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Opinion and Insight
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Is Christmas 2015 the Year of Lonely Old Guys in Adverts?

LBB Editorial, 10 months ago

The emotional German supermarket Edeka and John Lewis spot are putting elderly loneliness at the heart of their Christmas advertising. Laura Swinton ponders why

Is Christmas 2015 the Year of Lonely Old Guys in Adverts?

So. Old people. The talking point of #CrimboAdvertising2015 that no one saw coming. Just as soon as everyone finally got over the John Lewis Man in the Moon spot and managed to dry their eyes/schedule in a phone call with granny/stop making snarky comments about ‘Moon Hitler’ that they totally stole from the Guardian, along comes another geriatrically-inclined commercial to throw us into a whole new emotional tailspin. I’m talking, of course, about the spot for German supermarket Edeka that’s sparked massive debate in the press in its native market and is now being picked up by news sites all over the world. 

Depending on who you talk to,  it’s ‘literally the saddest thing ever’ or the most passive aggressive piece of parenting this side of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. The spot from Tempomedia director Alex Feil and creative agency Jung von Mat sees a poor old chap, abandoned year after year by his adult offspring who don’t seem able to make time for him at Christmas. So he does the only sensible thing – fakes his death in order to gather the clan together. Y’know. As one does.

One Facebook friend-of-a-friend suggested the old boy would have been better off doing a runner with the kid’s inheritance/life insurance cash and partying with strippers in Malibu. It’s certainly an option.

The debate in Germany mirrors the debate in the UK around Man in the Moon – that brands are exploiting the serious issue of loneliness in the elderly to manipulate sentimental consumers. But – and maybe this is just me being a cold, cruel bitch in which case, sorry Santa – it’s a pretty effective two-birds-one-stone solution. Help boost sales, maybe guilt trip a few people into visiting their relatives and neighbours. I’ve seen the argument that the enormous media spend would have been better off being donated to charities that look after the elderly (in the UK, the John Lewis spot is tied up with Age UK), but in developed world there’s only so much reach charities can have and I suspect we all could do with boot up our collective behind (err, I meant ‘nudge’) and the kind of mass communications campaign of the reach and quality needed to touch a substantial number of people is only going to come from a big brand. If Age UK had spunked a squillion pounds’ worth of their hard earned donations on a John Lewis-level campaign, they’d have been rightly criticised. But this is all just my opinion.


John Lewis has also inspired it's own fairly amusing spoof, in the shape of a quick turn around ALDI spot from McCann Manchester and Another Film Company director Mark Denton. I wonder how long it will be before a rival German brand jumps at the chance to create it's own answer to Edeka?

It’s also interesting that lonely old people have been such a prominent factor in the UK and Germany – just one more old sad person spot and we can officially call it a trend (one’s a freak, two’s a coincidence, three’s a trend… right?) Some little birdies tell me that we might see a couple more in the next few weeks,

This year’s Cannes winners were all about empowerment of young girls, so I wonder if next year will see a glut of silver power advertising. Speculating wildly, I wonder if the strategic and creative focus on the elderly might stem from some sort of collective guilt within the ad industry? It’s easy to get wrapped up in work and with many of us working in major cities, far from our hometowns, it’s easy to neglect our older relatives (and feel cut off from the elderly people living round the corner in our adopted cities).