It's been a rough year for Santa Claus. Best Buy has been running those ads from Crispin Porter + Bogusky saying the old man better watch his back. SantaCon NYC started off nicely enough, but quickly deteriorated into a drunken mess. And one criminally bad Santa reportedly thought date-rape drugs were the best way to spread holiday cheer. Ho ho ho?
Now, Unicef adds to Santa's malaise with a new spot out of Sweden that focuses on the big man's dirty little secret: Many children in poorer parts of the world won't be getting any presents this year, because Santa skips those places entirely.
The ad, by Forsman & Bedenfors, starts off like so many Christmas commercials, with jolly St. Nick laughing merrily in his workshop, snow falling gently outside. But it quickly takes a left turn when he inspects one box of presents and realizes it contains nothing but medical supplies. Taken aback, he insists that such gifts, life-saving though they may be, simply aren't good Christmas presents—and he flatly refuses to deliver them. "I don't do poor countries," he says with a grim stare.
His brutal honestly may dampen the mood, but that's the whole point—getting people to remember that Christmas spirit in many ways extends only as far as a family's economic circumstances allow. The writing could be sharper in the middle, but the spot, which is wonderfully crafted visually, has a universal message that could apply to families in richer countries, too. Santa doesn't love poor neighborhoods much, either.
In the end, it's a clever way to bring the season's most elaborate fiction to bear on the realities of poverty around the world. And the donations it brings will be among the greatest gifts of the season.
Client: UNICEF Sweden
Agency: Forsman & Bedenfors, Stockholm, Sweden
Art Director: Johanna Hofman-Bang
Copywriters: Marcus Hagglof, Jacob Nelson
Agency Producer: Magnus Kennhed
Account Director: Andreas Engstrand
Account Manager: Johanna Bringefält
Web Producer: Peter Gaudiano
Production Company: Acne Production
Postproduction: The Chimney Pot
Directors: Tomas Skoging, Torbjorn Martin
Producers: Kalle Schroder, Robert Nathanson
Editor: Torbjorn Martin
Photogapher: Jallo Faber
Web Production Company: Acne Production
Music: Upright Music
Sound: Fredrik Sundberg, Plop
Original: F&B Factory