Amazon Sleds Win the Christmas Race


Joy Is Shared


Amazon’s Christmas ad is always an event – in recent years it’s recruited star directors like Taika Waititi to helm big-budget productions, like 2022’s story of a dad determined to make his kid’s Christmas fantasy a reality. This year they’ve taken the creative in-house but the philosophy hasn’t changed. Amazon are big believers in the power of story – as you’d expect from a major player in the streaming sector with Prime – and use that storytelling to show off their core product benefit. They’re the biggest, fastest retailer in the world and whatever you need for a special Christmas, they promise to deliver it.

This year’s story, “Joy Ride”, is another marvelous, heartwarming tale – three girls who grow up together and as older ladies remember the joy they used to feel going sledding. Thanks to Amazon, they get the chance to recreate that joy and race down a hill again together. As usual, the story is tightly and expertly told and Amazon’s product is central to it but never allowed to overwhelm the emotion.

No surprise that with a 5.8-Star score it’s the top US holiday ad so far. In the UK it’s also landed near the top of the charts with a 5.9-Star score – it’s always worth admiring how Amazon’s dialogue-free ads work so well across so many different cultures. System1’s own Andrew Tindall wrote a passionate defense of the ad following industry criticism – as he points out, the public are the real arbiters of whether an ad works, and Test Your Ad shows how much they love Amazon’s holiday tale.

One thing that’s really worth considering though is how strong the ad is in its representation of older people. In our 2023 report, Wise Up!, we looked at how well or poorly ads showed older people and their lives. One thing we kept running into is the way older people are often only shown in a family context, playing a role for others as parents or grandparents rather than people with lives, hobbies and dreams of their own. Amazon gets that element 100% right and it’s so refreshing to see an ad which treats older people as fun-loving, adventurous and worthwhile stars of their own story.

Finally, Amazon may benefit from a little bit of lucky timing. We know from Orlando Wood’s Lemon and Look Out how beneficial melodic music and popular songs can be in an ad. They are great at attracting right-brained “broad beam” attention which pushes up effectiveness. The specially arranged version of The Beatles’ “In My Life” used by the ad is a winner for its melodic qualities, its relation to the story and its nostalgia factor. But Amazon couldn’t have known that their ad would coincide with a surge in worldwide interest in the Beatles caused by Paul McCartney reliving his own youth – much like the three women in the ad. Sheer coincidence, but it makes the ad even more timely and thought-provoking.

As Andrew’s article showed, Amazon ads have been getting better and better, leveraging distinctive assets like their “smile” parcels well and with a real consistency in their emotional, wordless storytelling. “Joy Ride” is their best ad yet and puts the brand firmly at the heart of the holiday season.

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