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December 12, 2018

Twitter reacts to 2018's most polarizing holiday commercials

From Elvis impersonators to singing boxes, this year's ads struck a few billion nerves

Holidays Commercials
Elvis ad apple Apple/YouTube

Advertisement for iPhone features a group of Elvis impersonators.

When the holiday season rolls around each year, there's nothing like an inspired dream team of large corporations to illustrate the gap between you and the life they imagine they're selling you.

You don't have to watch TV anymore to be bombarded by commercials. They come for you on YouTube in abridged versions — for instance, the animated Apple commercial with the freckly girl and her dog. If you see it on YouTube, the story actually stops before her grandma receives the page of a letter that blew out her window.

See, this helps us remember that commercials like this exist in a world side-by-side with people who interpret them from the gutter. Others love it. 

Being cynical about advertising just for the sake of being cynical is kind of immature. There is a real intersection between art and commerce that deserves appreciation when it's executed properly, in a way that feels honest. 

MORE ON THE HOLIDAYS: How to find your favorite Christmas movies if you missed them on TV

The year's highest advertising stakes always surround the holidays and the Super Bowl, and while the latter's ads are usually either enjoyable or preachy,  holiday ads have their own treacly mix of sentimentality and humor.

In the realm of reactions, this year's commercials didn't disappoint. Here's a look at some of the best responses from around Twitter to five ads in this year's batch. 

1. The Elvis impersonators

What do you know? Apple spent a lot of money this year, and why not? We keep giving it to them. A new iPhone feature allows you to do group FaceTime chats, which sounds potentially pretty clumsy. You don't have to worry about that until you buy your new iPhone, though. 

And so we have the Elvis commercial, which features multiple Elvis impersonators singing "There's Always Me."

This was well done, even if its extravagance wears on you a little more than others.

2. Santa in a war zone

Holiday stress isn't an issue to be dismissed, but a little bit of perspective goes a long way at this time of year. This frightening commercial from the International Committee of the Red Cross is a reminder that conflicts around the world tear families apart every day. Something as small as a donation can help reunite those who have been separated by the ravages of war, or help them find new homes and new beginnings. 

Contrast this to the Red Cross commercial from last year. Outside a home where a family eats their holiday dinner, a mother and her two children watch in agony as their own house burns down across the street. Maybe the Red Cross learned its lesson about heavy-handedness in 2018. 

Sadly, in the wake of this year's California wildfires, the message might have been more effective. 

3. Saving the penguins

The Samsung-Apple rivalry is alive and well, even if smartphone fever has cooled off a bit. That's what happens when phones start topping $1,000 and carriers stop offering subsidies for them. Samsung had to answer Apple's Elvis commercial, and they did so pretty effectively for the Galaxy. 

First of all, any variation of that Keane song ("Somewhere Only We Know") is going to capture your attention. It's the "Landslide" of the last generation, and if it's a female vocalist, forget about it. United Kingdom department store John Lewis & Partners also used a cover of the song by Lily Allen in a 2013 animated commercial featuring a bear and a hare. You might cry watching this — and then have a washing machine shipped across the Atlantic. 

Samsung's 2018 commercial is backed by Reneé Dominique's slower, sadder rendition of the 2004 piano rock hit. They made the right call, for the most part, although some viewers were upset by it or too saddened to survive it. 

4. The Elton John rewind

Speaking of John Lewis & Partners, they went with Sir Elton John this year. You can't dispute the man's greatness. He's not even dead yet and he's already got a "Bohemian Rhapsody"-style biopic coming out next year. This ad is mushy, no question. We're dragged back to the day Elton John got his first piano for Christmas. The thing is, it's a true story

The problem? It may have been too effective as an ad for Elton John. It traveled to the United States and nobody  seems to know about John Lewis & Partners. 

5. Singing Amazon boxes

Amazon turned a terrifying premise into a pretty fun commercial, although we'll probably never look at packages the same after this. Using The Jackson Five's "Can You Feel It" was a catchy choice, if not a very unifying one, ironically. 

Granted, for all the top-level production, the execution here isn't as natural as this viral video of eggs in a frying pan rapping as Busta Rhymes

This is a solid commercial, but it's just that. It's just very easy to get sick of it. And it's far from the truth of dealing with boxes when you're returning them, or picking them up from an understaffed facility with 70 other people ahead of you in line. There's no need to ask whether you can feel "it" — in this case, a primal scream rising up from your gut.

There are plenty of other commercials out there this year. Love them or hate them, there's only one way to escape them: unplug for a bit and spend some time with the people you love.