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Image of a still from the 2014 John Lewis Christmas advert

Christmas? We've got that covered - 12 days of festive ads #FilmedinLDN

Date posted: 10.12.2014

The Christmas adverts from major high street retailers have become almost as much of an annual draw as the products they're selling. This year John Lewis' penguin-themed offering became an immediate classic, racking up millions of views in under 24 hours.

Never a city to be left behind, the versatile locations of London played a key role in almost every festive advert this year. Get the mince pies warmed up and the wine mulled, sit back and watch our 12 days of Christmas ads.

1.       The unmissable John Lewis ad

Notable locations: St. Paul's Cathedral, Low Hall Sports Ground in Waltham Forest, Victoria Park boating pond.

"Christmas always comes early in ad-land" explains Eddy Pearce, location manager on the ad. "But this year it was more extreme than usual." In fact, Pearce was tasked with searching for locations back in July.

The summer schedule should have provided ideal weather to reproduce the effect of a crisp winters' day. Not so: less than an hour into shooting a key sledging scene on the London/Essex borders "dramatic black clouds rolled in. The set was trashed into a porridge of soaking fake snow by tropical type downpours." Not quite the effect they were after.

One challenge Pearce faced was finding "somewhere that looked like a high street." Making this look festive in July could have been quite a challenge but, he says, "We were lucky enough to find a perfect spot and perfect hosts for the snowy shopping scene at the front of St Paul's Cathedral." For Pearce it was "one of those moments when I was truly grateful for what can be achieved in London with good planning and a positive attitude from the location owners".

Read more of Eddy Pearce's recollections (PDF)

Props man Jason Bradley told us about the technical trickery they used to help their actor interact convincingly with the CGI penguin. The secret? A couple of stuffed toys, and "lots of rods and fishing wire!" It was hands-on, with one of the most challenging moments coming when they had to make the penguin dive - a scene that saw Bradley don waders and stand in Victoria Park Boating Pond.

2.       The Kids Company one that makes you think

Shot in an empty council flat in West Hendon, this commercial shows us what really matters and asks you to give the gift of Christmas to vulnerable children.

3.       The Asda one that makes you smile

Locations: A residential street in Brent

"Kitchens are like opinions" says location manager Ben Macgregor. "Everyone has one". But this doesn't mean they could all work for the requirements of this three-week shoot. He spent a considerable amount of time searching for the perfect spot, until he found it on a tree-lined road in Brent.

"The facade and feel of the home were fundamental to the heart of the commercial," explains Macgregor, with the house being used "as a theatrical set" to maintain its cosy domestic feel.

Drafting in fake snow, generators and a 40-person crew could have proved difficult on a residential street, but Brent Film Office "showed a courageous amount of faith and gave the green light." Residents were welcoming to the crew, with many of them also agreeing to their homes being used to support the shoot and others providing much needed parking spots for the crew. As Macgregor explains, "Asda very generously donated £2000 worth of vouchers to the neighbouring houses" and "we traded good will and a plentiful supply of hors d'oeuvres for parking spaces."

And it worked, with Louise McKenna from Brent Film Office enthusiastically noting that "there hasn't been one complaint, which is fantastic!"

4.       The Silver Line one that reminds you what it's all about

Locations used: Creighton Avenue, Barnet

Shot in a private residential property on Creighton Avenue, this emotive advert encourages you to help older people this Christmas.

5.       The B&Q one that's got the power

Filmed in: Bromley, and outer space

This is surely one of the cheeriest and surreal of this year's festive offerings, and the shoot sounds like it was just as entertaining. Location manager Jacques Groenwald describes how he arranged access to the house used for the delightful Christmas lights scene:

"Me: We would like to cover your entire house in Christmas decorations

Resident: My entire house?

Me: I'm afraid so, even your garden

Resident: OK then, sounds like fun."

He concludes "I think when it comes to Christmas, people do seem to be a little more enthusiastic about things, which always helps when trying to achieve shoots like this."

6.       The Boots one that pulls at the heartstrings

Locations include: Kings Cross St Pancras, Brent, City Airport, Curzon Place Hillingdon

Charting these emotional journeys on screen made use of a number of locations across the capital. Satisfied with a smooth shoot, location manager Hugo Smith-Bingham praised the "fantastic co-operation of residents and boroughs, all of whom entered in the spirit of the whole thing and were surprisingly tolerant".

Getting the key transport locations on board also went well, with Smith-Bingham saying: "City Airport and Network Rail were absolutely brilliant as always."

7.       The Aldi one where Jools Holland turns up

Locations include: Brent, Copley Park in Lambeth and more.

With so many different Christmasses to represent, location manager Josh Yudkin had his work cut out. Luckily, London was here to help. "We shot in three houses over four days, and a couple of days in a studio. We created two set-ups per house and four in one of them."

The shoot took them to Wandsworth, Lambeth and Brent, and Yudkin praised the "fantastic" work of the Borough Film Officers.

8.       The Tescos one with all the lights

Locations include: Goodhall Street in Ealing (doubling for a street up north), streets in Brent

With over 10 different settings conjured, this advert required huge versatility from the director and the logistics had to be tightly organised. Director Guy Manwaring explains, "The tricky thing with any vignette-based concept, like the Tesco Christmas ad, is that you need as much variety as possible in the look of the various locations, but they also need to be close enough together to maximise the shoot days."

The shoot required an assortment of different set-ups, so Manwaring was relieved to be shooting in the capital. "London is probably the only place where this would be possible, and it always surprises me how many different architectural styles and settings you are able to find within a comparatively confined area."

9.       The KFC one that teaches us all to share

Locations used: Phoenix Cinema and a school in East Finchley, a house in Barnet

10.   The Samsung one that invites you round

Locations used: Sobell Leisure Centre, Holloway

For the 'Torvill and Dean' scene, the Michael Sobell Ice Rink was covered in trees and other festive paraphernalia. Location manager Humphrey Milles found it ideal: "Sobell was great, really shoot-able [as a location], with a huge car park next to the centre - and affordable."

He praised the team there, saying "the manager was a star and all the staff were incredibly enthusiastic and helpful. It was a pleasure from beginning to end".

11.   The Intu Shopping one that gets you filling up your Christmas lists

Locations: Lee Valley Leisure Complex, Edmonton

That's right! This ad might be all about what's on offer at Gateshead's INTU shopping centre, but some of it shot at Lee Valley Leisure Centre.

12.   The Waitrose one where gingerbread makes all the difference

Locations included: Rosendale School, West Dulwich

These frosty scenes were actually all shot at the height of summer.

 Location manager Algy Sloane explains how they built a convincingly seasonal set: "We covered the school and playground in snow and then stood around with t-shirts and short on. The children in the background then grabbed their fake snow balls and hurled them around creating a perfect winter setting on a beautiful summer's day."  

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