Christmas and food is rich territory for playful creatives. Tis the season to go bonkers with festive dishes, ingredients, and dining occasions.
This year, Aldi launched a Pigs in Blankets Café, as covered in this column by Gavin Lewis a couple of weeks ago. Deliveroo has just dropped its Christmas Sproutwich. A high-end sandwich packed with bacon, Emmental, roasted sprout halves and fried sprout shavings in an ‘artisan sprout infused focaccia’. Meanwhile, Ikea has gone balls out, literally with its giant turkey meatball. Yum.
In recent years Subway unleashed 6ft pigs in blankets sandwich; Heinz created the Christmas dinner soup; Wembley Park dished up Christmas dinner ice cream to shoppers and the list really does go on and on. And way back in 2010, my agency Cow created the Sprout Whopper for Burger King. ‘Always there first’ sniffed Cow gaffer Sian Morgan when she saw The Sproutwich. Meeow.
I can’t help but feel that I helped spawn a monster with the trend for wacky Christmas confections with one of my own efforts of Christmases past. This week saw the 10th anniversary of GAME’s Christmas Tinner. Ten years on and I’m still talking about it (sorry Pete).
As this is the season to be jolly, and one tries, there was one Christmas brand collaboration that really has caught the eye, simply because it’s been unavoidable in the news.
That’s’ because Newcastle’s two culinary giants, from opposite ends of the spectrum, have converged to create a ‘Parisian bistro’ experience for Christmas shoppers. The emphasis of the food offering here is more on fine-dining craft that Christmas crazy.
Fenwick’s department store has been a fixture in Newcastle since 1882. Swish. Posh. Upmarket. Then there’s Greggs, which has gone on to become the closest thing Britain has to a fast-food national treasure. Now they’ve come together for a whole month in Fenwick’s restaurant to create Bistro Greggs.
The menu is a blend of fancy bistro classics and Greggs much-loved staples. Greggs Benedict for example sees poached eggs and ham served with hollandaise sauce on top of a Greggs sausage, bean and cheese melt. And it looks excellent.
Bistro Greggs borrows other fetishes and touches from upmarket eateries, such as a ‘Press for Steak Bake’ button at every table - a nod to Soho’s flash Bob Bob Ricard and its famous ‘Press For Champagne’ button (I recently had a disastrous first date there and she pressed the button almost compulsively, perhaps reflecting the predicament she found herself in.)
The Guardian purred: “The detail in the pop-up is impressive, from the Fenwick green banquettes to the Greggs blue cushions, to the toile de jouy wallpaper that includes images of the Angel of the North, the Tyne Bridge and pigeons eyeing up a Greggs sausage roll”.
When Jan Moir, the often acidic and acerbic Daily Mail columnist who spends most of her waking hours sinking her claws into Meghan and Harry, goes out of her way (to Newcastle) to write a glowing double-page spread you know you’ve got a big hit.
Fabulous as Bistro Greggs is, is it my favourite ever Greggs Christmas campaign? No. I’m still a fanboy of the Greggs advent calendar from 2017.
Sadly, it became notorious after the first tsunami of coverage hit, as observant Christians noticed that in a nativity scene the baby Jesus, our Lord and saviour, had been replaced in his manger by a Greggs sausage roll. The Evangelicals were not amused. At the time, the lead creative behind the calendar (hello again, Pete!) described the backlash to this honest oversight to me as ‘the worst 24 hours of my life’. And that’s probably why you won’t find any heavy Christmas, let alone nativity, references at Bistro Greggs.
All those mince pies, pigs in blankets, giant turkey meatballs, Christmas Sproutwiches and Greggs Benedicts means that you may be thinking about a diet for the New Year. If you are not, PR-land almost certainly is.
We close with one PR agency that got off the front foot – and most certainly too hastily - with a piece of ‘research’ (which I use in the loosest possible terms) that only came to light thanks to an appalled New Scientist journalist
A PR firm has just sent me a list of the "best countries to move to, to lose weight", because they have lowest national BMI, and their number one country is Ethiopia— Clare Wilson (@ClareWilsonMed) December 6, 2023
Ethiopia. There’s a neat symmetry given the connection between Ethiopia, Christmas, and food (or, historically, the lack of).
Occasionally, there are stories signed could not imagine even as a piece of satire. The only thing this press release was missing was the headline ‘Let them Know It’s Christmas Time’ and a quote from Bob Geldolf.
Merry Christmas, one and all.
This week's PR Stunt Watch was written by Mark Perkins, executive creative director at creative comms agency Cow.
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