Montefiore's Lovely Holiday Ad Stars a Girl and Her Injured Unicorn

Alto and Derek Cianfrance craft a magical tale

The holidays are a time for magic, and few spots this year will feel as magical as "Caring Makes Magic: A Holiday Tale" from Montefiore—a beautifully made 2:25 film centering on a girl's love for her stuffed animal.

And not just any animal. It's a unicorn, our first hint that we might be in for some supernatural doings. Yet we're very much grounded in reality from the brilliantly jarring first six seconds, as the camera races toward a girl (played by Devyn McDowell) who's left her apartment building to frantically flag down a taxi.

And we're off to the races. Or actually, the hospital.

Montefiore-Einstein | Caring Makes Magic: A Holiday Tale

The agency Alto created the piece with director Derek Cianfrance. It shares some themes with prior Christmas ads (stuffed animals having enjoyed some high-profile time in the spotlight) yet feels uniquely its own—a tale of injury and recovery that somehow manages to transcend its fanciful approach and feel profound.

The music plays a big role: "I'm Sticking With You" by the Velvet Underground. The creative team created a narrative that fit with the song’s lyrics, and the emotional crescendo at the end is perfectly timed. The use of stop-motion also keeps the magic grounded, as does the use of real Montefiore-Einstein physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists and pediatric specialists from the Children’s Hospital.

The campaign will include OOH ads in New York, print including two full-page spreads in The New York Times, and social and digital efforts including TikTok. The hospital is also creating replicas of the plush toy—with each purchase, a unicorn will be gifted to every child receiving care at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore. 

"There's a magic to the holidays and to the medical care Montefiore provides. This film lives at the intersection of the two," says Hannes Ciatti, founder and chief creative officer at Alto. "It creates another holiday icon for a brand that truly believes in justice in medicine and world-class healthcare being accessible to every child in New York and beyond. Over the years we've worked with Montefiore-Einstein, we've focused on building narratives that capture the true power of care that these amazing humans provide New Yorkers every day."

"The intention was to make a Christmas fable that taps into the magic and wonder of childhood. And what's more magical and wondrous than a unicorn?" adds Cianfrance. "To me, the story is metaphorical. The unicorn represents something we care for deeply, something we wish to preserve, to rescue, to save. It could be a family member, a friend, or even ourselves. But I leave the specificity of the metaphor in the hands of the audience to interpret as they wish."

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. Previously, he was creative editor at Adweek.

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