Food Is the Bridge Between Cultures for a Young Refugee in This Heartwarming Grocery Ad

Dutch spot shows how meals define our shared experiences

Ismail's first friend in The Netherlands introduces him to the country's traditional foods—with mixed responses. - Credit by JWT Amsterdam
Headshot of David Griner

When your life gets relocated, especially as a child, simple daily aspects of culture like meals and snacks can be daunting obstacles that make you feel isolated in your new surroundings.

For refugees who undergo the terror and chaos of escaping war and seeking asylum, such barriers can be even more dispiriting and make it hard to ever feel like you’re truly home.

A new ad for Dutch grocer Plus Supermarkets from agency JWT Amsterdam builds a story around this premise, showing how a young Syrian boy named Ismail adapts to his new life in The Netherlands. While schoolyard soccer comes easy, everything else is a new experience. But soon Ismail is building a bond of friendship with another young boy, and food is often the catalyst:

Director Ismael ten Heuvel—who worked with the brand and agency on their emotional Christmas ad about a child of divorced parents—connected with the ad so personally, he named the protagonist after himself. In the spot, we watch as Ismail is exposed to Dutch delicacies like pickled herring with raw onion, toasted ham and cheese (minus the ham), and a deep-fried meat snack called bitterbal.

The ad’s moments are realistic and relatable, avoiding melodrama in favor of simple and subtle moments where his expressions tell the story of a boy learning about the food his new friends have grown up with. And in a particularly lovely moment, we see the roles reversed as Ismail’s friend Lucas visits his home to try Middle Eastern cuisine.

“Food and culture are intrinsically linked,” says Bas Korsten, creative partner at JWT Amsterdam.
“And more than that, food has the power to bring people together. Even when they can’t speak the same language. This was what we wanted to portray in a genuine and thoughtful way with our new film for Plus Supermarkets.”

Agency: J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam
Creative Partner: Bas Korsten
Creative Lead: Chris Sant, Dieuwer Bulthuis
Business Lead: Budi Gonzalez de Chaves
Strategy Lead: Daan de Raaf
Concept Producer: Charlene Thomas
Screen Producer: Marloes van den Berg, Kirsten van den Berg

Client: Plus Supermarkets
Manager Marketing and Communication: Bas Snetselaar
Communication Manager: Esmee Blom, Cecile van den Heuvel

Production Company: Pink Rabbit
Director: Ismael ten Heuvel
Producer: Monique van Beckhoven

Music: Amp.Amsterdam – featuring Andrew Simple
Creative Director: Diederik van Middelkoop
Producer: Bart van Liemt

Sound: Studio Alfred Klaassen
Producer: Jacco Lenstra and Hans van de Loo

Don’t miss Brandweek, coming up September 23-25 in Palm Springs. No panels, no sales pitches—just three days of interactive discussion, problem-solving, entertainment and networking. Learn more here.

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."
Publish date: August 22, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT