Walmart's holiday ad begins by reminding us of something we already know: Kids love Christmas. They can't sleep. They tear their presents open like wild animals. They scream.
Adults, on the other hand, are way less keen. Christmas is stressful. It's laborious. It's expensive. And it's a minefield of actively unfun corporate holiday parties.
Then the ad ramps up. "At Walmart," it tells us, "we believe grownups should have a joyful Christmas too."
How's that? we wonder. Will you dim your abrasive lights? Will you make your aisles less cluttered? Will you, at the very least, give us a flashmob?
No. None of those things. Instead, Walmart is giving us Chris Jones, a hypnotist.
In "Holiday Hypnosis," by Saatchi & Saatchi New York, Jones meets various harried adults and interviews them about their favorite childhood Christmases. Then, after placing them in a trance, he gets them to relive them.
Some of the results produce major lulz—it's a vision of adults wilding out in living rooms, tearing open presents, peering up the chimney for Santa, and beating the crap out of tiny drums. But there are also touching moments, like when a woman nudges a curtain open to discover snowfall, or an older man pantomimes the act of skating over the carpet.
And there's the giggling—that cup-runneth-over, tinkling-bell sound that tickles inside you and makes one guy keel over, clutching his tummy.
We're moved, despite ourselves. And when Jones snaps them back awake, it's as if they've returned from a faraway dream—still clutching wrapping paper, or on the floor, holding a very small drumstick.
This isn't the time for debating the merits of hypnosis, or for whipping out that one time you tried it to quit smoking and it didn't work. Riding the emotions that unspool here requires a certain suspension of disbelief. There's something heartbreaking about letting an adult reinhabit her 5-year-old self, then taking that memory away in a dry finger-snap.
And we're not sure how to feel when Jones shows them the weird footage of all the things they did while under the spell. As grownups, there's something foolish and embarrassing about it, a sense of being tricked into losing the narrative grip of your life just long enough for it to be recorded. Scary thoughts can seep in: If I did that and didn't know it, what else could I do?
But the subjects here laugh and cry.
"I never thought I'd see that again," the older man marvels, while a younger one laughs and says, "That's the young me!"
"It's been a while since I felt like this on Christmas," a woman adds, wiping tears away.
What keeps "Holiday Hypnosis" afloat is Jones' gentle, decisive manner. You feel like you can trust him to guide you safely through the alien. But what we're left with is a feather-light sense of what it felt like to be buoyed into the promise of the holidays without having to carry it on our own backs (or pay for it with our own money).
It's a pretty memory, one that could grant us the kindness of relaxing our shoulders as we close in on Christmas: It's the last leg. Most of us have done our parts and bought the gifts, and maybe now we can just enjoy our eggnog lattés and show up smiling. Because that's what matters, right? Just being happy enough to want to remember?
"Holiday Hypnosis" concludes, "Everyone should feel like a kid at Christmas. Share a happy, healthy holiday." And while this probably won't go into the annals of best holiday executions, it's at least reminded us that the kid we thought we'd grown out of is still in there somewhere, looking for Santa.
Agency – Saatchi & Saatchi New York
Javier Campopiano – Chief Creative Officer
Mike Pierantozzi – Executive Creative Director
Cristian Costa – Art Director
Tomás Almuna – Copywriter
Justin Roth – Creative Director
Adam Kline – Creative Director
Derek Peet – Junior Copywriter
Thanh Ly – Junior Art Director
John Doris – Head of Film
Abe Romano – Producer
Matty Yu – Producer
Caitlin Reynolds – Senior Account Director
Kate Owens – Digital Director
Sarah Mannion – Account Director
Preeya Vyas – Managing Director, Digital
Production Company: Hey Wonderful
Director: Peking (Nat Livingston Johnson and Gregory Mitnick)
Founder/Managing Director: Michael Di Girolamo
Executive Producer: Sarah McMurray
Line Producer: Scott Lane
DP: Adam McDaid
Edit: Rock Paper Scissors
Editor: Noah Benezra
Exective Producer: Eve Kornblum
Producer: Julianne Cort
Color: Company 3
Colorist : Jaime O'Bradovich
Music: Future Perfect Music
Mix: Sound Lounge
Mixer: Rob Sayers