Since 2019, fast feeder Chick-fil-A's holiday campaigns have featured joyful animated films centered on a young girl named Sam, who gave the gift of time to her family and brought hope—and light—to her depressed town. She returns in 2021 in yet another warm and fuzzy tale, centered on embracing the beautiful imperfections of the holidays.
Created again with Chick-fil-A’s agency of record McCann, the new film takes place in Sam’s hometown of Evergreen Hills, at the abode of Sam’s friend CeCe. There, the two help to decorate the family tree until a little accident with a precious ornament sends the pair to “The Whoopsery,” a part bakery, part fix-it shop where they discover that mix-ups and mess-ups aren’t things to cry over—they can actually lead to something good.
The two-minute ad, once again directed by Marie Hyon of Psyop, broke online today at the campaign site EvergreenHills.com. It will debut on broadcast on NBC on Thanksgiving Day and will continue to run on TV and in cinema through the holidays.
Ashley Callahan, senior director, integrated creative at Chick-fil-A, said that the ad’s story takes inspiration from the Japanese art form of Kintsugi, which involves mending broken pottery by binding its pieces with gold. It “suggests that the value of an object is not in its beauty, but in its imperfections; and these imperfections are something to celebrate, not hide,” Callahan said. “Once we landed on this idea, we were affirmed in the insight and reminded of this important message in a quote by Chick-fil-A founder, S. Truett Cathy, who said: ‘Many of the unexpected opportunities we encounter are small but significant.’”
Like the brand’s first holiday ad, which allowed consumers to send their loved ones snail-mail certificates to redeem for quality time to spend together, this year’s campaign invites customers to send a holiday recipe card with instructions for a Peppermint Milkshake Pie, plus a bonus—a coupon for a free Peppermint Chip Milkshake at the restaurant. Chick-fil-A will send the cards directly to chosen recipients at no cost.
The push also includes a behind-the-scenes video, and in December, the brand will be sharing on its social channels and in its digital magazine The Chicken Wire holiday recipe hacks using Chick-fil-A products, inspired by The Whoopsery’s theme of “turning something unexpected into something wonderful."
With each holiday push, Callahan said that Chick-fil-A has tried to speak to the current sentiment of consumers. Last year, for example, “we thought it was important to align the message with how people were feeling in the middle of a global pandemic, which is why we centered on sparking hope.”
For the 2021 ad, the company started planning a year in advance, which made for some challenges. “Trying to predict where culture will be and how people might be feeling in the future is always a little risky,” Callahan said. The struggles everyone endured during the pandemic helped to shape the story’s less-than-picture-perfect message, she added. “We leaned into a story that could encourage people to be in the moment, embrace what’s messy and unplanned and create something new, different, and perhaps even better than before: real moments happening in real time, enjoyed together,” she said.
As with all the festive films starring Sam, the Chick-fil-A brand takes a back seat to the story, with its logo only appearing at the end. “The decision to keep branding light within the spot is very deliberate,” said Callahan. “At the end of the day, the idea we want people to remember and embrace the most is the key message—whether that be giving the gift of together time, sparking hope, or turning the unexpected or the messy unplanned moments into something wonderful. That’s the most important part to us.”