ASDA put out an ad during lockdown that I’d like to talk about. Here it is:

40 seconds of your life that you’re never getting back. And that’s if you’re merciful and only watch it once.

I must have watched this over 50 times. And each time, it makes me cringe harder than the last. I hold it wholly accountable for my skyrocketing blood pressure; it’s just so bad.

I’ve held off from talking about it for a while as an act of self-preservation. But I think it’s finally time to break the seal on this historical record and to hold humanity to account for what it has unleashed.

First of all, the very idea of the ad sucks

So the premise is that this is a fan-made video. Our protagonist, Sunny, is just some ASDA mega-fan who’s recording an advert for ASDA because he loves it so much.

But it’s transparently not that. This is not a fan-made video, and that is not a fan. This is an advert, and that is an actor. It’s hosted on ASDA’s own channels. Nothing about this seems authentic whatsoever, and ASDA hasn’t even tried to make it seem so. So there’s a staggering gulf between what the advert claims to be and what it plainly is. And this chasm is the cause of the dissonance you experience when watching the ad. It’s what makes you ask, “just what the hell is this?”

“Our superfan Sunny has created his very own Asda commercial, and we were so impressed we decided to run it.” NO, HE HASN’T AND NO, YOU DIDN’T.

The thing is, there’s probably some actual real ASDA mega-fans out there. There’s probably some niche TikTok community posting daily #ASDAprice vlogs and setting each other challenges. In all likelihood, someone is trying to visit every ASDA in the country and document their experience. Go and film THEM, not this goon. As I’ve said before, brands make bad content so look to your users instead.

So even before we get to a single second into the ad, this thing is already a mess. But I suppose we probably should talk about the content itself.

I’m not a copywriter, but I know bad writing

I don’t know how to write an advert. Nor do I know anything about ASDA’s target audience or its messaging strategy. But what is this writing?!

The general form of an advert – as I understand it – is that of a value proposition. “50% off sausages” is an advert that tells you that you can get cheaper sausages. In modern advertising, this takes a pretty standardised structure of “At A, we know B, and that’s why we’re C, and that’s D!”

Example: At ASDA, we know that family comes first. That’s why this Christmas, we’re price-matching all our Christmas platters so you can have everyone round for less. That’s ASDA price.

Sure, ASDA have deliberately eschewed the traditional advert format for something more akin to an influencer vlog. But even that’s not done consistently. It starts –

Hello ASDA!
This is the ad you should be making!

So pretty clear: this is a self-shot video by Sonny, who thinks he can make a better ad than ASDA. What happens next? His neighbour appears across the street and waves and him. BUT HOLD ON A SECOND. Assuming that the 180 rule holds, this would be the opposite side of the street. And yet it’s happening at the same time at the primary shot? Is Sonny operating a two-camera set up here? Why is he filming that side of the street?

Just making an advert, Christine!

Moreover, why keep this in? It feels like a blooper. Like his neighbour wasn’t meant to interrupt the shot. This isn’t something you’d keep in the final edit, surely. It doesn’t hold true to his premise of “I am filming a better advert for ASDA”. Instead, this exchange demonstrates Sonny making the ad, which exists at a different level of cinematic reality to the original ad. We have:

  1. Base level: the ‘ad’ that Sonny is making for ASDA
  2. Meta level: a story about a man making an ad

Which video are we watching? Are we watching Sonny’s ad? Or are we watching the story of a man making an ad? Synecdoche, New York this is not. Yet, we are somehow meant to engage with two levels of reality presented to us simultaneously and be ok with that.

Also, why does the ad so awkwardly cut away from Christine when she asks if she’s in it? Is it a meta-narrative joke that she is literally not in it from the moment she is no longer present on screen?

We’re still on 10 seconds in, by the way.

Two lines, in particular, make absolutely zero sense

On his bike (who’s filming this?), Sonny declares, “it’s time to bring ASDA price back to the people”. What does he mean by this? What could he possibly mean by this? And what could ASDA themselves, the true writers of this advert remember, mean by this?

Has ASDA price been taken away from the people? When was ASDA price not with the people? What does it mean for ASDA price to be with or not with the people? What even is “ASDA price?”

Does he mean the classic double-bum-pat thing? Because I’m pretty sure ASDA invented that for their marketing. It wasn’t a thing people were spontaneously doing that ASDA’s corporate overlords co-opted and appropriated for themselves.

Or does “ASDA price” refer to the general sense of value that shopping at ASDA brings? If so, are ASDA saying they have not been good value recently? Weird thing for them to say if so. And a weird thing for “ASDA superfan” Sonny to bring up.

And then there’s the line that melts my brain so hard I swear I can feel it coming out of my ears.

Pocket tap. Pocket tap.
It’s the pocket tap for our times.

And don’t get me started on the weird four square effect they do here. I don’t understand it. And it looks like the cheapest effect that iMovie had to offer.

Sonny from the ASDA advert in four squares at once on screen, patting his bottom


This is such a nonsensical thing to say I’m not even going to attempt to decipher it. It is physically painful to me.

The ending undermines everything

Finally, there is a weird audio effect on the video as Sonny gets a phone call. What did they film this on? My old French teacher’s cassette player? Nothing makes that sound anymore. And we get that the phone is ringing from the sound effect of the phone ringing. Bizarre choice.

Sorry mate, just filming a commercial.
(TO HIS SON) They’ll probably cut that, won’t they?

So what’s happening here? Who is the mysterious “they” they will cut the phone call out? Is Sonny not the director of this video? Or is he operating under someone else’s instructions? Is he under duress?

It’s just a weird thing to throw in. But hey, why not at this point? This video has already explored the entire conceptual space of filmmaking, so having a whole other angle to consider in the last five seconds is very much ON BRAND.

I wonder if his partner is meant to be filming this. She’s briefly seen at the start but never shows up again.

And then the video just ends with the least convincing thumbs up in history

Sonny from the ASDA advert giving a really awkward thumbs up

I know I’m overthinking this, and I’ve probably spent more time thinking about it than anyone involved with it did. But I actually think it’s important that adverts make sense.

Marketing is hard. Budget is hard to come by, and the processes that help make marketing happen often stifle creativity. But at the end, you should at least have something understandable by a human.

This ad fails at a basic level. It cannot be understood by any rational human. And so, we can only conclude that ASDA is targeting a very specific demographic of people. People who do not operate on the same plane of existence as you or I. People whose comprehension transcends base reality, with a cosmic understanding of the universe that would drive you instantly mad if you gained even a fraction of insight into it.

And that’s ASDA price!