Ad Of The Week: Xfinity / Sky – “A Holiday Reunion”

“Synergy” isn’t the most festive of words, but that’s what’s behind this Christmas blockbuster ad from Xfinity (in the US) and Sky (in the UK). Both brands are owned by media giant Comcast, and normally a shared ad would raise alarm bells – global ads have a tendency to be a little bland. But Comcast also owns Universal studios, which in turn owns the rights to Stephen Spielberg’s E.T.

So instead of a flat global ad we have a genuine media coup from Xfinity / Sky – a Spielberg-approved return of E.T. (and his human pal, Elliott) for the first time since the 1982 film. In a four minute feelgood ad, the wizened alien returns to Earth, reconnects with his friend and takes Elliott’s kids on a flying bike ride, recreating the most iconic shot from the original film.

E.T. is a 37-year-old movie, so there was a mild risk that the new ad would only work as a nostalgia fest for 80s kids. But the character’s appeal has clearly remained strong, and the new ad hits all the right emotional notes to land a 5-Star score. Even if the bike ride doesn’t get to you, the scene where E.T. gazes at a holo-crystal of his own family might well bring a lump to your throat.

In fact, the ad pulls off a remarkable feat of its own – a 5-Star score in two countries, for two different brands – a first in our database. It’s the ad testing equivalent of making a bicycle fly. But it has implications – the brands themselves mostly make way for the action in the ads, and “reconnection” isn’t an especially distinctive positioning for a broadband provider, which means brand Fluency for the ad is low.

The result is that the ad’s short-term Spike score, which reflects the branding as well as the ad’s emotional intensity, is good at 1.2 but not as exceptional as its Star Rating. In other words, the ad’s potential for long-term brand impact is a lot stronger than its ability to generate a short-term boost.

With that in mind, what should Sky and Xfinity do? They have something very special here, and the answer might be to take a leaf out of Spielberg’s original book. E.T. never had a movie sequel, but it’s stayed alive in audience’s hearts as a family classic. (In the US, the 4-minute ad has been screening in commercial breaks during showings of E.T. itself.)

With its very strong long-term potential, one possibility might be for Comcast’s brands to treat this ad as their own holiday perennial, running it at Christmas for several years to get the most from its long-term impact while letting its fluency build gradually. After waiting 37 years for a reunion, it would be a shame for it to end after just one Christmas.

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