I never really liked the holidays, I’m not going to lie. Working at a grocery store in my teens meant angry shoppers fighting over the last frozen turkey, hearing the grocery store’s grainy loudspeaker belt out Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” several hundred times per day, and of course, snow. None of this was my jam.
But now that I’m older, the holidays represent some new fun traditions. Putting up our tree, visiting family, and preparing myself for the barrage of holiday-themed advertising that will come at me from every possible angle. That last one may not seem like the most enjoyable part of this cold, wintery season, but every now and then a brand or two gets it right. And that’s what I want to talk about today.
Before we bust out the mistletoe, let’s take a moment to appreciate a few examples of holiday videos that are guaranteed to fill you with cheer. Or at least, make you laugh:
H&M’s Come Together
I’m starting with this one for purely selfish reasons. Wes Anderson is one of my favorite directors, and I think this short film is spot-on holiday advertising. It follows the most basic story arc — conflict, action, resolution — but it does so with classic Anderson deadpan delivery, and stylish elements baked into every scene. H&M doesn’t try to sell clothes in this video, unless you count the clothes that everyone is wearing. They created a video that embraces their take on the holidays, and used a well-recognized actor-director combo to seal the deal.
While most brands can’t necessarily afford Adrian Brody, Wes Anderson, or a set decorated like a 1970s transcontinental train, the stylistic elements in this video are easy to apply. Sungard designed a series of videos last year around holiday survival that feature a similar style and sense of humor – and reaped some festive holiday results too.
Temptations’ Keep Them Busy
Having spent a lifetime with cats — my parents’ house was overrun with four of them for my entire childhood, and I own one myself — this video struck home for me. Cats, despite their loving and gentle nature, are destructive machines around the holidays. Remember the scene from Christmas Vacation where the Griswold grandmother’s cat plays a pivotal role in destroying Christmas? This stuff actually happens. Unless, of course, you can keep your cat occupied over the holidays.
This video does a great job setting the scene, with a laboratory-style room filled with all manner of holiday staples — decorated trees, festive holiday train sets, and tables set with Christmas dinner. Then the green lights come on, and dozens of cats come pouring out to wreak their havoc upon the holidays.
At least, until someone shakes a bag of Temptations, and then it’s all over. An excellent video playing on the humor (and frustration) that any cat owner feels around the holidays when they arrive at home to find their perfectly-decorated tree is now horizontal. But hey, if you had Temptations, maybe not?
Apple’s Frankie’s Holiday
Let’s change tack away from humor and style, and focus more on the more heartwarming aspects of the holidays. For Apple’s holiday video, they chose to tackle some of the unfortunate sentiments bubbling within North America about immigration and outsiders. While Frankenstein is not typically a holiday story, Apple sees him emerge from his mountaintop home and venture into town, hoping that by spreading some holiday cheer he can gain some acceptance from the locals and ultimately cure some of his loneliness. With sparkling bulbs sticking out of the sockets in his neck, he tries to sing “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”, but is met with animosity from the townspeople as one of his bulbs depressingly burns out.
A blush-faced child from the audience steps up to help fix it, and joins him in singing his carols before the rest of the townsfolk come on board and sing along as well. It’s a cheesy but powerful message about inclusiveness and opening your heart to everyone around the holidays, and one that will hopefully not fall on deaf ears.
While not a holiday ad, Amazon took a less metaphorical stance on the same issue with their video A Priest and an Imam Meet for a Cup of Tea.
Mercedes Benz’s Snow Date
We’ve talked about car commercials here in the past, and I am always excited to see car brands that make engaging videos rather than simply showing their cars driving on a closed course, and spewing features and pricing options that don’t mean anything (to me, at least). For this year’s holiday video, Mercedes Benz chose not to tackle any holiday traditions, but instead to look at the sometimes unfortunate aspect of being a kid during winter — isolation.
The star of this video simply wants to make sure he’s on time for his wintery date, and hopes that the young lady he’s planning to meet can brave the storm to be there as well. As a kid who grew up pretty far away from the closest movie theatre, this sentiment hits home for me. Especially on those wintery nights when all you want to do is get out of the house. Mercedes Benz steers towards a predictable ending — 4MATIC all-wheel drive saves the day — but it’s still an endearing video that thankfully features few holiday frills. Just a realistic situation and a happy outcome that anyone who lives in a wintery climate can relate to.
John Lewis’ #BusterTheBoxer
No list of great holiday content from 2016 can respectfully call itself complete without this video. At 21 million views on YouTube, it’s seen more play time than all of the other videos in this post combined, and for good reason. It’s hilarious, the protagonist is adorable, and the ending is top-notch.
Buster the boxer wants nothing more than to bounce like nobody is watching. From seeing his human jump freely on her bed to watching forlornly as all manner of woodland creature bounce on the newly-erected trampoline without him. So when opportunity strikes, and his human is running full-bore towards her new holiday gift, Buster makes his move. The last 30 seconds are a beautiful montage of canine happiness juxtaposed against human shock, awe, and disappointment.
And it ends with a simple message from John Lewis: gifts everyone can enjoy. Much like the videos we’ve featured in this post!
So now I’m curious – these are my favorite videos from the 2016 holiday season. What are yours?