Separate holiday storylines wrap up like the ends of a shiny red bow in a sweet seasonal promo for the Montefiore Einstein hospital system in New York.
One narrative channels the Twilight Zone, showing a snowy village at Christmastime that feels decidedly ... off, with citizens who brood or stand frozen like statues. The other strand, told in a more documentary style, follows an older man making strides with his physical therapy.
Developed by creative agency Alto and MJZ director Fredrik Bond—with a symphonic, slowly swelling score from Oscar nominee Emile Mosseri—the almost three-minute film should keep viewers guessing until the big reveal:
The guy runs a toy shop, and the tiny town is a model in the front window. Once he returns to work, the village turns downright festive. In the end, there's no line between fantasy and reality. The shopkeeper joyously drives a diminutive train through the picturesque burgh, working the locomotive's whistle for all he's worth.
"As children, we all imagine our toy worlds coming to life," Alto founder and CCO Hannes Ciatti tells Muse. "It's a magical behavior that we lose as we age. We chose this method because of its humanity and because everyone shares fond memories of store windows with illuminated wonderlands during the holidays. Showing home care and then shots of a dusty toy store wouldn't have left the same impact with viewers."
"Home care is one arm of the organization that physically extends into the community, so it made sense to show a slice in this year's holiday film," adds agency strategy head Tara Fray. The work feels in step with past client-agency projects, including last year's seasonal spot about an injured unicorn and this local Emmy winner paying tribute to healthcare workers who bravely soldiered through the pandemic.
For this year's ad, the team built a small-scale world with lifelike human figures, streets and buildings for long shots, plus a highly detailed medium-size version for parts of the tale that required close-ups and zooms.
"Once the different parts of the village were shot, we used greenscreen to add the actors into it," says Alto production head Matt Bonin. "This gives it a unique look, nearly like a Broadway theater stage." (The sledding, skating and crowd sequences were filmed on a wintery soundstage.)
It's a novel approach, extremely well realized, though the story's inherent mystery does require more attention from the viewer.
"The hope is that we create enough suspense for the viewers to be captivated," Ciatti says. "We like that we can hold off for the worlds to collide" near the film's conclusion, rather than telegraphing the denouement early on.
The campaign broke last week during local holiday specials and sports events, with various online edits, OOH elements and sponsorships.
Loreen Babcock - SVP, Chief Marketing Officer
Alto New York
Hannes Ciatti - Chief Creative Officer, Founder
Matt Bonin - Head of Entertainment + Production, Partner
Ed Rogers - Managing Director, Partner
Tara Fray - Head of Strategy, Partner
Dan Kroeger - Creative Director
Pierre Janneau- Creative Director
Bryan Stokely - Writer
Chen Liang - Art Director
Filipe Nogueira - Art Director
Kim Cross - Executive Producer, Film
Megan Bowen - Group Brand Director
Tom Gibson - Brand Director
Julia Menassa Panev - Director of Art Production
Marvin Cassell - Integrated Production Associate
Director: Fredrik Bond
Executive Producer: Ben Scandrett-Smith
Line Producer: Alicia Richards
Production Manager: Daisy Mostyn
Director of Photography: Arnaud Potier
Production Designer: Dan Betteridge
Editor: Rich Orrick
Assistant Editor: Chris Wronka
Executive Producer: Erica Thompson
Editorial Producer: Malia Rose
POST / VISUAL FX:
Founder/Creative Director - Tim Davies
Post Producer - Andrew Cowderoy
Colorist - Sofie Friis Borup
Color Producer - Shannen Troup
Composer - Emile Mosseri
SOUND DESIGN AND MIX:
Executive Producer - Ashley Benton
Sound Design - Gus Koven
Mix Engineer - Matt Keith
Photographer - Sebastian Nevols
Retouching - One White Chair - Karl Hugill