This Supermarket’s Christmas Ad Is Darker Than the Rest, and for Good Reason

Penny and Serviceplan explore a painful part of the holidays

Headshot of Tim Nudd

Not all Christmas commercials have to be sweetness and light. The holidays are, of course, a painful time for many people. We’ve seen ads over the years that acknowledge this melancholy, whether it was John Lewis’ “Man on the Moon,” Apple’s “Misunderstood” or Edeka’s famously dystopian “Homecoming.”

After seeing a number of festive ads already this season, it’s time for our first spot that digs a little deeper, and addresses a common issue for so many people at the holidays—namely, the pain of family relationships.

It’s a somewhat taboo topic, though we’ve seen advertisers address it more and more openly of late. And German agency Serviceplan does so skillfully in its new Christmas spot for supermarket chain Penny, featuring a mother who embarks on an epic journey to try to fix things with her estranged daughter:

The storytelling is impressive here. Obviously, the final visual in the piece turns the entire commercial on its head—we suddenly understand what we’ve been watching, and explains some of the hyperbolic moments. (This is a trick used perhaps most famously in the “Monty the Penguin” Christmas ad for John Lewis a few years back.)

Here, though, the reveal at the end raises at least as many questions as it answers, enriching the narrative further.

How long have mother and daughter been estranged? It seems to have been years, despite the physical closeness of their homes. The mother has aged visibly since the flashback scenes, and the child in the doorway at the end looks at least 5 years old—another clue.

All of which helps to explain the mother’s elaborate metaphorically journey—her “path,” in the parlance of the ad. It becomes clear that the steps back to reconciliation have themselves taken years, and that’s what we’ve been witnessing.

The onscreen copy (“However long the path might seem, it’s Christmas. Time to reconcile”) feels perhaps a bit perfunctory. But the spot—directed by Chiara Grabmayr through Stink—get its point across evocatively—that togetherness, no matter how complicated, is usually worth it in the end.

Client: Penny-Markt GmbH
Brand: Penny

Serviceplan credits:
Global Chief Creative Officer: Alexander Schill
Creative Managing Partner Germany: Matthias Harbeck
Agency: Serviceplan Campaign
Serviceplan Campaign credits:
Executive Creative Director: Christoph Everke
Executive Producer: Aisha Blackwell
Senior Text: Henrik Pfeiffer
Senior Art Director: Marie Sophie Legat
Account Director: Fabian Kleinmann
Account Manager: Frederike Enk

Film Production company: Stink

Film credits:
Director: Chiara Grabmayr
Executive Producer: Moritz Merkel
Producer: Isabel Kast
Post Production Supervisor: Steffen Röthinger
Director of Photography: Danny Hiele
Media Agency: OMD Germany
Digital Agency: Plan.Net Campaign

Sound Design/ Music Company: nhb studios Berlin
Head of Audio Department: Wenke Kleine-Benne

Editing company: Froschhammer Film
Editor: Toni Froschhammer, Froschhammer Film
Service Producer: Ole Yakovleva, Radioactive Film
Post-Production: Katalyst Berlin Creative Services
Music Composer: Robert Henke, Audioforce

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