Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Apple, John Lewis/Elton John Christmas Ads Are Actually Pretty Awesome

A new Christmas ad from Apple is one of the better ones this year. 
Most everyone who knows me understands that I'm not all that into Christmas.

I'm especially not into the constant onslaught of holiday ads, most of which are stupid, a waste of time, and just harangue you to buy, buy, buy.

The unmistakable message in these ads is you are a horrible person if you don't buy the perfect material gift. If you don't make Christmas memorable and perfect for everybody, you're a failure.

Some ads are better. At least they try to give an uplifting message. Like this year's offerings from Apple and John Lewis, the British retailer.  Yes, the purpose of the ads is to get you to buy Apple products and merchandise from John Lewis. Bur they do seem to go beyond the consumerist intent and remind us there are other things to think about.

First, I'll tackle the Apple ad, then get into John Lewis/Elton John, which I have more mixed feelings about.

In the Apple ad, I nice Pixar-like production called "Share Your Gifts," a young woman is seen in her apartment with her dog, writing or creating art on her Apple laptop, printing the work out, then being bitterly disappointed in her talent and stuffing the papers into a box.

The young woman is obviously creative and bright, but fears sharing her talent with anybody. Maybe they won't like it. Maybe they'll think her talent is stupid or something.

The dog finally takes matters into his own hands, pushing the apartment window open and sending the papers from the box flying out into the gusty, snowy city where they live.

The woman frantically runs outside trying to collect the papers, but to her horror,  they blow onto the clothes and into the hand of passersby. Those passersby look at what's on the papers, and their reactions are completely different from what she expected.

The soundtrack makes the ad complete. It's the marvelous song "Come Out and Play" by Billie Ellish.

Here's the ad

Every year, John Lewis, the British retailer, releases an elaborate Christmas season ad meant to touch everybody who sees it.

Some bah-humbugs usually hate them. I'm personally not fond of the Christmas season, so I skew to the bah-humbug crowd. Still, a good ad is a good ad, so I do get all verklempt if the ad touches all the right emotional buttons.
Elton John is the subject of this year's John Lewis Christmas ad.

Usually, John Lewis comes through. This year, I have mixed emotions. The ad this year is certainly touching. And it involves Elton John. I've always been a big fan of his. Ever since I was a little kid.

This year's ad shows Elton John, this year, sitting at a little piano in a modest living room lit up with a Christmas tree.

The piano, we think, is probably one he got as a young kid. It shows him playing three notes, then launching into the familiar chords of "Your Song." He's been through a lot, and at age 71, the ad does not mask the time that has passed.

The ad then journeys backwards through Sir Elton John's life. It goes through recent concerts, his wild days as the ultimate international star in the 1970s, back to when he recorded that beautiful love tune "Your Song," which basically launched his career. Then we see him in small clubs, wowing people with his talent.

It goes back further, with a very young Elton performing at an elementary school recital, with his confident, encouraging mom in the audience. Then it goes back further, on Christmas morning, when he unwraps the piano his mother gave him.

As a toddler, Elton looks at the piano, and plays three simple notes. Then we go back to present-day Elton, and he plays those same three notes, looking wistful and emotional, wistful and grateful.

The reason I have mixed emotions over this ad, is I just hate how companies these days stretch to find "synergy" with current pop moments, with the cooperation with current pop stars. Elton John is on his big farewell tour currently.

It looks like John Lewis is hanging its pitch on this current pop moment, and Elton John is promoting his tour by hooking up with some big retailer.

Still, the ad is touching and to be honest,  it does have a great message. The tagline at the end of the ad says, "Some gifts are more than just a gift."

No pressure here.  It looks like John Lewis expects you to buy your loved ones something as life-changing as that piano Elton John got as a little kid.

But still. I can think of numerous things that kind people have done for me over the years. On the surface, those nice gestures were no big deal. It might have been a thoughtful compliment, a supportive word when I was down, a joke when I needed it

The people who did these things for me probably don't even remember them. But they had a profound influence on my life. Maybe not as big as Elton John's piano, but significant enough. I'll always cherish and remember those giving, warm moments people gave me.

I'm sure we've all had the benefit of these random moments people gave is that helped us so much. I also hope that I've done things that, however subtlely, changed the direction of someone's life. I bet you hope that, too.

I hate the Christmas season because of the manufactured pressure to give the perfect gift, decorate just perfectly, and just be shallow consumers.

The John Lewis ad does expects us to engage in that superficial buying to create some commercial idea of a "perfect" holiday.  The part of our modern Christmas culture that I hate.

But I hope the ad, intentionally or not, also encourages us to dig deep, or maybe not so deep. Perhaps just a kind word. A compliment to somebody who thinks they don't deserve it. Or even just a smile in the long, boisterous line at the big box store.

You never know what just a mellow, friendly, brief gesture can do to a person. That person's life.

Anyway, you be the judge. Here's that John Lewis/Elton John ad. Tell me what you think:

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