There’s a phone call to a doctor working at a hospital, another one to a well-dressed business man (presumably away on a work trip to China) and a card to a woman with her family. Heartbroken, the three gather (dressed in mourning black) at their father’s house.

He has died, and the sister and brothers are brought together in their grief. But, wait! Hold on – dad’s very much alive. Not only is dad alive, but he’s set the table, cooked Christmas dinner and is ready for a family feast. Wait! What? No, really – what?

Ok, so it’s not real. It’s actually a commercial for the German supermarket chain Edeka. With tens of thousands of YouTube views already, it’s clear that the video “Time to come home” has struck a chord. Whether that chord is positive or negative remains to be seen.

Sure, we all know that the holidays are for family-time. We also all know how everyday life gets in the way of that precious time. Between the kids’ holiday play rehearsals, your extra-busy work schedule and everything else that gets in the way, heading home to see an aging parent isn’t always easy. This commercial glaringly points out the quiet sadness and depression that being alone brings on during the holidays, especially for an aging parent. That said, plenty of commercial viewers are wondering if this video gets the message across in the ‘right’ way.

Not only does the daddy death bit pull at the viewers’ heartstrings, but the entire video is a total tearjerker. Starting with the grown daughter’s message that she and her family won’t be coming to see dad for Christmas, it moves into holiday after holiday with the elderly man seated at the Christmas table eating his meal alone. Played by British actor Arthur Nightingale, the man sets up Christmas cards, preps dinner, watches the neighbor’s gleeful family rejoice in the holiday spirit and finally sits down to his meal for one.

Apparently dad couldn’t reason out any way to get his way-too-busy family together for the holidays, aside from faking his own death. Back to the tearful adult sibling reunion at the family home. As dad emerges alive he says (translated from German), “How else could I have brought you all together?” Hmmm. How else indeed?

There’s no doubt that being alone during this over-the-top family festive time of year is utterly sad. There’s also no doubt that adult children often get too bogged down with work and their own families to take the time for elderly parents. But, dad faking his own death seems a tad bit extreme. Agreed?

That said, the ad (devised by German agency Jung von Matt) has certainly gotten people talking. Even though the growing mass of viewers who are racking up likes and dislikes on YouTube aren’t all potential Edeka customers, the supermarket chain is suddenly a global name.

Whether you think the ad’s clever, touching, totally depressing or kind of wrong, it got your attention. This isn’t the first time that a company has used a tear-jerking tactic to get viral views (and, of course boost notoriety). The British retailer John Lewis got more than a few tears out of its ‘man on the Moon’ Christmas video ad and Thailand’s National Cancer Institute (seriously, don’t watch this one unless you have a full box of tissues nearby) made hundreds of thousands of people cry with their “Sister” video. And, then there’s the panicked new dad who finally picks up his screaming baby – providing the in-person love that a mobile phone video chat with mum just can’t from Thai mobile phone carrier DTAC. The tagline is “Technology will never replace love.”

Are not-so-dying dad and the other heartstring-pulling videos out there the new advertising? Perhaps. Playing on our emotions isn’t exactly new news or an earth-shatteringly bold method. Even so, is it possible that companies and ad agencies are taking it too far? Whether you think these (and other similar) videos are good, bad or in poor taste they get a reaction.

And, isn’t that what advertising is meant to do anyway?

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