Apple, Microsoft Holiday Ads Focus on Emotional Connections Over Products

Apple Share Your Gifts

Two tech giants have released holiday ads that focus on feel-good messages to great effect. Apple’s is about sharing and creativity, while Microsoft’s is about inclusivity.

Both use emotion rather than products to envelop and deliver the brand message.

Apple’s holiday ad this year, titled “Share Your Gifts,” is a charming animated story of Sofia, toiling on a secret project she is hesitant to share. Her dog opens a window and all of her pages fly away, into the hands of other people who enjoy her creative project.

But just below the surface, an abundance of visuals with brand significance are secreted in the 3-minute ad including:

  • Nike OG Cortez are Sofia’s running shoe choice.
  • DFA logo for LCD Soundsystem is a sticker on the back of Sofia’s laptop.
  • MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A.) logo signals Sofia’s artistic interests and doubles as a shout-out for the spot’s creative agency, TBWAMedia Arts Lab.
  • Lamp Lit Prose poster features cover art for 2018 album by rock band Dirty Projectors.
  • Flow State poster from Australian singer-songwriter Tash Sultana’s latest album
  • Sonic Youth T-shirt from the band’s 1995 album Washing Machine
  • Billie Eilish logo seen through the window as a silhouette pays homage to the 16-year-old rising star with more than 650 million YouTube views who wrote the song “Come Out and Play” specifically for this ad.

As Adweek notes, “Most of these Easter eggs are meant to subtly convey the character of Sofia, whom the creators—Apple creative agency TBWAMedia Arts Lab and animation house Buck Productions—wanted to imbue with unique personality rather than just making her a generic figure. But some of the hidden images also offer intriguing peeks into the creative minds behind the ad.”

“Share Your Gifts” finds its heart in the spirit of giving a little piece of ourselves to our friends and families this holiday season, notes The Verge. “The irony of an extended commercial that preaches about being less materialistic this holiday season while also reminding us about Apple products we can buy for loved ones isn’t lost.”

Microsoft’s ad features nine-year-old gamer Owen Sirmons, rising to the top of his game with support from his real-life best friend Gunnar, other friends, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

A spin on the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer story, “Reindeer Games” combines pathos and play to deliver inspiration.

Owen has Escobar Syndrome, making it tough to use traditional video game controllers—and this spot shows the Xbox Adaptive Controller as designed to meet those needs. in fact, the controller was recently named one of Time Magazine‘s best inventions of 2018.

“The genesis of the ad was really rooted in the song and the story of Rudolph, where what looks like a difference or a challenge is really an opportunity waiting to be realized,” said Kathleen Hall, corporate VP of brand, advertising and research at Microsoft. “The real power and magic of technology is its ability to bring us together and make us better, no matter what our differences.”

The campaign premieres on TV on NBC during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tomorrow.

The overarching messages: “When everybody plays, we all win” and “Give Wonder.”

Both ads are tug at the heartstrings and promote harmony over product—at least for this holiday season.

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