This is the first time online retailer Etsy has waded into the ad waters of the big game. The result was a gem of a 30-second “period” drama that upended what most of the big boys did on Sunday.
For example, “Gift Mode” boasts not a single celebrity, save for a certain 225-ton lady shown as a stand-up figure getting hauled into the harbor atop a boat.
Featuring crisp writing and terrific acting, this singular bit of sketch comedy opens on a mutton-chopped Gilded Age official in his New York office. He’s turned to his window, using binoculars to spy on her arrival in June of 1885.
“Oh crap,” Mr. Muttonchop says. (No “by gum”?) "That’s a really good gift.”
In response, a tough, hatted office dame spits out a staccato, “Now we gotta get France something!” which in its cranky delivery killed me.
Created with agency Orchard, the ad's writing and acting are snappy, and the production is so good that you want to just sink into the ahistorical absurdity of it all.
But underneath the great 19th century costuming and props is a happenin’ insight: People really are stumped about what to get other people as gifts, especially if you hardly know them.
And topping the Statue of Liberty is an especially tough one, France being France.
So in this case, the Gilded Age guy picks up his cell phone (as one did), searching Etsy as he asks his office cronies to help him come up with a proper thank you.
They ponder what the citizens of France like.
The group hesitates to speak, but finally one employee croaks out “Cheese?”
And voila, Mr. Chops taps twice, finding and sending the perfect platter of fromage.
We’ll get to the dubious particulars later, but what the spot is selling is true: Etsy’s “gift mode” is a beast for present-finding.
Sometimes the task does feel overwhelming, and “gift mode,” which Etsy introduced on Jan. 24, is an AI- and machine learning-based hub built with buckets for easing gift-finding. You can search for gifts for specific types of people, like “ dog walker” or “bird watcher.” Or you can also search interests, such as “Zen.” The range is way beyond mere “occasion,” and does tend to offer cooler, more thoughtful and perfect items than your average sender could come up with.
But as a total history nerd, I feel responsible for telling some of the Harbor Lady’s actual story. First, it’s true the statue arrived in New York in 1885, but she was far from finished, and came in a jillion different pieces in more than 200 crates.
We had agreed that France would build the body and the U.S. would provide the base.
But the lady concept was not popular, and the idea of “liberty” was thought to be too abstract. Congress refused the funding, and nobody wanted to pony up to complete her.
(“Go fund me” would hit the scene about 140 years later).
Joseph Pulitzer, the Hungarian émigré and publisher, eventually got her built, complete with platform, after a decade of private fundraising.
Emma Lazarus' blazing poem, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” was written in 1883 as part of one such literary fundraiser, and wasn’t installed as a plaque on the pedestal until 1903.
So perhaps at the time the SOL wasn’t seen as such an inspired gift?
But back to the cheese. We see the platter arriving in France, and the whole stereotypical town celebrates, including a mime.
Looking back, when Etsy, the online source of unique, handcrafted things was founded in 2005, we used the now-antique sounding phrase “e-commerce” to describe what it did.
I’m glad this spot has come along, as the first to bring the “E” to the “G” (Gilded Age) -- and, as with most travel and history lessons, broaden our horizons.