A Fireman Alone on Christmas Eve Still Finds the Magic in This Retailer's Holiday Ad

Suspend your disbelief

The holidays may be warmer in the southern hemisphere, but that doesn't make their department stores' holiday advertising game any less strong. 

This year, joining usual suspects like John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Macy's and more (whose entries you can see in this handy-dandy roundup), Chile/Peru-based retailer Ripley gives us "The Magical Night of Gaspar." 

“The magical night of Gaspar” for Ripley by McCann Santiago

Created by McCann Santiago, the ad was produced by Punkrobot, which received an Academy Award—Chile's first ever—for animated short film "Bear Story" in 2016. If you liked that film, you won't be disappointed here.

In the southern hemisphere, the holidays are marked by wildfire worries. And while you'll find no snow here, it's still a time for family. The film introduces us to Gaspar Alegría (meaning "happiness"), a fireman who gets the Christmas Eve shift and must share the news with his family. 

Luckily, his wife is imaginative. She tells the kids he's been chosen to work for Santa, transforming the days that follow into an adorable effort to ensure he makes a good impression. 

But when Gaspar enters that empty fire station on Christmas Eve, he knows the truth: It'll just be him, separated from those he loves, with no Santa to be found. 

"Firemen in Chile have something special: They are volunteers, and their service is because of their vocation," says chief creative officer Jose Ignacio Solari of McCann Santiago. "In a season where their duty is so important for the country, we wanted to point out ... the individual sacrifice each of them [makes] for society." 

In Spanish, the notion of vocation is strong; it's a calling, something you can't help because it's part of what you are. 

But this story isn't just about Gaspar's noble sacrifice, or his wife's clever knack for turning bad news into something enchanting. It's also about an epiphany he has, and his own decision to make the best of an otherwise lonely (and potentially dangerous) holiday. 

"Choose to do magic," the ad tells us when Gaspar throws open the fire doors and reveals the trucks, decked out in cheery light, for the whole neighborhood—including his family—to appreciate. 

"The Magical Night of Gaspar" is a tribute to people who work in the service of others, especially during the holidays. Despite its department store origins, it's refreshingly free of gifts, given or received, or financial undercurrents—apart from, well, the fact that Gaspar's gotta work. But even that is less because he needs to buy gifts, and more because it's a duty. 

Instead, the ad is about the unseen everyday gifts we offer loved ones and the community at large—the gifts of ourselves. This is a theme it shares with Phil Beastall's moving "Love Is a Gift" and Apple's (albeit more self-serving) "Share Your Gifts," which also came out this year.

Of course, we have questions about the story at large. If wildfires are a big seasonal worry, why is Gaspar working alone? Also, why did he spend the whole ad being sad if his family lives, like, across the street from work? And what if he needs to use those trucks later?! 

But we'll suspend our disbelief, because its heart is in the right place. In the scheme of things, these questions don't matter.

"We decided to make magic happen this Christmas," says Ripley marketing manager Pilar Barriga. "Through a 360 campaign, we worked with Facebook to bring a message to Chilean and Peruvian families that revive and emphasize social values and vocation, to serve all the people who help us around those dates." 

Nicely put and nicely done. "The Magical Night of Gaspar" premiered on Dec. 5 via the Chilevisión network. On top of a social strategy, it was accompanied by a tree lighting in the Plaza de Armas, the most renowned square in Santiago.

Agency: McCann Santiago
Campaign name: "The magical night of Gaspar"
Chief Creative Officer: José Ignacio Solari
Creative Director: Renzo Vacarisas
Creative Team: Lio Bustamente, Carla Padovani, Sebastián Álvarez,
Jaime Ramírez, Vicente Mardondes.
Planning: Christine Angerstein, Maribel Vidal
Accounts Team: Ángeles Forteza, Pablo Jiménez, Macarena Valenzuela.
Social Media Team: Modo, Facebook, Google
PR Team: Johnny Méndez G.
Production Team: Pato Escala, Gabriel Osorio.
Production Company: PunkRobot
Director: Pato Escala, Gabriel Osorio.
Sound Production: Miranda y Tobar.
Client approval:  Pilar Barriga

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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