Whew! That’s lots of Christmas miracle right there!
At first I thought, given the multiple horses and bells, it might be a message from Budweiser. But this is about more than mere beer — or a jokey ending. Rather, this is an elegiac fairytale, a spot so sparkly and magic-besotted that it makes the folks at Hogwarts seem a bit pedestrian.
Impressed with this level of mythmaking, I ran the spot back to the beginning. And I was glad I did, because the details here are so unusual that they might have been peyote–based: The six horses, the carriage, and hunky driver arrive out of nowhere to help an old-fashioned mail truck, stuck in the snow. As they take the parcels and journey on, the horses pass a group of classic snowpeople, decked out in branches, scarves, etc. Sensing an opening, the snowpeople apparently wordlessly offer up to their equine betters a certain key appendage.
“Please, sir, eat the noses off of our faces?” they seem to be asking. So the horses eat the noses, uh, carrots, and thus fortified, it’s onward Dancer, Prancer and Donner.
But wait, we’re mixing Christmas stories here, and Rudolph had a red nose, but it wasn’t a carrot, right? There’s even enough cross-holiday merriment to cover our Jewish friends!
Because, like the limited amount of oil that lasted eight nights in the story of Hanukah, these two carrots seem to do the trick for the horses for the whole trip!
Finally, the message is about hope, and joy, about being transported back to a better time, pushing through your cynicism to …
Wait a minute! Does the final frame really say, “Wishing you a magical holiday,” with the Wells Fargo logo in the corner?
Yes, that Wells Fargo, the bank known for its powerful Pony Express/Western carriage delivery iconography. You know, the one that was fined $185 million by various governmental agencies in September for opening at least 2 million false accounts, known in the industry as “cross-selling”? For which 5,300 low-level but “over-incentivized” employees were fired?
You might remember the televised hearings, with Senator Elizabeth Warren playing a latter-day Jimmy Stewart character, grilling a mumbling and obviously stumped Wells CEO John Stumpf.:
Warren: "Do you know how much money, how much value your stock holdings in Wells Fargo gained while this scam was underway?
Stumpf: First of all, it was not a scam. And cross-sell is a way of deepening relationships. When customers...
Warren: We've been through this, Mr. Stumpf. I asked you a very simple question. Do you know how much the value of your stock went up while this scam was going on?
Stumpf: It's.... all of my compensation is in our public filing…”
She leaves Stumpf stripped bare of more than a few carrot’s worth of dignity. Warren calls him “gutless” and tells him he should resign.
Unshockingly, he did.
One month later, worried about the fallout, Wells Fargo ran — well there’s no better word than “gutless” to describe it — an apology commercial. We see the horses and carriage running in slow motion, while the screen crawls with blah-blah text like “We’re renewing our commitment to you,” and “We promise to make things right.” Slow motion and crawling, surface and subtext all laid bare.
And then there was more: Just last week, a new scandal involving Prudential Insurance broke, showing that Wells Fargo clients were signed up for policies without their authorization.
Not to pile on any more to this huge pile, but it turns out “The Coach and the Snowman” spot was first released three years ago. I understand getting your money’s worth. But it’s a terrible mistake to continue running it now, considering Wells Fargo’s year of scandal.
There’s a metaphor in there somewhere about leaving freezing, defenseless snowpeople noseless.
Or as Warren said at the hearings to John Stumpf: “When it all blew up, you kept your job, you kept your multimillion dollar bonuses and you went on television to blame thousands of $12-an-hour employees who were just trying to meet cross-sell quotas that made you rich. This is about accountability.”
That goes for advertising, too. Carrot, or stick?