How AT&T and Heineken are ruining Christmas

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Will Arnett

We know it’s awkward to drop hints about the gifts you want. But two new ad campaigns are pushing things too far, with help from Facebook.

Two Christmas-themed ad campaigns have reminded us of the downside of social networks: the tendency to turn “friends” and “family members” into depersonalized, utilitarian objects that can be be manipulated to get what we want.

For example, want a 4G smartphone for Christmas? AT&T will let attorney Kent Wesley plead your case on Facebook.

In AT&T’s interactive new ad campaign, Arrested Development actor Will Arnett plays a lawyer who will use info gleaned by an app from your account—all legal, with permission, of course—to personally persuade those in your social network that you deserve a cellular upgrade.

Perhaps you’d rather give yourself the gift of beer. There’s an app for that too.

Along with creating some custom holiday e-cards, Heineken has launched the BeerFriender on Facebook. Created by Wieden+Kennedy New York, the app pairs you with a “friend” who’s also looking to purchase Heineken’s home draught system, the Beer Tender, and makes it look like you’re giving each other the gift for Christmas—complete with a note and wrapping paper.

“Consider this gift to yourself, Heineken’s gift to you,” the commercial states.

It’s a social-media-powered, sleight-of-hand trick, a modern take on a gift from Santa.

The only hitch? It’s Heineken.

Admittedly, it’s awkward to drop hints about what you want for Christmas. But these campaigns make us ask if things have gone a step too far.

What happened to the good old-fashioned days when you’d just add things on your wish list, then email it to your parents?

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