Christmas: The Commercial Germany Is Talking About

Christmas

The Commercial Germany Is Talking About

Christmas in Germany—that means hot mulled wine, Christmas markets, and family—this year it also means discussing a TV commercial by a supermarket chain that makes death a subject of social media discussion.

Christmas Commercial, Youtube Screenshot 15.12.2015.
Christmas Commercial, Youtube Screenshot 15.12.2015.

In the TV spot a grandfather is receiving calls from his family all over the world telling him that they won’t make it back home for Christmas this year. Accompanied by sappy music, the family is informed about their grandfather’s death and they all hurry home just to find out that he is still alive. He had staged his death to have a family gathering. Check out the clip with subtitles here:

This clip sure is a success for the supermarket chain and the advertisement agency since it’s the talk of the day in Germany. Under the hashtag #heimkommen (#homecoming) Twitter users and other netizens have been discussing mainly one question: Is it morally correct to use death this way in a TV commercial?

According to netizen max, it’s not all right:

EnglishGerman

A father lies to his children and acts dead. Then all the kids meet at his house and grandpa invites the shocked children to stay for dinner and everybody is happy. What kind of nonsense is that???

Da belügt ein Vater seine Kinder und täuscht denen seinen Tod vor. Dann treffen sich später die Kinder in seinem Haus und Opa läd die geschockten Kinder zum Essen ein und alle sind Happy. Was für ein Unsinn ist das denn???

Criticism is not the only reaction. Some claim that the spot has actually changed their life. The PR and digital media specialist Frank Behrendt for example writes in a commentary that the lonely old man in the commercial inspired him:

EnglishGerman

#homecoming is a trigger to stop and think. About our daily life. Do we have the right priorities? Do we mainly consider ourselves and too little others? So I went to a nursing home here in Cologne. I went to the home management and asked how the residents are doing. It turned out that many of the old people long for these simple things: Talks, laughter, friendly words. We made a plan together: In the new year I will drop by and organize an evening every twelve weeks. I will for example read their favorite childhood books.

(…) #Heimkommen ist ein Impuls, um innezuhalten und nachzudenken. Über uns und unser tägliches Tun. Setzen wir die richtigen Prioritäten? Denken wir nicht überwiegend an uns und viel zu wenig an andere? (…) Und so war ich gerade in einem Altersheim bei uns in Köln. Ich bin zur Heimleitung gestiefelt und ich habe sie gefragt, wie es mit den einsamen Bewohnern dort aussieht. (…) (Es) kam dann doch heraus, dass viele einsame alte Leute von ganz einfachen Dingen träumen: Gespräche, Lachen, Wärme durch Worte. Wir haben dann gemeinsam einen Plan gemacht…: Alle zwölf Wochen im neuen Jahr komme ich künftig vorbei und gestalte einen unterhaltsamen Abend. Ich werde …zum Beispiel ihre Lieblingsbücher aus der Kindheit vorlesen. (…)

A Satire

The commercial was released at the beginning of December 2015. A couple weeks later, a comedy TV show named “Circus Halligalli” turned the emotional commercial into a satire, where at the end the furious family give the grandpa a piece of their minds and an old lady guns grandpa down. Afterward, the family enjoys their Christmas duck.

Many felt already uncomfortable with the TV commercial, but the satire seems has taken it too far. At least for the journalist Ingo Rentz who writes in a commentary:

EnglishGerman

Call me a virtuecrat. However, interpreting the already very sensitive topic death this way is a no-go. We are looking back at the year 2015. It started with 12 dead in Paris, shot by islamistic assassins. In Syria and Iraq the IS is rampaging. We still remember the pictures of the drowned Syria refugee boy, who has become a symbol for thousands of people who have lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea. And just a few weeks ago 130 people died, shot at close range—just like Udo Walz [the grandfather] in “Circus Halligalli”. Mocking death neither belongs in German TV nor on Youtube.”

Man kann mich einen Moralapostel nennen. Aber das ohnehin schon sensible Thema Tod auf diese Weise zu interpretieren, geht gar nicht. Wir blicken gerade zurück auf das Jahr 2015. Es begann mit 12 Toten in Paris, erschossen von islamistischen Attentätern. In Syrien und Irak wütet der IS (…). Wir haben alle noch die Bilder des ertrunkenen syrischen Flüchtlingsjungen vor Augen, der symbolisch für die Tausende steht, die im Mittelmeer ihr Leben gelassen haben. Und erst vor wenigen Wochen starben in Paris 130 Personen, erschossen aus nächster Nähe – wie Udo Walz in “Circus Halligalli”. (…) Den Tod durch die Waffe für einen Witz zu gebrauchen, gehört … weder ins deutsche Fernsehen, noch auf Youtube.

Netizen Angelo has a different opinion. He also draws a connection to the terror attacks in Paris, especially to the attack at the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015:

At the beginning of this year the word was that satire is free to do anything, but apparently that is only the case when satire makes fun of things that others like.

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