Santa’s Computer Catches the Bah-Humbug Virus in These Witty Ads From Norton

Will cybersecurity save us from stockings full of coal?

So far, Santa is having an exasperating holiday season.

A few weeks back, he got physically assaulted in a Coach commercial. Now Kringle's computer has been hacked, and his "Naughty Or Nice" list held for ransom, in a droll series of ads by Grey San Francisco for Symantec's Norton security brand. 

In the spot below, Santa calls the cops when he discovers the "bah-humbug" virus infecting his laptop and the list missing. Alas, the responding officer can't put things right … and even seems to harbor a grudge against the Big Elf: 

Next, Santa's son Kris Jr.—who looks like a cross between John Cleese and an extra on Portlandia—tries, and fails, to retrieve the lost list. When Santa bemoans a world in which an apparently safe site can serve as a front for hackers, Junior taps his dad's PC and explains, "In here, people aren't who they seem to be. It's like those guys who dress up like you at the mall."

These first two episodes have been available online for about a week. In the final chapter, which dropped today, Santa turns vindictive, vowing to fill the world's stockings with coal.

"We may not have enough," wails a put-upon elf.

Santa barks back, "Well, send someone up the flue to jiggle the thingy! Remember, it gets stuck!" Can anything save Christmas—like Norton, for instance? (And where's Edward Snowden when you need him? His name's kind of Christmassy, and he knows all about hacking … though whether he's naughty or nice depends on your point of view.) 

"We chose to focus on Santa, a friend to the world, to reinforce that anyone can get hacked," Kathryn Kane, Norton's senior director of global brand and campaigns, tells AdFreak. "Online crime typically increases during the holiday season. More and more personal information is being stored online due to holiday shopping, so it is important that consumers understand why they should protect their devices." 

The 60-second videos are running on sites like Mashable, Gizmodo and Lifehacker, supported by native articles, infographics and social content. Of course, edgy Christmas ad concepts and Ashley Madison data-hack humor are nothing new. But the writing here is especially sharp, and the cast perform their bitchy schtick to perfection. 

"Santa's reaction, while grouchy, actually isn't too much different than consumers'," says Kane, noting that, in Norton's Cybersecurity Insights Report from November, "two-thirds of online crime victims felt frustrated after the incident occurred—while nearly half were furious."

Made for less than $600,000, the festive yet low-budget production has considerable charm. "We shot the films all in one day at Rubel Castle in Southern California," says Kane, "and had endless conversations around how much facial hair Kris Jr. should have. After all, he is Santa in training."