Here’s a candidate for either the saddest, or the most ridiculous, Christmas ad of 2015.
With help from Jung von Matt, which created its smashing “Supergeil” ad last year, German supermarket chain Edeka tells the story of an old man who spends the holidays alone year after year, because his children and grandchildren are too busy to come visit him.
This repeat offense is deftly illustrated with shots of the man sitting at a solo place setting, as tree decorations and outfits morph around him. But as the story progresses, it becomes difficult to cast blame: His progeny are scattered around the world, raising families of their own, doing—ahem—very important business things, and working as doctors.
Of course, things take a familiar turn for the tragic when the old man finally dies, lonely and alone. Watch the video, without spoilers, below.
His descendants finally gather, dressed in black, to mourn him. Except—wait for it, here’s another left turn—he’s not dead! It was just a trick.
At this moment, despite the dark premise, viewers might find themselves laughing. Faking your death to dupe your children into visiting is profoundly twisted (though this is far more heartfelt than an absurd Phil Schifly scenario).
His kids seem grateful to discover he’s still breathing, and are surprisingly short on outrage. To his credit, he pawns responsibility for the whole thing off on them with the German equivalent of a Gallic shrug. But even that’s a stretch—at the very least, he could have raised kids not to be ungrateful curs.
Overall, it’s not apparent what the whole gag has to do with Edeka’s products, except for the fact that people eat at Christmas—assuming they’re alive. Presumably, food alone is not enough to bring this family together. And the brand’s position seems reduced to “It’s OK to resort to grand macabre deception if that’s what it takes to bring your loved ones to your holiday table—and buy more of our wares to feed them.”
The spot is quickly becoming a viral hit, with more than 10 million views on YouTube and another 15 million on Facebook. It’s unclear how many of those are hate-watches. But regardless, one thing is clear about this family—they certainly do deserve each other.