Yes, Michel Gondry has won an Oscar (for Eternal Sunshine) and countless awards for his music videos for everyone from Björk to Kanye West, but perhaps one of his most watched works is the John Lewis Christmas ad from 2017, Moz the Monster. Emerging apparently unscathed from one of the most scrutinised jobs in the ad biz, he has returned to the field by directing HP’s Christmas ad – in which he rewrites The 12 Days of Christmas for a screen-obsessed generation. The result is warm and fuzzy enough for festive TV yet with a Gondry-esque trippy feel, and a staggeringly high production value.
Print the Holidays centres around “how people use their phone constantly to isolate themselves from the world,” explains Gondry in a behind-the-scenes film, “in contrast to people who do activities in the real world using their printer”. The idea is that printing is going to bring the family together (stay with us here) through crafting, and gives families everywhere fun activities to get off their phones for this Christmas. Agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P) found that the average family spends over 250 hours on screens during the holidays, so this tongue-in-cheek reinvention of the classic carol replaces maids-a-milking and geese-a-laying with teens-a-texting, swipers swiping, and lads-a-liking; plus a particular comic highlight when five gold coins becomes “five percent left”.
Then, the film changes direction, showing the fun to be had with IRL activities, and the thing that made it all possible – the trusty home printer. As part of the campaign, the agency has also come up with 250 hours of printable activities that are free to download online, including comic books made by Adam J. Kurtz, colouring pages by illustrator Sara Boccaccini Meadows, and other activities from creatives such as Adam Ellis, Mike Perry, and a paper airplane designed by Gondry himself.
GS&P Creative Director Daniel Righi says when they first saw Gondry’s treatment, “it was mind-blowing,” and the high production value of the ad stays true to this. The set featured a real “endless” sofa appearing out from the wall like something from Harry Potter which then flips over, transitioning to the next scene – an intricate, to-scale sculpted model mountain. Referring to this particular scene change, Gondry says it’s the type of idea he likes because “it’s absurd and hard to do”. There’s also a giant green-screen Santa, just one of the dashes of surrealism Gondry bringts to his latest Christmas offering.