Paddington Bear to star in Marks and Spencer's Christmas advert
Christmas cheer will be spread by Britain's favourite bear with Paddington set to star in Marks & Spencer's (M&S) latest festive advert.
The advert's airing comes at a difficult time for the retailer which is poised to release another set of grim figures when it reports for the half year on Wednesday.
Taking four months to create, the 90-second ad called Paddington and the Christmas Visitor, will see the animated movie version of the duffle-coat-wearing bear inadvertently save Christmas for his neighbours.
Mistaking a bearded burglar wearing a red coat and red stocking on his head for Santa, Paddington assists him in returning all of the pinched presents back to where they belong.
Scoffing the odd mince pie along the way, he innocently helps the thief embrace the true spirit of festive period and recognise the error of his ways.
M&S's global brand and marketing director, Rob Weston, said they wanted an ad that appealed to the whole family and that was "fun" after a year packed with "lots of unsettling news".
"People are looking forward to escaping into the Christmas bubble, and our aim is to provide you with a story that is charming and leaves you feeling good at the end," he said.
Describing the partnership, Mr Weston said the marmalade-loving bear from Peru is a "much-loved British icon", adding: "There are few things more British than Paddington and M&S."
The retail giant partnered with StudioCanal to bring to life this year's offering ahead of the release of the latest film, Paddington 2 on November 10.
Created by Grey London, the ad features Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington, and also sees a cameo-appearance by veteran newsreader Angela Rippon.
Declining to comment on the cost of the ad, Mr Weston said it is "down on last year", and described the release of retailers' Christmas campaigns as "UK advertising's Super Bowl time", in which you "have to stand out from the crowd".
M&S chief executive Steve Rowe is overseeing an overhaul of the group's strategy that involves closing under-performing stores and cutting back on clothing while boosting its food arm.
Mr Rowe has also been rocked in recent weeks by the departure of Jo Jenkins, a senior member of its troubled clothing division, just weeks after she started a new role.
To compound matters, retailers across the board have been stung by rising costs and falling consumer confidence as Brexit fuelled inflation hits the sector hard.
M&S has already warned of tough conditions on the high street and the results will also be the first under new chairman Archie Norman.
Despite this, as part of the campaign and in a first for M&S, around 200,000 copies of a limited edition children's storybook which tells the tale of the Christmas ad will be published.
All profits raised through sales of the illustrated book, written by Timothy Knapman, will be donated to the NSPCC to help fund Childline over the festive period, the retailer said.
With Paddington set to appear in every store window, M&S will also be selling more than 90 Paddington-themed products including children's blue duffle coats, marmalade and cuddly toys.
Using #LoveTheBear across all their social media platforms, as well as Facebook-friendly versions of the ad, Mr Weston said it is "by far our most digital campaign to date".
With the hotly-anticipated Christmas ad from John Lewis yet to be unveiled, Mr Weston said they are confident their offering will win the race between the retail giants.
:: Paddington and the Christmas Visitor will be televised in full during the Pride of Britain awards on ITV on November 7.