At The Drum, we’ve covered the most-viewed, most-talked about, most expensive, most effective and our favourite, Christmas ads, but stripping back these cold-hard metrics, we are now reviewing something less of the brain, and more of the heart: the tear-jerkers.
It is hard to explain the triggers that send a person off into tears, we looked at the work that caught our reporters off-guard and had them break down into weepy messes at their desks.
If a marketer can get a cynical consumer and hater of ads to cry at their creative they are deserving of applause. If they can coax tears from hardened, embittered marketing journalists they should be immediately be bestowed a Cannes Lion (or Cannes Crying) Award.
Below The Drum reporters share the work that had them weeping this year.
Stephen Lepitak: Blur Spain 'Hope'
I don’t want to say too much about this film on the horrors of war as it needs to be experienced to appreciate where I’m coming from - but this is absolutely the epitome of great storytelling through advertising. Maybe not a Christmas ad per se - but it was released just before the season’s greetings and everyone the world over should see it. Wow.
Cryometer: 88% - a mix of sorrow tears and the realisation that war is futile.
John McCarthy: McDonald's 'Reindeer'
As a young un, the ritual of leaving a carrot out for Rudolf (and a Budweiser for Santa) was well drilled. The thought of Rudolf and co, breaking the rules of reality and dragging a fat man across the face of the earth without reward is harsh enough. That spoke to the human emotions that I sometimes have.
For the ad to actually link to a call to action (McDonald's sell carrots - a message it may use to get around junk food bans) sent me over the edge. This work erased memories of the horrendous 'dead-dad fillet o' fish work' and made me happy that Santa treats his steeds with respect.
Cryometer: 37% eye precipitation, subdued whimpers like a baby reindeer caught in a bear-trap. Tears followed by a rueful, day-long melancholy.
Rebecca Stewart: Boots ‘Gifts that Get Them’
Plinky plonky piano song? Check. Emotionally/driven narrative? Check. Themed around the spirit of giving? Check. Boots beat John Lewis at its own game this year.
As someone who lives relatively far away from my own Mum, this Christmas ad had me reaching for the tissues and dialling up to Scotland. I’m too old to identify with the eye-rolling teenager who goes soft when she sees her Mum enjoying herself signing in a choir. However, that didn’t stop me feeling nostalgic, homesick and like I should buy my Mum a lipstick (well done Ogilvy).
You just have to forgive the slightly awkward cover version of She’s the One by Robbie Williams, which has been changed to ‘She’s Me Mum’ with a crass Northern accent.
Cryometer: Finding out Robbie Williams was leaving Take That.
Katie Deighton: Zalando 'Never Out of Fashion'
Perhaps it's because I'm away from home in a country where you cannot buy mince pies and drink a can of Stella on the street. Perhaps it's because, despite the UK Parliament's best attempts to self-combust with incompetence, Brexit is around the corner, and German and French accents may soon become as rare as Latin in London come 29 March.
Whatever the reason, Zalando's wholly simple spot of a bilingual, multigenerational choir singing Silent Night (or Stille Nacht, or Douce Nuit) warmed my heart with the true spirit of Christmas: peace on earth, goodwill to men...and a bountiful supply of lager.
Cryometer: A semi-religious awakening that manifested in 43% misty eyed-ness.
Charlotte McEleny: Singtel 'Grace’s White Christmas'
This ad makes me cry for all the wrong reasons. Spoiler alert - the crux of the story is that a young girl emotionally blackmails a self-styled loser busker out of his only companion left in the world… his dog. The busker is likeable, an early scene suggests he’s lost a great love, and most people watching will relate more to his gritty, realistic tale of loneliness at Christmas than the child who thinks it’s ok to take people’s dogs.
This young girl runs away from her helper or relative, who is then shouted at by her parents, not that is was her fault, and ends up with a free dog. Oh and it snows, in Singapore. What the jingle bell is going on?
Cryometer: 40% misty-eyed, mostly confusion tears, so many emotions, all mixed together, nothing makes sense.
Cameron Clarke: N/A
Which ad made me cry? None of them. If you’re crying at 30-second spiels for beef burgers and Bonjella then I weep for you. I weep for my weeping colleagues.
Cryometer: Arid. Zero vapour. 0%. A droplet desert of parched pupils.