Still from CANAL+'s holiday TV spot
Tis the season when big advertisers roll out “emotional” commercials to try and guilt you into buying your loved ones shit they don’t need. Many people call this “the most wonderful time of the year.” You and I do not.
Despite my seat at the opposite end of the seasonal cheer pendulum, my job requires me to sit through every single one of these big Christmas ads. Since October I’ve suffered through this soulless parade of animated animals and fake home movies and supermodels and Helena Fucking Bonham Carter—and I feel anything but merry after watching these spots designed to get us into the (shopping) spirit. I can’t wait for December 26.
Thankfully this year, there are a few holiday ads—four to be exact—that treat consumers like sentient beings and eschew the hackneyed faux feel-good hooey. Here they are, in creative countdown order.
Fictional spokespeople are always a risky ad strategy, because the public might just hate the living fuck out of him/her (see Burger King’s “Herb” and for me, personally, Progressive’s “Flo”).
But I like this “Ukrainian,” this “Moxkat Grvida.” The theme here—gift yourself; fuck everybody else—is not a breakthrough idea (see Harvey Nichols, #3, below). Yet this strategy fits the product perfectly, and I love perfect-fitting strategies. I’m an old school Mad Man dinosaur. Too many of today’s campaigns are focused solely on getting the most “eyeballs” possible—damn the strategy, full speed ahead. These campaigns are not building the brand, and will not be remembered three months from now. They are metrics worshipping dead ends.
Back to Moxkat and Roku. Why he has a trampoline is a bit of a puzzle. Maybe he self-gifted it to himself? In one of the shorter secondary ads, Moxkat reveals some of his favorite movies, a predictable list. In another, he bemoans the year he got cargo pants instead of a hunting rifle. This has nothing to do with Roku, but who cares.
This is the only campaign of the four in this list that appears only online, meaning it probably won’t hit as many of those precious eyeballs as the other three. I don’t know how many Rokus it will sell, nor do I give a shit. It put me in the right frame of mind for December, that being, this consumerist-driven world is a fucked up hellhole. Good job, Roku.
(Note: I have a Roku, and recommend it.)
Ad agency: Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners.
3. Harvey Nichols
The UK luxury department store chain usually avoids seasonal mushiness in their Christmas spots. In 2011, they received a sleigh-full of complaints for their holiday party “Walk Of Shame” commercial, an ad that nonetheless won a Silver Lion at Cannes.
This year, they went with this “Sorry I Spent It On Myself” campaign. The TV spot is good enough by itself, but they went all in with the selfish “fuck seasonal generosity” strategy. You can actually buy the shitty gifts featured in the commercial, online and in stores.
Ad agency: adam&eve/DDB London.
2. Aldi supermarkets
Discount market Aldi has smartly played on its low prices via a long running, economical but funny TV campaign tagged “Like Brands, Only Cheaper.” (Here are two of my past favorites, “Gin” and the darkly funny “Tea” spot, which also involves gin.)
This Christmas, they spent a few more pounds on production and a hot male model. Note: Aldi’s cheap champagne even won a recent taste test against Moet and Veuve Clicquot.
Ad agency: McCann Manchester.
And here’s the clear winner, via French pay TV channel CANAL+. If Sarah Palin happens to see it, she will need to helicopter-murder a wolf pack to properly vent.
CANAL+ and their ad agency BETC Paris have a history of creating entertaining TV spots, including “The Bear” and my favorite, “The Closest.” This reimagining of the Bethlehem Nativity scene was shot in Morocco, and directed by the Glue Society’s Gary Freedman. Bravo.
So the takeaway this season is that instead of buying your loved ones a fancy new iProduct with planned obsolescence, buy yourself something nice and to hell with everyone else. God is dead and Jesus is a CANAL+ subscription now anyway