Hot off that Snoop Dogg robbery ad with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Kumail Nanjiani, Old Navy and Chandelier Creative have put a new creative duo in another improbable situation.
In "Kids Table," Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen of Portlandia get banished from the grown-up dining room for reasons that escape them. The two kids into whose company they fall—and whom they pointedly ignore as they gripe about their fall from grace—give each other long-suffering looks. Their understated, well-chosen outfits, and sense of world-weariness, make them look like tiny Heads of State.
"You two don't know how to do this, do you?" the boy finally asks.
Just then, a beautiful couple glide through the door. The music fawns: They have charming white smiles, really nice hair, wear accent scarves, and—speaking of color—are even mixed-race. Basically, they're the Holy Grail of holiday dinner guests at Real Life Grown-up Parties.
"They look colorful and festive. We look like furniture," Brownstein laments. Armisen agrees, then piles on by insulting her bird broach, which, coupled with her necklace, really does look like it's flying toward a spaceship. In a last attempt to earn a place back with the adults, the pair try drawing the attention of nearby friends by shouting random interjections into their conversation.
It is then that we discover yet another property of the Kids' Table: "They can't hear you," the boy says flatly. This observation goes ignored, but the Twilight Zone-inspired quirkiness that it adds to the proceedings is a small comedic miracle.
It's up to the kids to set these jokers straight.
"Guys," the boy goes, because his wee lady companion can't even be bothered to talk to them. "All you have to do is go to Old Navy, pick out some clothes that scream holidays, and bam: You're in. Job's done, you're with the big kids."
There's the tie-in we were waiting for! Brownstein decides they should go right then, and Armisen agrees, dragging her away as she asks the diminutive stranger whether he has a business card or website. As they relieve the Kids' Table of their volatile tone-deaf weirdness, the little girl finally leans in, presumably to continue a Very Civilized Conversation she was having before they were rudely interrupted. We slide away as the logo bursts onto the frame, rising like a long-awaited moon.
Having had to sit at Kids' Tables far longer than was appropriate, the scenario leaps out at us in a way that begs the question, Why don't people use this holiday angle more often? Armisen and Brownstein, who have a comfortable chemistry, are in their element: Their obliviousness is credible because it's key to the characters they play on their show, and the sobriety of the children, played as tiny adults who clearly have better things to do than make nice with these people, makes a great contrast.
But what really drives the ad home is how the brand tie-in is handled. There's apprehension leading up to it because you naturally suspect what it's going to be: God, Old Navy's going to position itself as some kind of superhero for fashion pariahs.
And it does, but it also doesn't push the point too hard: Old Navy knows it won't be your first choice for an embassy cocktail party, but it's a no-fuss quick fix for the socially hapless: Just pick out some clothes that scream holidays, guys!
It's not even hard: Upon closer inspection, the fancy couple from earlier are wearing a flannel shirt and a sweater dress. Come on.