Merry Christmas advertising style


Merry Christmas <or happy holidays> to bike



Today I feature my holiday greetings in the form of advertising.

I do it because there is a spectacular thoughtful insightful holiday commercial on television this season.



It is Apple ‘misunderstood”:

apple Misunderstood together<ad done by agency TBWA>



The obvious story?
A teenage boy surprises his family with a thoughtful holiday gift … a home video.

Sheer genius.  Delightful storytelling at its best.

It shows the true spirit of the holidays without being too obvious.



There are some less obvious things which truly make it spectacular.



–          Insight <part 1>.


Perception: Kids are attached to their phones and are losing their social skills.

Reality: Teens get it <they are just teens>.apple misunderstood teen



They are just teens for gods sake.  This is not the age group known for showing depth and emotion … with or without technology.



Here is what Apple faced with regard to developing this commercial … kind of a strong emotional attitude among a widespread group of people with regard to this insight perception:


<pulled from a blog which skewers Apple and the ad>

Even if this young man — who is quite sullen — really is spending every single moment on his phone recording his family’s activities, he’s still not partaking in them. He’s experiencing the holidays at an anthropological remove. He’s a skulking auteur, keeping the world at retina display’s length. He’s not letting anything come between him and his iPhone, not even the memories he cares enough about to record.


And while the big reveal at the end is absurd — how many SMYs will be secretly recording home movies next week? — the family’s reaction is even more annoying. The tears don’t seem to come from looking at what a wonderful weekend they all just had together. It’s a palpable ease of tension, a living-room-sized mylar balloon that pops with a gust of calm. That boy is not a monster, they exult, he’s just been creeping.


christmas eeyoreThe reason they are surprised and relieved, of course, is that most young men and young women — and tweens and olds and anyone, really, with access to a smartphone — act exactly like Sullen Male Youth. All the time.


<note: what a frickin’ Grinch>


I understand that many people, especially parents of teens, certainly get frustrated at the amount of time and energy that goes into electronics, smartphones and tablet devices.


As with most things <and innovations > in Life … there is trade off and balance.


To the curmudgeonly Grinch writer of the above I would simply suggests that the teen was watching the whole time … not disconnected but documenting <of which some older folk seem to have difficulty discerning between>.


But the true insight resides within the teen.

Everybody recognizes or perhaps has been that ‘uncomfortable in groups’, participation hesitant  teen … who still loves the grandparents and the family … but just feels awkward with public displays of affection.

They are too old to make the snowman and … well … too young to make the snowman.


The teen in the commercial embodies what adults tend to believe … they just find it difficult to see on occasion … that their kids do love you and don’t tell you … and how they often appear to be only sulking … yet they are listening and paying attention to everything.

The teen in the commercial embodies the fact that now and then they will surprise you by revealing their appearance of antisocial lack of engagement is just a more internalized, complicated acceptance of family.

The teen in the commercial actually suggests to us older folk that maybe technology permits them a way to communicate that we never had. Because the thing is when we were teenagers maybe it was a Walkman or headphones with loud music <our parents never understood>. My generation faced tremendous public fretting that we weren’t paying attention despite the fact we absolutely were <we just didn’t have some technology to show what we did not want to say>.

The teen in the commercial reminds us that simply because you don’t participate in trimming the tree or not making snow angels or helping make a snowman doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t care about your family or you’re being lost to a world of alienated isolation.



–          Insight <part 2>


Perception <or attitude>:

Technology intrudes into our lives.

Technology isolates people and doesn’t bring them together.

Reality: technology actually permits a level of togetherness never seen before <in fact … one could argue it makes togetherness to ‘un-private’>.


In fact … I found this comment even on an Apple site discussing the commercial -”This is a marketing lie! Technology makes us less personal and avoid relationships!”


What a frickin’ Grinch.


What a load of crock.


The commercial is spectacular in the emphasis is on how the product will enhance your life without being intrusive.

Intrusion into life , with anything, is a tricky balance. A balance between being creepy and being thoughtful behind the scenes glimpses of humanity.  The wonder of technology is the wonderful ability to see people when they are being … well … themselves. The societal filters come down and lo and behold … you receive a special gift through technology – the unfettered character and soul of someone.

Does that mean there are no warts? Of course not.

