A White Christmas Isn't What It Seems in Red Cross Holiday Spot

BBDO flips the script in haunting spot

The American Red Cross envisions a white Christmas that's more nightmare than dream come true in "Snowfall," a haunting PSA from BBDO breaking this week across TV and digital platforms.

Seeking to turn traditional tropes on their heads, the 75-second film presents festive globes, decorative lights, a smiley snowman and other seasonal staples, set to a yearning, indie-folk track composed by music house Human with lines about dreams, magic and "falling through the sky."

A young girl stares out her suburban window, wishing the white stuff would fall. This seems unlikely, as she lives in the desert. Yet flurries eventually fly. It's a miracle!

Or is it?


Those aren't snowflakes but bits of ash, carried on the wind from a raging fire at a neighbor's home. Sirens drown out the cloying soundtrack and copy reads, "Distastes don't take a break for the holidays. With your help, neither do we." The spot closes with a plea for donations.

"Holiday ads have become all too predictable," says BBDO New York creative director Roberto Danino. "As a result, people have come to expect sweet wintertime stories, usually featuring a child, and a melancholy acoustic guitar track. We wanted to play with those expectations and surprise people."

It's an artful, effective approach, well-realized by director Martin Stirling, which rewards repeat viewings and maintains its power even if you know the trick ending.

"We needed to remind viewers that thousands of families will be devastated by disasters big and small during the holiday season," says Red Cross VP of brand marketing Selma Bouhl. "With our viewers' support, the Red Cross will be there for them."

Other recent work that tweaks festive clichés in various ways include BMW's take on Lexus's big red bows, Fussy deodorant's armpit carolers and Sainsbury's medieval quest for the perfect Christmas pudding.


Creative Agency: BBDO New York
CCO, Worldwide: David Lubars
CCO, North America: Luiz Sanches
CCO, New York: Matt MacDonald 
SVP, Creative Director: Roberto Danino
Creative Director: Victor Roa
Senior Creative Director/Copywriter: Tom Kraemer
Creative Director/Art Director: Jenn Tranbarger
EVP Director of Content Production: Alex Gianni
VP, Group Executive Producer: Chance Bassett
Senior Producer: Jason Guzman
Senior Music Producer: Julia Millison
SVP, Senior Director: Lindsey Cash
Account Director: Mosito Ramaili
Account Executive: Finn Laskowski
EVP, Group Strategy Director: Mahima Santhanam
Planner: Abby Ness
Business Manager: Kathleen Bannon
SVP Project Management Director: Mark Lester

Production Company: Partizan
Director: Martin Stirling
Executive and Line Producer: Kimi Porter Thomas
Director of Photographer: Igor Jadue-Lillo
Production Designer: Peter Benson

Editorial: Cosmo
Executive Producer: Anne Lai
Producer: Amanda Slamin
Editor: Tom Scherma
Assistant Editor: Joshua Berger

VFX/Finishing: Mathematic

Telecine Company: PreyMaker
Mark Sanna

Music Company: Human
Song: "I Will"
Composers: Ari Hest and Sloan Anderson

Audio Finishing: Duotone
Sound Designer/Mixer: Andy Green
Executive Producer: Greg Tiefenbru

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