Yes, Virginia . . . " is that classic newspaper editorial from 1897, written by New York Sun editor Francis P. Church in response to a letter from Virginia O'Hanlon, an earnest 8-year-old who, all those years before Barbie and the Big Wheel, wanted to know if Santa Claus existed. Insightful, kind and timeless, Church's words never fail to bring a tear to my eye.
At least that's what I thought, until I saw some of them acted out by none other than Donald Trump in a Macy's commercial, as part of the retailer's current "Believe" holiday campaign from JWT.
"How dreary would be the world," the Trumpster says, standing stiffly in his blue suit, arms extended like a fifth grader forced to emote in a school play, "if there were no Santa Claus." He's trying his best, but watching his mouth. I could only think of Rosie O'Donnell doing her full-lipped impersonation of him, and I completely lost the "narrative thread."
Yup, being blinded by the Trump is unfortunate. This is a case of a celebrity comb-over getting in the way of a really good message. And that's a shame, because elements of this Christmas campaign are spectacular. In particular, its commitment to charity -- Macy's is pledging $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation (up to $1 million) for every letter to Santa it receives from customers, young or old, in red mailboxes installed in its stores.
Trump is one of many "stars" shoehorned into the spot, reading excerpts of the editorial. Although they all have their own branded lines of merchandise with the retailer, their connection to charitable giving and/or the Christmas season seems awfully random.
Trump, for example, has a men's suits and furnishings line at Macy's, but he's known to buy his own at Brioni. And in the charity department, I know he publicly offered to bail out Ed McMahon, who was in danger of losing his house and had resorted to rapping in a video for FreeCreditReport.com. Wheth- er Trump ever came up with the scratch for Ed remains to be seen.
But I digress. The point is, the Macy's set is decorated to be all outdoorsy and sparkly, with many lit-up Christmas trees -- but these people don't match at all, in form or content. Carlos Santana, who has a line of women's shoes (that seems kind of kinky, doesn't it?), sports an open-collared black-and-white patterned shirt and dark hat. Martha Stewart is the only one who seems appropriately garbed, with a red scarf wrapped jauntily around her neck. She's the last to go, and really drives the poem home with the "He lives and lives" line, until she passes the torch to a little girl, who puts a letter in a red mailbox and breathily says, "Forever."
I got the Macy's branding concept by then, but the connection between writing a letter to Santa and supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation escaped me. And the overall effect is forced and stilted.