As far as Christmas season ads go, this is one of the very best.
The client is Doc Morris, one of Germany’s largest online pharmaceutical services. The agency is Jung von Matt/SAGA.
The narrative technique is prolonging the intrigue, without letting us know what everything is directed towards.
See my note below, after watching the ad – there are things you may have missed the first viewing.
Is he trying to impress someone? Or, wanting to revive his days of youth (shown through black & white photos in the beginning)? Or, is it something about that pesky neighbor?
But we don’t get any answers yet. And the man continues his regimen – wakes up early, starts running, lifts weights even more.
And of course, you finally realize what all this is about with a joyful tear in your eye.
As a pharmaceutical services brand, there is no product shot or mention anywhere (this is not intended as a transactional communication; more of a brand-building exercise) – pharmaceutical services are ideally like great cinematography – best left in the background without calling for attention. They are not chosen because we desire them, they are chosen because we have no other option. Ideally, we would need them. As the line, in the end, says (translated from German), they are there ‘so you can take care of what matters in life‘. A means to an end, not the end by itself.
The specific reason why the ad touches you/me/anyone is because the effort of the old man is not directed towards himself, but to someone else. It could have been a woman in his life (someone new he has met recently?) and the impact would have been almost the same. But what heightens the impact, in the end, is that all the rigorous effort is directed at a little girl, full of innocence.
That he did all this to bring that delighted smile to her face for those fleeting seconds – that is the precise point the ad wins. That true joy is when you make someone else joyful with your effort, love, and attention – it’s the season of giving, of course.
For you to make someone else happy and joyful, you’d need to understand what makes them happy first! That attention you lavish on them, the specificity of details, and your effort to make it happen – that’s the crux of the film’s narrative. For the little girl, it’s just a few seconds of delight, but for her, it’s also a lifetime of memories from her grandfather… something she’d remember for the rest of her life!
When you watch it the 2nd time (after being pleasantly surprised by, and emotionally soaked in the first viewing), you may realize that the clues are right there in the beginning.
The ending is fleetingly forewarned in a sequence of 3 shots within the first 10 seconds, and you’d understand it only after you watch it fully once (because it is shown from the perspective of the lead character).
Observe seconds 00:06, 00:07 and 00:12! The sequence is – the photo of a little girl in the background, the photo of a youthful, athletic man in another photo, and a Christmas tree outside!
Another very big clue is in the way he lifts the weight – observe the action! It’s exactly geared towards the specific action needed towards the ending!
Then there’s the photo of the grand daughter that the old man uses as inspiration throughout his exercise regimen. We are never shown what the frame contains, only that it enthuses him to keep going. In the last shot, of course, we see the photo.