Did you notice the lack of inane viral videos of the "Elf Yourself" variety this past holiday season? That video -- in which you can insert your face into a cartoon of a dancing elf and then email it to your friends and enemies alike (see above) -- proved years ago that it could get consumers' attention and spawned lots of knock-offs. My expectation would be that we'd get flooded with them last month.
Only it didn't happen.
Did OfficeMax wise up? I doubt it. It ran its campaign again, adding a button to link to buying stuff...only it took you to a page to buy a DVD of your stupid elf dance vs. any products you might actually need. The margin on such useless schwag is high but the offer only accentuated the difficulty of making the leap from silly entertainment to a brand-meaningful commercial transaction. I'd love to know why OfficeMax chose to waste even a small amount of money on it, wouldn't you? “Why not?” would not be an acceptable answer.
Instead, it seems that most marketers who felt compelled to produce holiday-themed "content" opted for closing that commercial gap by producing things closer to, well, commercials.
So we got a Coca-Cola video in which people find themselves tossed around inside Santa’s snow globe, and lingerie-clad babes singing the notes of Christmas carols based on their bra sizes. Both spots were among the highest watched on YouTube and thus most likely shared, but the interaction was pure consumption. They were watchable and then forgettable, telling us nothing that we didn't already know about Coke or La Senza (the lingerie company), had no reason to act upon, or couldn't care less about in the first place.
I'd suggest that such lack of meaning, relevance, and utility meant that the spots were ultimately untrue. An easier way to say that is they were false.
Interestingly, a widely popular video was a piece called "The Digital Story of the Nativity," which told the story of Christmas through the images and sounds of Internet tools, apps, and devices. It was incredibly well done and, as the product of a digital agency in Portugal called Excentric, it had a punchline: we can make your stuff watchable, oh would-be brands. So it was overtly commercial without being anything close to an overt commercial; its substance was relevant (holidays); it wasn't just repackaged inane humor (there was a story with meaning); and it had utility for future clients (hire us). This Web 2.0 Christmas Story has generated nearly 9 million views (4x those of the sexy babes).
I think the world might be a better place without any more dancing elves, and that the slick holiday commercials devoid of any truth could be interim steps toward a new approach as evidenced by Excentric's brilliant work.