Macy's Revisits 'Yes, Virginia'


On Dec. 11, Macy's street teams will patrol cities in 15 markets, rewarding random acts of kindness on "National Believe Day." The honorary holiday is part of the retailer's "Believe" campaign, a holiday effort that kicked off this year with a TV commercial starring Queen Latifah and a little girl who makes "The Trek," as the spot is titled, to Macy's to mail her letter to Santa. A letter-writing campaign encourages customers to drop by the stores' "Believe Stations," where they can mail their own letters to Santa and help Macy's raise donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Now in its second year, JWT's "Believe" campaign turns to the true story that inspired it, 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon writing to the New York Sun in 1897 to find out if there really is a Santa Claus, into a new animated special -- titled Yes, Virginia -- airing on "National Believe Day" on CBS.

"It's the most famous editorial ever written about Christmas, so we thought let's create a classic from a classic," says Harvey Marco, CCO of JWT, New York, which produced the special in collaboration with The Ebeling Group and MEC Entertainment.

The story of Virginia O'Hanlon and the editorial from Francis Church that assured her, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," is part of Christmas lore. The Macy's team, which ran ads based on her story last year, decided that a new telling of the tale would be a perfect fit for the retailer's seasonal celebration and a valuable addition to holiday programming this year.

"It's all about the notion of believing in something, and it can be whatever you want it to be," says Martine Reardon, Macy's evp of marketing. "It's people's own preference, whether that be optimism, generosity, world peace or that we solve world hunger. We want people to feel that they can believe. What this editorial represented to us was the epitome of that."

The idea for creating an animation special for Macy's based on O'Hanlon's story was kicking around for about two years, says Reardon, since the development of the "Believe" platform, but budget and time constraints put the project on hold.

In addition to the show, the "Believe" initiative includes a 25-city Santa Tour and a "Believe" Web site that promotes an essay and video contest inviting visitors to tell the company why they believe they should win a trip to attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The Make-A-Wish Foundation co-sponsors the site.

Although set in 1897, the show, which follows O'Hanlon's quest around New York City to prove that Santa is real, is a fictionalized version of the Yes, Virginia story. It features the voiceovers of actors Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alfred Molina and Beatrice Miller as the lead character. The show was written by copywriter Chris Plehal, directed by The Ebling Group's Peter Circuitt, and animated by Starz Animation in Toronto.

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