Macy’s Emotional Holiday Ad Tears a Page Out of the U.K. Retailer Playbook


Let there be light

It’s time for Macy’s entry into the holiday advertising arms race: “Lighthouse | The Perfect Gift Brings People Together,” its inaugural work from BBDO New York.

The ad recounts the story of a boy named Max and a girl named Lily, who lives in a lighthouse and recently lost her mother. The slow arrival of the holidays in their sleepy cliffside town draws Lily’s melancholy out like a beacon, which compassionate Max feels drawn to.

In the end, it’s the perfect gift—or rather, the clever use of it—that brings the pair together.

Directed by Steve Ayson of MJZ, this rings like a modern-day Rapunzel—except that, instead of a prince climbing the hair of a girl who’s trapped, Lily is perfectly free (if sad), and Max draws her to him by learning enough Morse code to invite her and her father to dinner. To convey the code, he uses the baseball lamp he got for Christmas, transmitting light to the lighthouse.

The pace is sustained by a Black Keys cover of “Everlasting Light.” See a theme here? When the ad ends, Max gives Lily a gift of her own, conveniently still in its Macy’s bag.

“We needed to elevate some of the work we were running to win the emotional high ground, and become part of the Christmas season,” says Rich Lennox, chief marketing officer at Macy’s. “We are part of people’s lives and we wanted to make sure that Christmas advertising reflected that role we play.”

While Macy’s is the department store perhaps most often associated with the holidays (thanks, Miracle on 34th Street!), the work is markedly different from previous holiday offerings, where the brand appeared more prominently throughout the storytelling.

In contrast, “Lighthouse” is an emotional two-minute drama, more akin to holiday commercials in the U.K.—retailer John Lewis’ spots are anticipated every year, and grocery store Waitrose just recently released its own offering.

The work will appear online at full length, accompanied by :60 and :30 versions for TV and digital.

Client: Macy’s
Agency: BBDO New York
David Lubars, chief creative officer, worldwide
Greg Hahn, chief creative officer, NY
Danilo Boer, Marcos Kotlhar, executive creative directors
Matt Brink, Adam Livesey, sr. creative directors
Ashley Henderson, executive producer
Rani Vaz, director of music

Production: MJZ
Steve Ayson, director
Germaine McMicking, DP
Emma Wilcockson, exec producer
Jeff MacDougall, line producer

Editorial: Whitehouse Post
Russell Icke, editor
Emma Platek, assistant editor
Caitlin Grady, exec producer
Pamela Heller, producer

Postproduction/VFX: Blacksmith
Daniel Morris, VFX supervisor, lead compositor
Charlotte Arnold, exec producer
Anu Nagaraj, producer
Margolit Steiner, Robert Bruce, Jay Lee, Jacob Slutsky, Ivan Zwarts, compositing
Tuna Unalan, 3D

Music: Barking Owl Sound
Barking Owl, music arrangement/supervision
Kelly Bayett, creative director/partner
KC Dossett, producer
Brian Canning, Ethan Walter, composers

Audio Post: Sonic Union
Steve Rosen, mixer

This article first appeared in

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About Author

Angela Natividad

Angela Natividad is a social media strategist, copywriter, and journalist based in Paris. A Bay Area native and lover of vending machine candies, she co-founded and is a frequent guest on marketing podcast The Beancast.

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