A view from Unruly

How Spanish Christmas Lottery created an unexpected viral Christmas ad winner

Social video expert Unruly reviews the latest viral by Spain's annual Christmas lottery.

With Christmas rapidly becoming the UK’s Super Bowl for online advertising, brands are more keen than ever to stand out at this time of year.

Rather than adapting an existing franchise, the narrative of ‘Justino’ is fresh and genuinely compelling 

 ‘Justino’ Rating: 8/10

Unwaveringly affecting, epic and chock-full of #watercoolermoments, some notable British brands have keenly pursued the title of Christmas ad king, perfecting the festive ad formula down to the last detail.

While John Lewis’ ‘#ManOnTheMoon’ and Sainsbury’s ‘Mog’s Christmas Calamity’ have certainly made the splash both brands intended, a dark horse contender has arrived to put pressure on the big players. That ad comes from Spain’s annual Christmas lottery and is simply titled ‘Justino’.

You may have never heard of the Anuncio Loteria de Navidad, which means Christmas lottery announcement, but the words hold tremendous cultural currency in Spain. Stretching back to 1812, the Spanish Christmas lottery is the second longest continuously running lottery in the world and its payouts (the largest of which is known as ‘El Gordo’, the fat one) are famed for their size.

Like our beloved British brands, the Loteria has been producing festive ads for years but ‘Justino’ is the first to have such an international impact. Named after its kind-hearted protagonist, ‘Justino’ tells of the story of a lonely middle-aged security guard working the night shift at a factory.

Sad beginnings

Animated in a style redolent of Pixar’s Up, there’s a certain sad realism to the early moments of ‘Justino’: the alarm beeping at 10pm each night, the commuting strangers lolling asleep on his shoulder, the tedium of working alone. So far, so unlike the kid-focused stories served up by this year’s big hitters.

It’s revealed that Justino’s factory produces mannequins and for a moment, there’s the potential that this adorable Christmas ad is about to turn to into an episode of The Twilight Zone. The real outcome is much sweeter, with Justino using his posable pals to play pranks on the day-time inhabitants of the factory.

This culminates in the delighted factory workers stumbling upon a dolled-up Christmas tree entirely composed of mannequins, seemingly unaware that its Justino providing their entertainment. But when the day-time workers suddenly win the famed Christmas lottery, it seems that Justino’s isolation has asserted all over again.

Happy endings

The factory workers have entered the lottery without him...or have they? Without spoiling the ending, you can rest assured that ‘Justino’ has a happy one and fulfils the Christmas ad promise of heart stirring cheer. In this sense, the Loteria ad is not so dissimilar from its British counterparts, with no shying away from gooey sentimentality.

This is true down to the rousing acoustic piano that plays under the spot; a style that’s been used so frequently here in Britain that it’s beginning to verge on self-parody. So what is the root of the Loteria’s unexpected success? Besides being beautifully-rendered, it’s tempting to say that the real asset of ‘Justino’ is surprise.

Rather than adapting an existing franchise, the narrative of ‘Justino’ is fresh and genuinely compelling. And let’s not forget that confronting the unexpected is a huge element of viral videos and, in the face of the mammoth launch campaigns put out by John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and other brands, ‘Justino’ feels like something else entirely – a genuine Christmas discovery.