It's the holiday season. That means holiday sales events, and big ad spends.

The best commercials these days have stories that compel you to share them with others. 

The best commercial directors know how to deliver those stories.

In a really weird twist, some companies shoot their shot and miss... but miss so wide that they go viral anyway! 

Today we're going to take a look at the three biggest holiday commercials that debuted this year and what they can teach you about creating content that cuts through the noise.  

Bring tissues because some of these get heavy! 

How 3 Viral Commercials are Disrupting the Holidays

First up, let's take a look at a company unafraid to take risks in marketing. Nike has had a noisy 2019. They ran a Colin Kaepernick advertisement that helped shoot their stock through the roof. 

And they're keeping their socially conscious advertisements coming with their "Carry Me" campaign.

Cynics will surely point out the hero shot of the Nike Air Zoom UNVRS featuring the New FlyEase Technology.

But this commercial is a heartwarming story that hides its product behind an important message. The voiceover tells us about Elena Delle Donne and her big sister Lizzie. They have a special bond. That bond influences all of Elena’s choices, including inspiring a shoe that can be worn by all athletes. 

What made this advertisement go viral?

A story.

When we think about Nike, we generally think about Jordan, LeBron, and athletes at their peak. 

By expanding the brand to athletes with disabilities, we not only get a message that hits close to our hearts but we get an emotional incentive to support a company.

It's an excellent strategy wrapped in a good cause. 

Let's talk about that Peloton ad...


One day we were all minding our business and the next everyone IN THE WORLD had a take on the Peloton ad. At only thirty seconds long with relatively low production costs, one would think this seems would be an easy win for the company... 

But actually, most people are pissed. 

Here's how the company bills the ad: 

"This holiday, give your loved ones the opportunity to discover their strength, whenever they want it, all year long. Give them a gift that goes beyond the Holiday season. Give the gift of Peloton." 

That's a positive message, but let's talk about where all the hate is coming from. 

First off, this spot does not feel like it was directed well. I am sure the actress is capable, but you can tell they had her lean into anxious and scared faces... which sets the ad off-kilter from the start.

But then there is a problem at a story level. Having a husband buy the wife an exercise bike she clearly did not ask for also can be... problematic. Not just for a real-life marriage, but for society on the whole.

Messaging should be clear. They need to be succinct because you only have a limited amount of time to get people into the story. 

When you come up with your own story for an ad, make sure to get lots of different eyes on it. Notes from a diverse set of people usually can help poke holes in ads like this one. I think this ad could truly have been fixed in many ways, even in post. 

You could have had the couple using the bike and challenging each other. Or finding a way for it to grow their marriage. 

Or even added a wild line of how she wanted one but was afraid to ask for it. 

This stuff could save unsavory feedback. 

You can't talk about ads without talking Apple

We've become accustomed to Apple delivering memorable advertising campaigns. While there is a short version of the ad below, I wanted to include the longer version to prove that Apple succeeds because it values the two most important things when it comes to shooting commercials:

  1. Storytelling
  2. Editable plot

Watch this ad, with tissues, and we'll talk after. 

The story here is great. 

A family visits their grandfather at Christmas. Grandma has recently died and that ruined his mood. The family uses the iPad to placate the kids, but the kids get an idea and use the iPad to comfort Grandpa with a video they make. 

Okay, I will stop crying. 

This ad runs three minutes long, but the vignette style shows how you could cut this story down to 30 seconds if need be. That kind of malleability allows for it to run on tv, the web, or just be inserts wherever Apple needs them.  

There's so much bang for your buck here. The initial investment yielded something that could be used all over. 

That's something to think about when you're pitching or paying for these kinds of ads. 

At the end of the day, this video is so powerful because the story works no matter the format you view it. 

What's next? Learn Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

The 'Modes of Persuasion' are at the root of all advertising. Those modes are called ethos, pathos, and logos. How can they work for you?