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How AT&T and Heineken are ruining Christmas

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.


Austin Powell


Posted on Dec 9, 2011   Updated on Jun 3, 2021, 12:16 am CDT

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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*First Published: Dec 9, 2011, 5:00 pm CST