This article originally appeared in Marketing magazine.
It’s still two weeks till Christmas, but already it looks like the annual race to be the number one festive ad is wrapped up for another year.
That’s right. Pack away the telescope, send the cat to its bed and tear up the lottery ticket – German supermarket EDEKA festive spot ‘#heimkommen’ has seemingly come out of nowhere to rack up over 2.3 million shares in just over a week and easily overtake John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and The Spanish Lottery in the battle for the top Xmas spot.
After all, Christmas is a time for surprises – and this year is no exception, with seasonal favourites John Lewis and Sainsbury’s relegated to second and third.
But while the brand may raise a few eyebrows, the fact that EDEKA’s tear-inducing spot has attracted so much attention online is no surprise at all. In fact, the ad has a lot to teach us about the ingredients of the perfect Christmas ad.
‘#heimkommen’ continues the recent pattern of hugely successful ‘sadverts’, which take wringing out viewers’ emotions to a new level.
While we regularly endorse ads which take an emotional hook seriously, this isn’t as easy as it looks in these cynical times. EDEKA nails it with ‘#heimkommen’, whose English title ‘Homecoming’ signals the nostalgic direction of the story.
It begins with a sweet old gentleman, who decks out his home and prepares a traditional Christmas meal year after year with his family. What he’s not prepared for, however, are the annual excuses from his kids.
If you’re already squirming in your seat about having occasionally missed Christmas with the extended family, then strap in for a fully-fledged guilt rollercoaster.
After several years of growing apart, it seems that our sweet old hero may have lost his family altogether. In a pointedly heartbreaking montage, we see him wandering around his home by himself, then sitting down to a lonely dinner for one. Following John Lewis and The Spanish Lottery, EDEKA has now proved definitively that 2015 is the Christmas of the lonely old man.
After this, the ad’s scope suddenly expands and we see what’s become of his grown-up children. One has a become a harried emergency surgeon, another has a family of her own and the third looks suspiciously like Michael Fassbender in the movie ‘Shame’. Caught up in the tumult of day-to-day stresses, the children are shocked when they hear the news their father – the charming old guy from the beginning – has passed away.
If this sounds superlatively sentimental, then you’re not wrong. While successful advertising plays on our emotions all year round, there’s a new level of self-consciousness about the way Christmas adverts so blatantly pluck at our heart strings. It’s for this reason that ‘swelling acoustic cover of a pop song’ has become its own kind of meme.
Yet EDEKA’s storytelling in ‘#heimkommen’ is so devilishly simple that it skilfully dodges this pitfall. Instead you’re left thinking exactly what the brand intended – about how you definitely need to call your own parents or grandparents. Right now.
Without spoiling too much, EDEKA’s spot does not end in the utterly bleak place posed halfway through. This is fitting as well, given the brand’s previous track record with charming (and occasionally surreal) viral hits. For anyone who saw last year’s cockle-warming Christmas spot ‘Kassensymphonie’ or the truly mad house anthem ‘Supergeil’, this is undeniably a brand which is firing on all cylinders.
With ‘#heimkommen’, they have evidently taken the lessons learned by other heavy hitting Christmas brands and distilled them into their simplest, most powerfully effective form. The result is an ad which quite rightly deserves its place as the star atop 2015’s Christmas tree.