Entering the gates of hell, where there's no wifi and no shows—aka, Grandma's.
For Comcast's Xfinity brand, 72andSunny tore a page out of Jimmy Kimmel's mean tweets playbook. "Hooking Up Grandma's House," which launches today, kicks off with grandparents reading tweets by their own grandkids, who dread visiting because—oh, no!—there's no Wi-Fi and no On Demand television.
"We discovered a bunch of tweets from grandkids lamenting the technological black hole that is Grandma's house during the holidays," Bryan Rowles, executive creative director at 72andSunny New York, tells Adweek. "We immediately related to that plight. It's such a universal experience. So we set out to prove that Xfinity could be a catalyst for bringing families together, and can make Grandma's house the most awesome place to be."
The ad was inspired by genuine accounts, with one set of grandparents getting the full Xfinity holiday hookup. A van rolls up and gives the "gates of hell" a tech upgrade—including Wi-Fi, voice remote control, shows, movies and music on demand, and Xfinity X1, a TV platform that includes Netflix.
The reactions that round out the end of the ad are real, albeit mindfully edited and given a boost from "Home," the feel-good advertising darling soundtrack by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
"Our inspiration came from real consumer insights that showed there's a misconception that seniors aren't up on the latest technology, so we wanted to create a fun spot that made grandma and grandpa the hero for the holidays," explains brand marketing vp Todd Arata of Comcast.
Meanwhile, Rowles sheds light on how the grandparents felt when they read the tweets. "Most, including those we met who did not make the final film, shared a feeling of shock," he says. "Some laughed it off, but others were kinda pissed. Which was also funny."
One thing that sticks out about the film is how unifying digital appears to be. Anybody who's attended a holiday party at a digital-friendly house knows that, once everybody settles in, we all kind of disappear—down the rabbit hole of our phones, or plunged into whatever somebody put on TV.
But in Xfinity's take on a connected holiday, the din at Grandma's seems to get louder. The granddaughter, Paige, faceswaps with her grandma on Snapchat. There's dancing in the kitchen, and it all ends with an intimate movie night on the couch, at which time Paige reveals she's posted a photo of Grandma on Instagram.
How realistic was this depiction?
"There was no script per se, more of an 'evening during the holidays' we wanted to capture with a real family," Rowles explains. "So yes, the interactions were real. We gave them Xfinity and let them play with it. We also put an emphasis on Paige and her grandma, and looked for opportunities where Xfinity could help bring them closer."
And the good cheer seemed to last after the upgrade, too. "Grandpa is a bigtime Nascar fan, so he's pretty stoked," Rowles adds.
By and large, the agency wanted to convey a sense of unity and reconnection with family members. "We set out to see if Xfinity could be a genuine catalyst for both," says Rowles, while addressing "families who want a more awesome, more modern entertainment experience."
Lastly, he divulges one of the best moments on the set. "We really enjoyed the wide range of shocked reactions by different grandparents reading tweets written by their traitorous grandkids," he laughs. "Oh, and only a few of the grandparents understood hashtags. 'Pound sign,' LOL!"
Senior Vice President, Marketing Communications: Peter Intermaggio
Vice President, Brand Marketing: Todd Arata
Executive Director, Marketing Communications: Dustin Hayes
Director,Marketing Communications: Katie Senderowitz
Senior Manager, Brand Marketing: Diana Hicks
Chief Creative Officer: Glenn Cole
Executive Creative Director: Bryan Rowles
Executive Creative Director: Guillermo Vega
Group Creative Director: Eric Steele
Creative Director, Designer: Erik Norin
Senior Designer: David Goss
Senior Writer: Mikio Bradley
Junior Designers: Serena Smith, Anne Marie Wonder
Junior Writer: Oliver Gormsen
Group Strategy Director: Marshall Ball
Strategy Director: Jennifer Lewis
Strategist: Lauren Wong
Managing Director: James Townsend
Brand Director: Mallory Solomon
Brand Coordinator: Dylan Levy
Head of Production: Lora Schulson
Senior Film Producer: Julia Lafferty
Film Production Coordinator: Samira Mostofi
Partnerships, Legal Managers: Marissa Burnett, Laura Fraser
Partnerships, Legal Coordinator: Pamala Billman
Production Company: Iconoclast
Director: Matthew Frost
Executive Producer: Charles-Marie Anthonioz
Line Producer: Caroline Pham
Director of Photography: Matyas Erdely
Editorial Company: Exile Editorial
Editor: Matt Murphy
Post Producer: Evyn Bruce
Executive Producer: Sasha Hirschfeld
Visual Effects Company: Method Studios
Creative Director: Randy Swanberg
Visual Effects Producer: Stephanie Katritos
Executive Producer: Angela Lupo
Head of Production: Jeff Wolfe
Mix, Sound Design:
Audio Company: Heard City
Mixer: Keith Reynaud
Producer: Sasha Awn
Executive Producer: Sara Matarazzo
Senior Music Producer: Abbey Hickman
Assistant Producer: Marissa Hernandez
Composer: Eugene Cho