Ready or Not, Here Comes Your First Big Weepy 2015 Holiday Prank Commercial

Shaw Communications obliges

Headshot of T.L. Stanley

'Tis the season for heart-tugging brand videos. Wait, already?

Just as the holidays seem to come ever earlier in the retail universe—Christmas displays regularly pop up before Halloween—at least one brand is getting a jump on the warm and fuzzy. But forgive Shaw Communications for being overeager. The telcom is situated north of the border and launched its video Monday to coincide with Canadian Thanksgiving later this week.

"Shaw Family Surprise" brings three families together in a stunt that makes it look like they're video chatting from across the world, as usual. In fact, the distant relatives are just across the driveway in a tricked-out Shaw vehicle. Since it's been outfitted to look like their living rooms, the Canadian families have no idea anything is different about the call. Then there's a knock on the door.

The reveals are sweet and understated, with video producer Shareability's co-founder and CEO Tim Staples saying the agency took pains to avoid "grandstanding" or "manufactured emotion." "So many of these videos can look overproduced—just like a commercial—and we prefer the authentic, even if it's muted," Staples said. "People can tell if it's not authentic."

Among the families profiled are brothers who haven't seen each other in more than a decade and an elderly man who will use the visit to help take care of his cancer-stricken daughter and meet his grandchildren for the first time.

The video, with Shaw's marketing message, "Connecting you to what matters most," could work year-round. But Staples not only acknowledges "the WestJet effect" of holiday-pegged films but also knows the work launches "about three or four weeks ahead" of the annual onslaught of weepies. And to make an impression, "you have to find good stories, and then get out of the way," he said.

Watch a behind-the-scenes short on how it all came together below.

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.