Macy’s Rolls Out Three More Holiday Ads With Charmingly Subtle Storytelling

Don't look for Santa or his elves here

Don’t look for jolly Santa Clauses, industrious elves or high-flying reindeer in Macy’s holiday advertising this year.

Three new 30-second seasonal spots from the retailer forgo clichéd Christmas trappings in favor of more realistic emotional appeals. Created by BBDO New York, the ads match the muted tone of “Lighthouse,” the chain’s two-minute yuletide anthem that launched a few weeks ago, and similarly tell stories of people brought together by “the perfect gift.”

This first ad echoes the yearning, nautical themes of “Lighthouse,” presenting a young girl who sniffs out the ideal present for Mom while Dad is far away from home on Christmas:

Next, we learn that, under the right circumstances, getting gifts in the wrong sizes can put an XXL-sized smile on a young man’s face:

Finally, in the flight’s most “Christmasy” installment, a husband’s heartfelt show of affection outshines the ostentatious lighting display he engineers for the house. (Note the brand-centric holiday fare playing on TV in one early scene.)

The work derives considerable sincerity from its smart use of soft colors, moody music and cinematic storytelling. These are compelling, relatable tales that draw us in with small mysteries (why would a girl by her mom a man’s scent for Christmas?) and deliver satisfying twists in the end. (Thankfully, the new approach is a world away from the brand’s 2016 Thanksgiving Day Parade commercial, which floated a giant Kris Kringle balloon as it raised mawkish nostalgia to dizzyingly creepy heights.)

Some commenters have ascribed the subdued tone of the new ads to the chain’s continued struggles in a brutal marketplace, but a Macy’s rep says the intention was simply “to make this entire campaign feel real, [presenting] true slices of real people’s lives, showing emotions that are absolutely believable.”

Besides, you can find St. Nick, elves and reindeer in plenty of other places this time of year.

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.