Work of the Week: A Christmas ad to break your heart from Shelter

Work of the Week: A Christmas ad to break your heart from Shelter

Bringing reality home.

This year, following on from its achingly sad film of 2021, Shelter has once again dramatised the reality of not having a home at Christmas through the eyes of a young boy, Jayden.

Seen practising his smile in the mirror, we continue to see the little lad forcing a smile through the variety of situations he experiences that don't quite go to plan; getting a low mark on his test, everything falling out of his school locker when he opens it, and when the dinner lady apologises that there are no puddings left.

This all plays out to one of those traditional plinky-plonky Christmas songs that you hear in the shops during the festive period, clashing with the sadness of the situation that is about to unfold.

Put on a brave face.

After what would be considered a fairly rough day at school for a kid that age, we see him being taken by his mum to the temporary accommodation that will be their home for Christmas. 

Here is where the story sadly comes together and the little boy, who has been practising his smile all day in the face of less-than-ideal circumstances, uses his smile for his mum when she announces their festive plans.  

The strength of the film lies in Shelter and Don't Panic observing and then portraying the accepting nature children. That, for me, is what hits right in the gut when we realise that he knows what his Christmas will be, accepts it and works out his own way of smiling through it - for the sake of his mum. 

Work of the Week: A Christmas ad to break your heart from Shelter

There are over 115,000 children who are homeless.

They will be spending Christmas in freezing cars, damp tents and dirty doorways. 

This hard-hitting approach is common for charities to employ and it is easy to see why. There is a shock factor to an extent when you realise why the boy is practising his smile, and in the case of the 2021 ad, that the mother and daughter are not off to family or friends for Christmas, but a deserted car park.

I can't help but think of the most memorable of ads for the World Food Programme, conceived by Sir John Hegarty. It focuses on the thought of a stolen future, showing a woman who has achieved great things making a speech, only for the audience to realise she died of hunger as a child.

The essence of Christmas will be quite different and challenging for many in 2022, and how ads manage tone of voice and message in their creations this year will be important.   

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