A heartwarming Christmas advertisement made on a shoestring has catapulted Ballymena into the limelight with an unexpected internet hit.
Almost 23,000 people have viewed the ad for Ballymena since it went live just days ago.
Made for just £5,000, the festive film features a handmade linen teddy bear which falls from a parcel during delivery.
The “Ballymena Bear’s” four-minute quest to be reunited with the child for whom he was made has become a social media sensation.
Fans include television presenter Eamonn Holmes who said on Twitter: “I now draw your attention to #ballymenabear ..so cute. #NorthernIreland.”
The advert was commissioned by the Ballymena Business Improvement District (BID), a body set up by local retailers to help them cope with the impact of the recession and recent blows such as the announcmetn that Michelin is to cease tyre production after 40 year in 2018.
The film has now been viewed as far afield as Australia, Iraq and Russia.
Creative consultant Stephen Reid, 29, from Ballymena-based Grafters Designs, which shot and produced the advert, said the response was amazing.
“I can’t quite believe how many hits we have had. We have been incredibly lucky - we are at almost 23,000 in three days.”
The film tells the story of a little brown bear which falls out of a box while being couriered. He scours the shops and cafes of Ballymena to track down the little girl for whom he was made.
Eventually, the pair are reunited just in time for the Christmas lights switch-on.
Mr Reid said this year had been in stark contrast with last Christmas.
“Last year I was in the process of losing my job. This is only the second project of mine to have seen the light of day.”
A lot of work also went into ensuring the production stayed within budget.
“The van was lent to us by a friend. I had to have a cameo role as we couldn’t find a driver and my mum made the elf sleeves from scrap material.
“A lot of people gave up their time for free, gave us materials for free or just helped out for free.”
Grace Carmichael, BID project officer, said: “This is the first year we have run a co-ordinated marketing campaign which will includes the internet film, a shorter TV adand billboards and social media campaign.
“The response has just been amazing. We’re hoping it translates into more footfall for the town. We are encouraging people not to forget about Ballymena and to see that there are great things here.”