It’s not from any of the big brands, but it tells such a heartbreaking story that it’s making everyone who watches it cry.
Christmas is big business.
We’re not just talking about the buying of presents and hams and tinsel and trees, but the marketing machine that powers Christmas forward, too.
In 2016, UK companies spent an estimated £5.6 billion on advertisements in the lead up to the festive season. The best television slots were going for a total of £1.3 billion, and brands like John Lewis and Burberry spent millions and millions of pounds on their video adverts. (John Lewis was rumoured to have spent £7 million, while Burberry forked out an estimated £10 million on their advert, which starred Sienna Miller and Domhnall Gleeson.)
But sometimes simple really is best. This is the case with a Christmas video produced by a man called Phil Beastall and shared on social media, which cost just £50 to produce. The video, which was first posted in 2014 and recirculated this week, has been seen by more than 5 million people, all of whom praise the beautiful production values and the heartbreaking message that is making everyone who watches it sob hysterically.
The video, called Love is a Gift, follows a man counting down the days to Christmas in his apartment. He hangs baubles on his tree, buys wrapping paper and cards, and eagerly awaits 25 December.
Finally, when Christmas arrives, he sits at his table and opens a box of cassette tapes, putting one into his Walkman.
“Hi Chris. It’s mum,” a voice says. “Merry Christmas poppet. Another year has passed, and I wanted to start this one by saying something I haven’t said yet, which is: Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to remember me, after all these years. I can’t believe you’re going to be 30 soon. I wish I could be there to see how you’ve grown, to see what kind of man you’ve become. I know I would be so proud of you.”
“So this is it,” the tape continues. “My last tape. I wish I could keep talking to you every Christmas but it’s time to say goodbye. Just remember how much I love you, never forget that, OK? I will always be your mum. Before I go, let me tell you a story about the happiest day of my life. The day you were born.”
The tape ends with the message that love is a gift that lasts forever. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of everyone watching the video crying in unison.
Here, in the Stylist.co.uk offices, there were at least three staffers surreptitiously sniffing at their desks after queuing up the video.
Beastall, who hails from Gloucestershire, said that he made the video as a reminder that the most important thing when it comes to Christmas content is a connection. The story of a man honouring his late mother, and the strength of their relationship, has struck a chord with viewers because of its simplicity, not in spite of it.
“People seem to like my film because it’s the story that shines through,” Beastall told the Daily Mail. “You don’t always need a huge budget, just an impactful narrative that gets the message across.”
He added: “A lot of people are saying how it has touched them and made them feel that they can cope a little bit more this Christmas, which is amazing. I never expected that at all. To think people are getting so much from my film. I am blown away.”
Fans are so enamoured of Beastall’s work that they are calling on John Lewis to hire the filmmaker to produce their 2019 Christmas video.
In fact, that last suggestion is a pretty fantastic one.
Maybe, instead of spending billions on marketing materials, the big brands could hire filmmakers like Beastall to produce beautiful work and donate anything not spent to charity. That would truly be in the spirit of Christmas.