Do You See What I See?"
That's the title of superstore chain Meijer's holiday ad, created by The Distillery Project and its ex-Leo Burnett founders, John Condon and Per Jacobson.
Directed by Jamie Rafn of Smuggler Films, the spot follows a man who looks an awful lot like Santa Claus (à la Miracle on 34th Street) as he goes about his day, stopping kids in their tracks and compelling at least one reflexive act of kindness.
Part of us feels sorry for him—this guy can't catch a break, not even at home. But he takes the attention with grace and even hams it up, casting naughty kids sidelong glances and putting a finger to his lips when parents' backs are turned.
The brand's presence is subtle, but not disinterested. The ending scene takes place in a Meijer store, where a boy politely asks for a free cookie and the baker offers him one without a second thought (a trick we must try).
The cookie's then offered to Saint Nick, who bashfully refuses, while the mother apologizes and adds, "Sweetie, that's not Santa."
As the boy is led away, Santa puts a finger to his lips, rekindling the kid's conviction. We wrap with the words, "Believe. We've got everything else you need."
The ad went live on Nov. 27 and will run through Christmas in the Midwest, where kids ostensibly don't take pleasure in breaking their peers' suspension of disbelief. It's also been selected for the CW's upcoming Greatest Holiday Commercials Countdown show, which airs Dec. 12.
While the idea isn't entirely original, there's small-town charm in the execution. This is a place where kids still run wild in their own neighborhoods, sit quietly for storytime, and where—indeed—they still believe in magic. It's also welcome respite from more adult-focused holiday ads, which tend to zero in on the preparation and stress of the season.
The perspective of a child welcomes the improbable without effort—something grownups may miss in their attempts to contrive magic with their bare hands. At its heart, "Do You See What I See?" is a call for us—not them—to open our eyes. (Though if Saint Nick looked a little more like the Toronto mall's Sexy Santa, we probably wouldn't need the reminder.)
Agency: The Distillery Project
Director: Jamie Rafn, Smuggler Films