Santa Claus is there for all children, no matter who or where they are. The International Committee of the Red Cross shows what children in war zones wish for.

The campaign

The two-minute online video starts with Santa walking through a war zone. He is confused and a bit scared determined to find a young girl. When he finds her, he gets to know that all she wants for Christmas is to be reunited with her family. Santa makes it his mission to make her wish come true. The final scene shows how hard it is for children to live in a war zone without their family and loved ones. The meaning behind this campaign is that Santa cannot give the girl what she wants but the ICRC can. ICRC wants to point out how many people all over the world are still searching for the ones they love most. This campaign is really touching because we as privileged people in the Western world, tend to forget that the holiday season is not the best time of the year for everyone.

Jenni Smout, communications manager, at the ICRC said: “We have been reconnecting families for over 150 years and it is some of the most important work we do… We love how subverted festive tropes we’re used to seeing from brands to remind us of the thousands of families around the world separated due to conflict, migration or natural disasters.”

The director and the writer of the campaign wanted to point out how many children are still not reunited with their family. Sutherland and Nelson: “The festive season is usually a time for family, gifts and celebration. But sadly, this is not the case for hundreds of children. We wanted to create a film that showed what Christmas is like for these children. At the same time, we wanted to create something that would cut through the usual Christmas schmaltz.”

The shocking truth is that ICRC is currently still looking for more than 100.000 people who have been parted from their families by armed conflict or violence. The most damaging consequence of conflict on a humanitarian basis is the impact of when family members of loved ones disappear. This shows that this campaign is focussing on something more important than we initially might think it is.

Marketing strategy

The marketing strategy that the ICRC used is shock advertising. This kind of advertising is not used very often but it is a very effective strategy to create immediate attention and discussion.

Shock advertising can be used effectively to create buzz and get a social message across. It is a fact that public service campaigns and social issues use shock advertising to achieve the most effective campaigns. The campaign from ICRC still has a “happy ending”, but the overall message from the campaign fits the shock advertising strategy. Similar organizations have used the same strategy. For example, animal rights organizations use anti-smoking campaigns to make people aware of animal cruelty and play into the viewers’ emotions. People will feel sad and guilty for not taking action and will therefore be more likely to donate to the organization. Also, people tend to remember the content better when they are shocked by the advertisement.

The risk with this strategy is that it also strengthens negative feelings towards a company. When shock advertisement is used in the wrong way, the public will not forget the commercial. It would be harder for the company to create a positive attitude towards the company again.


The ICRC hopes that the public will share the video to help raise awareness to support the ICRC’s work to help ensure that all families can be together during the holidays and all other days of the year.

The good thing about this campaign is that they focus totally on awareness and not on donation. Because of that, the campaign is more believable and likeable. When looking at the responses on social media a lot of personal stories are shared and people feel for the little girl in the campaign.


ICRC has been working hard to bring families back together for years. The Red Cross has over 190 partners around the world. This commercial has the perfect timing, the holidays are for sharing and caring for others and this campaign is a little reminder to keep that holiday spirit alive.



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