something that can only stand us in good stead.

What was the most challenging thing about this campaign?

LT: Saying goodbye to Bonnie Tyler. Heartbreaking.

AH: Getting a teddy bear to realistically crowd surf… and the ‘patisserie’ on the shoot.

DH: Ha! Fuck off, Bonnie. Recreating the Simple Minds sound was mega tough. Hats off to Munzie [Thind] at GCRS, and Leyland Music.

Apart from a set of drums, what are you hoping to get for Christmas? 

DH: A day off without Arthur and Ludo messaging me.

LT: Two red Power Ranger suits from the 1999 Book Of Dreams.

AH: Why two suits?

DH: Because you and Danny can’t both fit into one, Arthur.

If you want to explore your own Book of Dreams and delve into Argos catalogues from years past, click here.

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