Two of the season’s hottest holiday videos, both of them for giant British retailers, couldn’t be less like each other, except for one key narrative element: Both embrace family togetherness during the Christmas season.
The 2011 annual holiday video from Great Britain’s up-market department store chain John Lewis is so wholesome and sweet and touching that it might be mistaken for a segment from a Hallmark Channel movie. For most of its ninety-second running time it appears to be telling the story of a frustrated little boy who can’t wait to get his gifts on Christmas morning. He anxiously suffers the days, hours and minutes leading up to the big day, doing everything he can to pass the time, even dressing up as a little wizard and attempting to make a clock move faster. (“Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” by Slow Moving Millie plays in the background throughout, setting the perfect heartwarming tone.) It seems to me that his excitement and anticipation should resonate with kids, adults with kids and adults who still remember what it was like when they were kids during the holiday season.
Are spoiler alerts necessary when talking about online videos? I think not, but if you don’t want to know about the delightful twist at the end of this sweet little story then move on to the next paragraph. I’d call it a Hallmark moment: When Christmas morning finally arrives the little boy scurries out of bed to his closet, passing a pile of presents that his parents have obviously left for him at bedside, and pulls out a box that has been messily wrapped with eager enthusiasm. Then he scampers to his parents’ room and gives it to them before they’re even out of bed. Yes, the kid is more excited about giving gifts than receiving them. All together now: “Awwww.”
The video’s tag line: “For Gifts You Can’t Wait to Give.” Once again: “Awwww.”
I’ve watched this video many times, and even though it is ninety seconds long I would be happy to watch it again, as it puts me squarely into the Christmas spirit, even when I’m feeling like the Grinch. It also makes me want to develop a shopping relationship with John Lewis, and if I lived in England I might just do that.
I would also happily develop a shopping relationship with British retailer Argos after watching its holiday video featuring a family of four long-necked, wide-eyed, blue-felt aliens that are navigating a bustling shopping mall trying to make sense of the madness around them. Everything about it is entertaining and imaginative, right down to the details. (Watch their eyes when the aliens pose for a picture with Santa Claus.) Even the dialogue sparkles:
“Dad,” says the boy, “this human idea of Christmas shopping does my head in.”
“I know, son,” dad replies. “It all feels a bit alien, doesn’t it, running around panicked? I thought ‘twas the season to be jolly, but maybe not.”
“The big man in red seems happy enough,” observes the daughter, pointing to a mall Santa.
“Everyone seems terribly stressy though,” says mom. “I don’t understand why they don’t just reserve their purchases online with Argos.”
“As a conundrum, it’s up there with Justin Bieber and eggnog,” muses the daughter.
“Mmmm, eggnog,” moans dad, sounding a bit like Homer Simpson when he eyes a box of donuts.
“Mmmm, Bieber,” moans mom, adding a dose of savvy British humor.
“To guarantee a great Christmas, Argos it,” a woman softly concludes in reassuring voiceover. The final image is the happy alien family watching the 1982 Christmas cartoon “The Snowman” from the comfort of their sofa, an Argos bag full of gifts perched in the foreground.
When I first discovered this sixty-second video I marveled at the concept. Who thinks aliens when they think Christmas? Then I discovered that they have appeared in at least one previous Argos video. (It was for an iPod sale, and at the end the aliens were dancing to “That’s the Way (I Like It)” by KC and the Sunshine Band.) These extra-terrestrials are so cute that Argos should consider capitalizing on a doll or toy line. They could sell me just about anything.