Technology permits us to see the perfect imperfections in Life and people.

Embarrassing sometimes?  Sure.


But I will remind everyone that the most beautiful smile anyone can ever see is the one given when someone doesn’t know anyone is looking. It is a special smile. And technology, on its best days and moments, give us a glimpse of that smile.



–          Use of music.


The song. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Not the most upbeat Christmas song of all time … but provides the opportunity to tap into it and CREATE energy rather than use a song to generate the energy. Brilliant choice.



The way the song is used.  Fills the sound bed with no vocals … then stops …then vocals.


Apple Holiday-Misunderstood-TV-Ad teenThis makes the commercial split into two halves … the family’s experience together and then the teen’s experience <the music stops in a semi-dramatic fashion as the teen switches off the television while everyone is gathered around it and projects his own film onto the TV>.





Chan Marshall <Cat Power> offers a rendition of a song that Judy Garland & Frank Sinatra have made classic over the years … “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. As noted earlier … its not the most upbeat Christmas song in the world as it is … but if you want to really tug at someone’s soul … you think very very carefully of who you want to sing it … Cat Power is perfect.

Her voice and pacing on the song brings an emotional nuance which would make the Grinch sentimental.



–          Casting

I will begin with what was called earlier by the Grinch blogger … the sullen kid.

He was perfectly cast. He kind of reminded me of the high school kid <Ephram> in Everwood. Kind of dark in his silence which is only the typical façade of a teen.

Underneath? Yes. There is a human <yes parents … lurking within your sullen teen resides a human awaiting to arise>.

But the family is also perfectly cast. This wasn’t some Hallmark Hollywood family. This was you and I and normal looking folk. There were the wacky relatives and the nerdy relatives and … well … family being family.

Where no one is truly that odd because they are family.

The actors & actresses were brilliantly chosen. Someone with a good eye figured this out … down to the wardrobe and fixtures in the home.



That’s all the technical stuff which I believe make this spectacular.


If interested … here is the 2 minute home video Apple produced to support the advertisement in the online world.


2 minute home video:


To close.


I am going to end with some additional thoughts on why this ad is so frickin’ good.


Here is a business advertising truth: advertising at Christmas time is difficult for a business.


Difficult in that even when you truly want to show a thoughtful regard for the holiday season … and you are smart and do something in a relevant way to your business so it isn’t some vapid ‘trying to be well meaning’ act on the part of the business … people will come out of the woodwork to … well … put some hate on ya.


People will always be cynical about advertising in general … and particularly so at holidays.

But … shit … they are a frickin’ business for god’s sake so my number one rule when it comes to holiday advertising is that if you cannot create and say something that is relevant to your business <what you sell> then don’t do it..


This means that while holiday advertising should have an intent that is always emotional or attitudinal it HAS to be relevant to the business they sell.

It doesn’t have to be overt … but it should be tied in some way.

If not … then … well … you are simply doing a pro bono <or some meaningless image puffery> advertisement … which no one will understand why you are doing so at Christmastime unless you simply want to suck up to everyone at Christmas.


Therefore … in apple’s case … of course it’s about … “I want people to think Apple is a loving community rather than a business.”


But intent and actions should always be measured alike.

Of course they are trying to sell a product.

It’s portraying how Apple products <iPhone 5s and AirPlay I think> can enhance everyday lives.


But the commercial is smart & thoughtful & insightful.

They actually figured out how to address a common deep perception in a nice subtle way.


But as far as commercials go … it’s tasteful, touching, well shot, and subtle.


So good for them.


And as far as commercials go … it’s a nice reminder of what Christmas is all about.

So good for them. snoopy

A family Christmas is rarely as perfect as we imagine.

And in fact many people do not have families to spend time with at Christmas … but that shouldn’t stop everyone from taking advantage of the opportunity Christmas provides each and everyone one of us … a time to gather around a tree or your tv or maybe just your front porch … and sit around with your thoughts and memories and, if you are fortunate, people who care … and enjoy the fact that Christmas is time for some thoughtful reflection as well as some thoughtful joy for what you have.


On that note … I wish everyone some good thoughtful reflection and a Merry Christmas. And if you just aren’t feeling the ‘magic’ this holiday season? Well. Let me remind you why you should never lose the joy of childhood:

Merry Christmas

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Written by Bruce