'Tis the season to be jolly, to be with family, and to let there be peace on Earth-which, lately, is a pretty big ask. Thankfully, 'tis also the season for heartwarming holiday marketing campaigns that encourage us to focus more on what connects us than what divides us.
This year, brands are focusing on the importance of human relationships, and the timing of this messaging couldn't be better. Over the past few years, heightened partisanship and controversial social movements have taken their toll on our country, our relationships, and our holiday spirit.
Granted, togetherness isn't a new theme for holiday content, but brand storytellers are laying it on particularly thick this year. There are still plenty of great Christmas ads about imagination (LEGO's "This Is Not a Brick"), thoughtful children (Hobby Lobby's "Sheep"), and adorable animals (Pedigree's "Season of Good Dog"). But now more than ever, brands are using holiday storytelling to remind us of the real reasons for this season: caring, sharing, and connecting.
Here's what five of those brands want for Christmas, other than a bigger audience and more holiday sales:
1. In-person Connections (Ruavieja)
Politics isn't the only thing that comes between us these days. So do screens. Over the past six years, mobile device use has tripled, and more time online means people are craving face-to-face interactions with the ones they love.
To drive home this point just in time for the holidays, liquor brand Ruavieja conducted a social experiment that brought together pairs of close friends and family members to talk about their relationships, how much time they spend together, and how they keep in touch. Then, using an algorithm that factored in age and frequency of in-person visits, Ruavieja calculated just how much time these people actually have left to spend with each other.
Those numbers were much lower than any of the participants expected. "It's definitely a contradiction," says Rafael Santandreu, a psychologist featured in the film. "People say that their loved ones are their priority, but the way they spend their time doesn't support that. It's to do with how the brain works. We are programmed to avoid thinking about how long we have left to live, so we think that we'll always have the chance to do the things that make us happy."
By reminding us that we don't have as much time as we think, Ruavieja encourages us to make more of the time we have left by actually connecting with loved ones in person. And what better time for that than the holidays?
2. Long-distance Connections (Macy's)
There's no place like home for the holidays, but that's simply not an option for everyone, especially if you live out of the country, or work off the planet. In those cases, screen time is better than no time. And with a little creativity, long-distance connections can be almost as magical as Christmas morning with family.
Macy's holiday storytelling ad, "Space Station," features an astronaut mom who finds every opportunity she can to communicate with her earthbound daughter throughout the year. When she can't get home for Christmas, she discovers some holiday cheer that's been with her all along, thanks to a thoughtful gift from her child.
3. Cross-generational Connections (Bouygues Telecom)
Astronauts notwithstanding, it's easy to share the holiday spirit with your children when they're children-they still live in your house and think you're cool. Then they become teenagers, and you have to wait a decade or two to be cool again.
French telecom provider, Bouygues, reminds us that whether parents are cool or corny (or perhaps a bit of both), they're still key to "An Unforgettable Christmas." In the video, a father and son bond with a goofy dance, and eventually pass their moves down to the next generation.
4. Newfound Connections (ALDI)
Nothing says Merry Christmas like the kindness of strangers. In the case of this year's ALDI Australia ad, such kindness actually saves the holiday.
In "Santa Crashes Christmas," Old Saint Nicholas isn't so jolly. Having crashed his sled in the outback, he's stranded and homeless in a foreign land with unfamiliar people and an unwelcoming climate for a fat man in a wool suit. But a local community "adopts" the disheveled, downtrodden immigrant. They give him shelter, food, and a job, and ultimately repair his sled so he can get back to the North Pole before the Christmas rush.
5. Connections Restored (International Committee of the Red Cross)
While some families are shortening holiday dinners to avoid certain relatives, others would give anything to spend the season with their loved ones. However, as the Red Cross's melancholy Christmas ad reminds us, thousands of families around the world are separated due to conflict, migration, or natural disasters.
"The One Gift Santa Can't Deliver" features another disheveled Kris Kringle, only this time he looks more horrified than downtrodden. The sound of explosions intermingles with the tune "Happy Holidays" as Santa ventures through war-torn streets looking for a lonely child. When he finds her, he can't do much to help her. But the girl does get a happy ending, thanks to the kindness of strangers and their Red Cross donations.
These holiday marketing campaigns certainly won't grant peace on Earth, but they just might bring a little peace to some hearts. That's the beauty of a great Christmas story...and a few great brand storytellers.
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Featured image attribution: JESHOOTS