Elves ignore Santa in TUI’s first festive spot

The feel good campaign, created by Leo Burnett, celebrates the joy of escapism.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


What do elves do when they have finished their Christmas duties? They jump on a plane and go on holiday. 

TUI, the global travel and leisure company, has launched its first ever Christmas ad campaign starring a group of festive elves putting their feet up after the festive juggle. 

Created in partnership with Leo Burnett, the advert first aired during prime-time TV slots on ITV Breakfast.

The spot’s festive timing marks a shift in approach from TUI which traditionally kicks off its marketing in the new year to coincide with the annual rush to book a summer holiday. 

The short film tells what the brand describes as ‘one of the greatest untold Christmas Stories’. Namely what happens to the Elves after Father Christmas flies off to begin his deliveries.

After months of preparing for the big day, a group of elves are seen standing by a window emotionally waving goodbye to Santa on his sleigh. As the boss leaves to complete his deliveries, the play button is hit by a fellow elf in a Hawaiian shirt and the famous Ricky Martin soundtrack is played, Livin' La Vida Loca. 

The elves’ next chapter begins when they board a TUI flight and are whizzed off on a two-week, sun-soaked fun holiday with the whole gang. The spot brings to life the universal joy of ignoring a call from your boss when you are on holiday, even if that boss happens to be Santa. Thus tying into the brand’s promise to ‘Live Happy’

In addition to the festive film, the elves will be taking over TUI’s social channels during the festive period as they share ‘holiday elfies’ from their trip. There will also be a competition on TUI’s social channels to give away 12 TUI holidays to lucky winners, and there will be an ‘Elfie AR Filter’ available to use across Instagram and Facebook.   

Sara Ali, Director of Brand and Content at TUI UK&I, explained: “Shaking up the yearly offering of Christmas cliches, our first Christmas campaign celebrates the feeling of downing tools and soaking up some much needed ‘me-time’.”

She continued: “We are always looking for different ways to engage with our audience as part of our Live Happy promise, so we’re very excited to spread some festive cheer this year. During what can be a particularly busy but special time of year for many, it’s a time to start dreaming of their next adventure to enjoy with family and friends, creating their own life enriching moments together.”   

Award winning London based model-maker, Andy Gent from Arch Model Studio, created each of the ten bespoke puppet elves. With over 25 years of experience in puppet making, set building and character creation, he has an extensive credit list including Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’, ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, ‘The Grand Hotel Budapest’ and Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’.

Director Alex Boutell from Rogue Films brought the shoot to life on the ground.     

Chaka Sobhani, Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett UK and Global, added: “We all know how hard Santa works but what about all his little helpers? Surely they deserve a well-earned TUI holiday for all their efforts! This is the first ever Christmas ad for TUI and we wanted to make sure the joy and happiness we all feel on our holidays was reflected in our elves' adventure as they head for the sun with TUI, relax by the pool, enjoy a massage and even find love. As we enter the cold winter months, we hope this campaign gives us something to look forward to and plan for the summer.”   

For consumers looking for a reason to book early, the elves are a festive reminder of the joy of a getaway. 

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Christmas Travel