German Christmas ad appears heartfelt, underlying message questionable

Now more than ever, companies have to work to garner consumers’ attention because of people’s fast-paced lifestyles and the increasing information overload from different media. German supermarket chain Edeka is no exception with their recent viral and emotionally evocative advertisement. Within its first week of being released, the commercial has received over 23 million YouTube views and accumulated a lot of criticism along the way. The commercial opens with an elderly man listening to a message from his daughter who tells him she and her family won’t be able to visit for Christmas. His granddaughter adds a cheerful, “Merry Christmas, Grandpa” to the end of the message. As the message plays, the man looks despondently outside the window at a neighbor embracing his grandchildren.

Next, it shows the man eating dinner alone on Christmas at a long, empty table. The mood shifts again when the commercial focuses on his children. Their busy lives, however, are abruptly interrupted when they learn the devastating news of their father’s passing. They travel to his home and enter the dining room to find an unexpected sight: a beautiful table complete with candlelight and place settings for dinner.

Another occurrence serves as an even more unexpected sight: their father walking into the dining room. He asks, “How else could I have brought you all together?” The final scene displays the family laughing and talking, their faces noticeably happy around a table filled with an abundance of food. The German words that appear on the screen translate to, “Time to come home,” advertising the country’s largest supermarket corporation.

Although the commercial is extremely sentimental and admittedly made me tear up, the tactic of emotional appeals became more obvious when watching it a second time. Used time and time again for persuasion, the appeal refers to using emotion as a substitution for reason. In other words, it’s a type of manipulation that replaces valid logic.

Here is how it works in Edeka’s advertisement: The commercial pulls the viewer into the storyline, making viewers wonder what will happen to the elderly man that is clearly lonely and sad with his loved ones far away. Many people, if not most, have aging grandparents or parents in their lives, allowing the commercial to be widely accessible and to resonate with a broad audience.

The commercial appears rather ironic since the holidays should be about spending time with loved ones, yet it is only using emotions to convince people to buy from the company. Therefore, the message seems to function on purchasing Edeka’s products to complete the perfect holiday dinner. Why are their products superior to other competitors? A substantive answer to this question—as in most advertisements—is disregarded.

There is nothing wrong with appreciating Edeka’s wonderfully crafted commercial. A problem exists, however, when people feel more prompted to buy their products simply because they successfully manipulated the viewer’s emotions.

With the holiday season in full swing, advertisements—even more so than usual—penetrate every facet of our lives. It’s crucial to take a step back and ask yourself how these commercials are trying to encourage you to buy their products and, more importantly, figure out if it’s worth the cost.