Ahhh, Christmas time! That time of year when companies the world over try to tug at our collective heartstrings to show that, deep down, they really are people too.
They create sappy ads and change the colour schemes on their takeout cups to non-denominational “festive” themes that wink at Christmas–all to jockey for your hard-earned money.
To this I say, Bah, humbug!
In recent years, much thanks to YouTube, we’ve seen companies outpace themselves in sleaziness, trying to show how their Grinch hearts grow two sizes at Christmastime. Even the amount of time counting as “Christmastime” has crept up before Halloween!
There was a time not so long ago when Christmas decorations were hauled out on American Thanksgiving, and for about a month we relished the glory of stockings hung by the chimney with care and city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. Then, somehow, it became what it is today: when you’re standing in the drugstore buying ‘fun-size’ chocolate bars on October 31st while some disgruntled employee is stocking the adjacent shelves with candy canes and marshmallow snowmen.
Let’s make one thing clear here: I love Christmas. I love the warmth it brings out in people, and the visiting it inspires among friends and family. But what gets my feathers ruffled is corporations using that honest emotion to up their karma among consumers.
To me, the biggest offenders are airlines. Those assholes will charge you to check a bag that may or may not get there when you do. That is, if you can even afford to fly due to astronomical airfares. Yet, their cup of holiday cheer runneth over in their advertising.
For example, WestJet’s ad from last year has garnered more 37 million YouTube views. Thirty-seven million. That’s more than the entire population Canada, the country it primarily serves! In this ad, they are telling us a story. They are showing compassion. They tell us, “our entire corporate culture has been built around caring for you,” and in their popular ad they do just that. They’re also creating a connection with the audience, opening the door for a long-term relationship wherein you give them your money and hopefully you’ll get where you’re going on time and, if you’re lucky, with your luggage.
Perhaps seeing their rival’s success last year made Air Canada look like bitter Grinches, leading them to release their own video of yuletide good-faith. But from an airline so plagued by awful service and consistent complaints about how uncaring they are, it seems like they are trying to lull us into a false sense of security. Fie on them for trying to hoodwink us!
Companies give the ultimate gift of charity by sacrificing their own logos and branding for TWO WHOLE MONTHS in order to show how much they care. They even give us flyers red cups instead of their regular ones. These acts are so completely contrived that they come with their own hashtags and press releases!
I have worked enough Christmases in retail to loathe any store that pipes carols over their system from open to close. It sets me on edge to hear any and all pop renditions of classics because of my time spent working in malls over the past five years. Christmas is draining on retail employees of all stripes, and by the time December 24th rolled around I was ready to never hear another version of “Jingle Bells” et al again. My sympathies, retail warriors!
I think it is time to scale back these grand gestures of Christmas spirit in favour of smaller turns of good faith. For airlines, making tickets more affordable at the holidays instead of price gouging would allow more people to be able to afford to fly where they want to for Christmas. For coffee companies, why not use the money spent on red cups and assorted regalia to reduce their carbon footprint? For retailers, how about showing mercy to employees who have to listen to the same godforsaken Christmas songs from November 1st through December 25th?
I want a return to Christmases like the ones I used to know, ones that didn’t start until after Halloween, ones that didn’t involve viral marketing praying on the good faith of the season, and ones when I could walk into a store without hearing 1994’s biggest Christmas pop hit.
For all the righteous indignation about The War on Christmas, I think Christmas is doing juuuuuust fine… as long as you’re a corporation with a multimillion dollar marketing budget.