Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Christmas that almost wasn't but then was

As a non-Christian, I'm all for not having that religion shoved down my throat, but most of its holidays are so secularized these days that hearing about them on television doesn't exactly throw me into a tizzy. Don't tell that to the lawyers at Alltel.

Santa Claus: "This is the story of the holiday that almost didn't rock!"

Say, uh, which holiday would that be, Santa Claus? Wait, wait, don't tell me... Purim? No, I've got it: Greek Independence Day.

Santa Claus: "You see, Alltel Wireless has a great deal on the MOTOROKR and 50 free songs!"

Kudos to Alltel (and Campbell-Ewald, their agency) in this case; it's a good upfront use of branding before we get to the dopier parts of this ad.

Santa Claus: "But some naughty boys tried to stop Chad!"

Wait, who's Chad? Is he one of those Greek freedom fighters? Look, Alltel. You can't treat your spokesman as though he's some famous advertising character or assume the viewer has seen all your other stupid ads.

Verizon: "These phones really do rock."
Cingular/AT&T: "Too bad no one'll ever get one!"

Yeah, if Alltel were to go out of business, where would customers turn for phones that could also play music? Solid argument there. Can you see why the "big four" are so threatened? Alltel's at the crest of the wave! If only that translated into market share.

Santa Claus: "But they didn't get far!"

Competition getting you down? Why not rough them up a bit? I actually don't mind this Rankin/Bass parody that much because those old Christmas specials are majorly fucked up by modern standards (seriously, watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this year and tell me it's not totally insane), but seeing a reindeer puncture a tire with his antlers or an elf smashing a headlight with a candy cane is kind of creepy and off-putting, and really doesn't make me root for Santa and Chad even though I'm ostensibly supposed to be doing so.

Santa Claus: "And the holiday that almost didn't rock truly rocked!"

Hang on, I'm almost there... tip of my tongue... Tsagaan Sar? That's gotta be it.

In principle there's nothing wrong with the all-inclusive term "holidays" for the Christmas season, of course, since it encompasses Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and anything else in the general vicinity, and doesn't assume the religion of the viewer. But you can't do that and use Santa Claus - he may be a pretty secular figure these days but he's still associated exclusively with Christmas. You can't boot Christmas out of the conversation and then use only figures associated with that holiday - if you're going to do that, would it have been so hard to throw a menorah in there somewhere, or a dreidel, or something, for God's sake, so you don't end up with this ridiculous over-PC use of "holiday" when you just mean Christmas?

I guess Alltel makes up for it by giving Santa the most miscast Santa Claus voice in claymation history (it's even worse in this other spot). Santa is traditionally given a deeper register and speaks authoritatively, but here he just sounds like some random dude, and kind of oddly high at that. Why not just go all out and have Nathan Lane do the voice?


Quivering P. Landmass said...

I love when companies pretend their spokespeople are famous when they've only been around for a year or two. I wonder what percentage of Alltel customers even know who "Chad" is?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you covered this commercial. I was at one of those restaurants where there are TVs with no sound and this commercial came on. I was curious when I saw elves and reindeer being vandals and had no clue why. I thought it was still totally awesome and because there was no sound I was able to surmise that perhaps Santa had finally turned evil like in Futurama... so I am glad that I know now what happened in the commercial, but at the same time, I liked my made up version better and feel cheated somehow.


Andrew N.P. said...

Am I the only one who finds it odd that Chad, usually cast as the handsome hero, appeared here as a damsel in distress? I mean, how cool can he really be if he can be subdued by a pack of D&D-playing dorks? And then he has to be rescued by elves. Not even Tolkien's elves; the Keebler kind. I can only hope he gets his manhood back as a Christmas -- I mean, holiday gift.

NickO said...

Elves attacking? Angry reindeer? SNOWFLAKE THROWING STARS!??! This is a hilarious send-up of those great Rankin-Bass specials. I agree about not initially knowing who 'Chad' is exactly. As for the Santa/Holiday thing, stop being such a wuss.