Christmas Storytelling: A Tale of Two Videos

I watched two videos before work today.

Both were designed to elicit an emotional response from me. One worked beautifully, sending me running for a tissue. The other video would look perfect on paper — the perfect Christmas story-based brand video — but it left me feeling blah and emotionless.

Fill the Truck Christmas Ad for Walmart

Let’s start with the video that missed its mark: Walmart’s “Fill the Truck” Christmas spot.

This video really sounded like it would hit the mark: little boy excited by the “it” toy of Christmas donates the toy and we see another less fortunate boy receive the gift on Christmas morning. It’s relatable, it has a heartwarming premise and cute kids. It should have worked, but it didn’t. Here are the reasons I think this video missed the emotional payoff:

  • We weren’t given much opportunity to bond with either boy.
  • There is no tension: early on we already see the boy donating the gift, and from there our minds can supply every step of the chain. We didn’t get to experience any surprise.
  • The donation process itself felt sterile and void of emotion. We’re supposed to believe that this kid is incredibly excited about dumping Spider Man into a big bin of toys that must look like heaven on earth to a 10 year old. And then Walmart trucks them across the country, where another kids gets to be happy about SpiderMan. It just feels….corporate and impersonal.

I love that Walmart created this piece to showcase the season of giving. For that reason alone, it probably beats out 95% of other commercials on TV in my opinion. Give me this one anytime.

This storytelling video works!

Following on the heels of the Walmart ad, I saw this video piece about a police department in Lowell, Michigan on the news. Now police departments all over the country have gotten a lot of publicity — mostly negative — lately, so I only half-listened until the video itself stopped me in my tracks.

There’s so much to love here.

  • It’s so relatable: we can all imagine being pulled over by the cops and sitting there chatting with the police officer with our hearts pounding and adrenalin flowing, wondering why he is so chatty and hoping that if we chat back maybe he will let us go.
  • We feel the tension between a bad event (being pulled over by cops) and a good event (being surprised by gifts).
  • Policemen have had such a rough time lately — it’s good to be reminded how kind and community-minded the vast majority of policemen really are. And what a delight it must have been for them to take an afternoon offering forgiveness for traffic violations and granting wishes instead of tickets!
  • The video piece was a bit too long and could have been edited better, but overall that concept of realtime giving and capturing the frantic nature of the event comes through on the video.

The Lowell police department video captures something of the unexpected wonder of gifts given with no expectation of reward or return, whereas the Walmart video misses that sense of joy.

One video leaves us flat.

The other inspires us to find a way to tell the story of Christmas in a new and magical way.

Ready to tell your story?