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High Five: USA
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UnderWonder Content's executive producer, Frank Borin, shines a light on a selection of wholesome spots to celebrate the start of his favourite ad season

I'm a sucker for Christmas season advertising, so it's insanely exciting to be able to share my favourite spots during the time of year where brands get incredibly cinematic. It's a hall pass to create longer, beautiful narrative pieces that take time for character development so they can pull at those emotional heartstrings...and if a commercial can make a social statement that generates conversation while doing it, even better!

Apple - 'Saving Simon'

Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab
Production: Bob Industries
Directors: Ivan and Jason Reitman

Getting the father and son team of Ivan and Jason Reitman to team up and direct together was a genius move that instantly generated a built-in fan base. On top of that, all the tech geeks like myself marvelled at how good the Reitmans made the iPhone13 look with its new cinematic mode. Add on a fun and clever story that anyone who has grown up watching 'Frosty the Snowman' would love, and you have such an effective holiday spot.

Posten - 'When Harry Met Santa'

Agency: POL
Production: B-Reel Films
Director: Sacarias Kiusalaas
Grade: TINT

Now I'm breaking tradition with my next favourite spot because it's not a spot from the US market, but I felt it needs to be mentioned as it took such a bold stance on the typical portrayal of Santa Claus with a touching love story involving Santa and a man he's been bringing presents to for decades. The chemistry between the man and Santa is beautiful, and it's one of the most powerful I've seen this season.

Blizzard Hearthstone - 'The Brain's Last Stand'

Agency: BSSP
Production: M SS NG P ECES
Director: Lance Oppenheim

This campaign is genius on so many levels - how it plays off of so many generations of pop culture. Albeit, I'm a bit biased as I'm a massive fan of Hearthstone and have always likened it to this generation's game of chess. So it was nice to see my internal thoughts validated with this short commercial documentary as chess legend Garry Kasparov takes up Hearthstone. The mini-doc capitalises on the re-emerging new popularity of chess that came about when people were stuck at home during Covid-19 along with the Netflix show 'The Queen's Gambit'. This campaign follows Kasparov as he learns the game of Hearthstone to redeem himself after losing to a computer back in 1997. It has all the makings of a 'Rocky', but with a twist at the end. I just loved how this mini-doc shined a spotlight and subtly conveyed to a broad audience the similarities between Hearthstone and the world's oldest game of chess, and used Kasparov as the catalyst to bridge these generations of gamers. What chess fan wouldn't want to try out Hearthstone after watching this?

The Weeknd x Post Malone - 'One Right Now'

Production: UnderWonder Content
Director: Tanu Muino

Leave it to The Weeknd and Post Malone to make a daring and graphic music video for their song, 'One Right Now'. The Weeknd has always pushed boundaries conceptually and visually in all his videos, and this one is no exception. This video pays homage to the 1990's over-the-top Asian cinema shootout genre - and they didn't shy away from the excessive violent gunplay or the amount of blood that sprayed the locations. It's relieving to see a departure from the safe, squeaky-clean music videos that populate YouTube and create a daring visual masterpiece set against a stylish brutalist architectural underworld. 

Microsoft - 'Halo Infinite: Lightbringers'

Director: Isaiah Seret

Microsoft's new Halo campaign takes a very human approach and showcases the personal tragedies, triumphs and bravery in its new ads. Choosing my fifth pick of the month was a toss-up between Microsoft's more intimate Halo's 'Lightbringers' and the grandeur of their epic 'Forever We Fight'. But 'Lightbringers' really affected me emotionally with one of the best performances I've seen in a long time. The shot of the lead actor singing the song while holding back tears was so nuanced and layered, it evoked so many emotions simultaneously. Hats of to director Isaiah Seret for pulling that performance out of the main actor and holding on his close-ups for as long as he did. It really enhanced the bravery, sacrifice and dire situation of all the surrounding miners.

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