Apple Enlists Frankenstein in This Strange, Sweet Appeal for Acceptance This Holiday

Not just about friends and family

Headshot of Tim Nudd

A lot of Christmas ads suggest that spending time with friends and family should be the ultimate goal of the holidays. But what about those people who don’t have much of either?

Apple just released its 2016 holiday commercial, and it’s devoted to reminding people that friends and family aren’t the only people who might need comforting at this time of year—and in this particular year, too.

Directed by Park Pictures’ Lance Acord (who also directed Apple’s Emmy-winning 2013 holiday ad, “Misunderstood”), it’s a remarkable piece of work and a study in contrasts—dark and light, sad and happy, lonely and full of love.

It features Frankenstein (or more accurately, Frankenstein’s monster, aka “Frankie,” played by Brad Garrett), who appears to have retired to a mountain cabin on the edge of a village—the ultimate outsider. His possessions are meager, though they appear to include an iPhone 7 (even monsters from early 19th century novels are in Apple’s target demo) and a music box, which he is trying to sync up to deliver a present to the village.

See how the story unfolds here:

The neck bolts as sockets for Christmas lights are just one of the strangely magical elements here. In fact, the whole setup is discordant—this isn’t even Frankenstein’s holiday—but that actually helps to build the sense of “otherness” that the spot is trying, at the end, to dispel.

It’s beautifully shot, and the details are great—like the framed photo of Mary Shelley in Frankie’s home. And the end line, “Open your heart to everyone,” will be read far and wide as a plea for acceptance in a political climate where the core of that message is in dispute.

It’s not as explicitly political a message as Amazon’s spot from last week, with the priest and imam visiting each other. And the fact that Frankie is literally a monster might complicate the metaphor for some viewers, who may not be ready to accept, even in spirit, certain unnamed people it considers monsters.

Still, the ad is obviously not about any one person, and the notion of acceptance of those who are foreign to us is clearly evocative in these days after the election. Also, the otherworldliness of the execution is lovely, and perfectly in keeping with the mysteries of the holiday season—in all, one of the most fascinating holiday spots of the year.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.