grown-up kevin mccallister macauley culkin from home alone google

This week we learned: What makes a great holiday ad

It starts in November. Often accompanied by soft music and snowflakes. Selling anything and everything from chocolate to jewelry to power tools to a personal favourite, the Festive Special. Holiday ads! Brands know when you'll be shopping and they know when you're awake and they're all fighting for your dollars and attention from Halloween through to Boxing Day.

So what makes a good holiday ad stand out? As much as all these companies want you to buy stuff from them, a lot of these ads aim to make their product or service secondary to overall message they're sending. Take Apple for example. Tech gadgets and devices routinely make top gift lists, so it's no surprise that all the major tech players would invest in big holiday ads. But you don't really need to be reminded of Apple's offerings, so instead they go for sentiment. 

This year's "Share your gifts" ad is a short animated film about a creative girl working away on a secret project. She keeps it all close to the chest until her dog intervenes and she sees the joy her work brings. 

Rather than sweetness, Google opted to tap into your sense of nostalgia for their holiday ad, Google Home Alone. It's a winning formula if you're trying to reach those old millennials. Remember Ferris Bueller's Superbowl commercial? Oh yeah. So in 2018 Kevin McCallister is back. He's 38, still at home, and once again his family is nowhere to be seen. But this time he has a fully tricked out smart home to assist in his ruse. 

Microsoft opted to highlight one very specific product, the Xbox Adaptive Controller and we are all for it, but again, it's not so much about the gaming accessory as what it enables people to do with it. We're not crying you're crying.

Rounding out the tech giants holiday ads is Amazon's cheery "Can you feel it?" montage of smiling Amazon boxes being delivered to happy people. But we're not linking to it because once we saw this edit with the music from The Winter Soldier, we can't not see it as the most chilling horror film of the year. 

Like we saw with the Home Alone ad, it doesn't hurt to have a big star in your holiday spot. And who's bigger than Elton John? U.K. department store John Lewis always comes out with a big holiday ad and this year is no exception. This ad traces Sir Elton's career backwards from present day to when he first unwrapped a piano. It's a testament to the power of potential and dreaming big. Give your kid a musical instrument and they could become a superstar. Or a Lego set and they'll design buildings. Or Operation and they'll become a terrible surgeon. Kidding on that last one, but it's great ad all set to, "Your song."

As for us, Outcrop is closed until January 2, 2019 so we can all take some time to focus on what's important this holiday season. Happy holidays from our Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit offices and we'll see you in the new year! 

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