Tolerance & Togetherness in Holiday Advertising

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With Thanksgiving quickly fading in the distance, the floodgates have opened on this year’s wave of holiday advertisements.

At a time when our country and the world are so intense, divided and unpredictable, brands are choosing a more traditional and comforting message – togetherness.

This isn’t a new or unexpected message at all, especially this time of year. It is, however, one we all desperately need right now.

This is a rich territory that can tug at heartstrings, transcend cultural, sexual and religious orientation, and provide a platform for storytelling that can both entertain and delight. This isn’t a new or unexpected message at all, especially this time of year. It is, however, one we all desperately need right now.

Why? Friends and family coming together is a major component of our collective holiday traditions. And traditions equal comfort. As the world becomes increasingly complicated, as well as ever-changing, we need a chance to pause and appreciate the small comforts in life. And to be grateful for the things of most value in our lives. Each other.

Take this poignant message and throw in a cute kid or two, a classic song remix, maybe add a pinch of “magic” and let it all build to an outpouring of emotion. I don’t know if this is necessarily the secret recipe for brilliant holiday creative. These are, however, definitely a few consistent ingredients found in the work of those that do it well.

Take this series of spots from BMW. They won’t beat “Moz the Monster” from UK retailer John Lewis or the magic of Apple’s “Sway,” but they’re one of my favorite campaigns this season. For years, I would make the drive home for the holidays, and each year I would come to the same tollbooth just a few miles from home. This point in the journey would always serve as a moment of reflection for me. Another year had come and gone, just like that.

A moment to take stock of my most valuable possessions in the world, and the realization they were all right there in the car with me.

For many years, it was just me in the car. Then my wife was by my side. The car quickly filled with our first child, then our second and even our dog. Each stop at this tollbooth would be cause for reflection. A moment to take stock of my most valuable possessions in the world, and the realization they were all right there in the car with me.

Our families may all look a little different, but our journeys are oddly familiar. This charming series of spots from BMW tell this story. It reminds us that a trip home can be a trip back in time. It features families making the same journey home through the years. Just like I did. If there is any time of year when we can find comfort in repetition and tradition, it’s now.

Speaking of holiday traditions, Starbucks is marking 20 years of their Holiday Cup. While we all may share similar traditions and rituals this time of year, Starbucks acknowledges the holidays mean something different to everyone. Their inclusive holiday push has launched with the latest version of the iconic cup. The “coloring cup” concept does include an illustration of its red cup of holidays past, but the cup itself is basically white. Apparently, the concept for the cup embraces current customer and employee behavior to create their own designs on the standard-issue white cup. Starbucks also produced a spot featuring the illustrated cup which includes a female same-sex couple leaning in for a kiss. Starbucks is certainly not the first brand to include same-sex couples, but it’s a clear sign that Starbucks isn’t leaving anyone off their holiday list this year.

However, Starbucks may have not gone to great enough lengths to include “everyone.” Some are accusing Starbucks of pushing a “gay agenda” with this campaign. Whether in response to this public criticism or not, Starbucks has just released a second Holiday Cup. The familiar red cup returns, this time with an illustrated heart and two hands surrounding it. The viewer can interpret the hands however they like; and like this year’s first cup, there’s room to add your own designs and even a name inside the heart.

The Starbucks Holiday Cup is one small tradition I look forward to each year. I applaud their efforts to quiet the cynics of years past, and promote a message of tolerance and togetherness. I guess in the end, you can never please everyone.

One of my favorite spots so far this year is from online retailer Amazon. In this holiday spot, they leverage their iconic logo and packaging, to bring a smile from their box to our faces. A commuter purchasing a gift from the retailer’s Christmas store, for an adorable little girl, serves as the foundation for the story. We watch as the iconic Amazon packaging comes to life, singing along to a cover of “Give a Little Bit.” The boxes embark on a journey from distribution center conveyor belt around the globe via planes, trucks and even a boat. Ultimately, bringing a smile to the little girl’s face. And ours.

A simple story that illustrates how Amazon can bring us together even when we’re miles apart.

As a creative challenge, this isn’t “make the logo bigger.” This is “make the logo the star of the show.” And the agency does this brilliantly. This spot delights in a way only Amazon can. There’s a cute kid, classic song remix and the boxes come to life. That qualifies as “magic” for me. This one has just about all the key ingredients in the recipe for a successful holiday spot. I know it makes me jealous.

Jamie Venorsky

Chief Creative Officer at Marcus Thomas

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