Make your mama cry: emotionally manipulative holiday commercials

It’s that time of year folks! The time where our favorite corporations try to wrench  hard earned dollars out of our hands by wringing tears from our eyes!

If you’re from the Southeast, then you know that the King of Emotional Holiday Commercials is Publix Supermarkets. Publix was founded in Florida and is undoubtedly the best of supermarket chains, and I will brook no argument on this point.* For years now, Publix has been making moms cry by creating a series of holiday commercials with the perfect mix of Norman Rockwell nostalgic imagery, music, and sentiment.

Here’s this year’s Thanksgiving commercial:

Pretty sweet, right? But that’s nothing, NOTHING compared to the emotional upheaval wrought in this:

This wrecked my mother for DAYYYSSSSS.

Now this one is the absolute CLASSIC. If you were a child in Publix-land in the 90s, you’ve seen this commercial approximately 587, 325 times.

Publix doesn’t restrict their “Make ALL the moms cry,” campaign to just Thanksgiving/Christmas. If you search YouTube for “Publix holiday commercials” you will find equally sweet/cute ads for Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, and a variety of other rando things. But be careful, if you fall down the Publix commercial rabbit hole, you might end up like me: surreptitiously looking over your shoulder whilst blinking back tears at work.

So, what’s your favorite emotionally manipulative commercial? How do your regional chains compare?

*They give every child who wants one a free cookie at the bakery! They help you take your bags to the car and don’t accept tips for it! One time they opened up an entire package of mason jars and let me buy just 2! When I was little they had tiny shopping carts for kids to push around while their moms shopped! Their chocolate chip cookies are addictive. Their sub sandwiches inspire extreme devotion. IT’S THE BEST.

About summerestherson

Summer Estherson has uncles enough to fill all of Cheapside.
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43 Responses to Make your mama cry: emotionally manipulative holiday commercials

  1. Publix was founded in Florida and is undoubtedly the best of supermarket chains

    Oh, you sweet summer child. You’ve never been to a Wegmans, have you?

  2. This one seriously makes me cry (even pre-preggo):

    Also in the non-Publix world, there was one awhile ago that was a kid getting a baseball glove from his brother or something, I couldn’t find it online but it made me cry every time. I think it was for Dick’s Sporting Goods.

    • summerestherson says:

      THIS ONE. It’s too much.

    • Casey says:

      Who keeps chopping those damn onions!

    • Sota says:

      I can’t. Tearjerker.

    • FRQ says:

      Hey Publix…

    • Found it:

      Side note: how on earth did google video searching “dick’s sporting goods commercial glove” not produce this? Come on, google, you have been perfect for the past billion searches and now nothing??

      • welcometocostcoiloveyou says:

        That commercial is very nice, but those parents could have bought the younger brother a baseball glove once they saw how much he loved it. That poor kid fell asleep with his brother’s glove, and no one was like, “Let’s go to Dick’s on Saturday to get you a glove.” Nope. “Guess we’ll have to wait until Christmas.”

        • Oh yes, completely. It’s kind of weird, actually, how the little brother isn’t allowed to play or something until the older brother decides it or something? So strange. But I choose to believe that he had his own mitt, just that he didn’t like it because it wasn’t his brother’s. Let’s throw emotional nonsense on the logical weirdness.

    • Commentatrix says:

      Prepare to have me ruin this one for you! Ready? OK so…the music in the background is the same one that always plays during the “tender” scenes between Olivia Pope and President Fitz (very good fake president name). Happy Day of Thanks! (But srsly: why does Shonda continue to champion this chemistry-less romance SO hard?)

  3. old man fatima says:

    Oh boy, that pilgrim one. I got so angry when that shitty little kid got mashed potatoes all over that pepper shaker. I shouldn’t have kids.

    • welcometocostcoiloveyou says:

      I get angry watching those Rice Krispies ads that are filmed in black and white, and those kids aren’t even doing anything shitty.

  4. welcometocostcoiloveyou says:

    I’ve only been to Publix once while visiting Mr. Costco’s family in Miami. They had empanadas and papas rellenas* that you could just buy at the deli counter. I have never seen these at any major grocery store in Illinois. I would gain 100 pounds if I lived in Miami.

    *In case you don’t know, papas rellenas are fried, stuffed potatoes and they are very very good.

  5. Casey says:

    I feel like this is maybe the spiritual godparent of those Publix commercials:

    • summerestherson says:

      I love the trope of “family member gets home for Christmas in the middle of the night.” It’s in SO MANY commercials and Christmas movies and stuff ( While You Were Sleeping is a prime example.) But who actually does this???

      • nastyemu says:

        It will happen for me this year. We do Christmas Eve with my parents and Christmas Day with Femu’s. This year Femu’s youngest sister is flying home late on Christmas Eve so we will get her at the airport (or have a limo service get her) and take her to my parents’. However, Femu’s other sister has a 3yo that “gets” Christmas for the first time so everyone wants to be there first thing in the morning to see him open presents, so we will drive from my parents’ to hers and get there probably around 2am.

      • The only time I’ve witnessed a “arrive in the middle of the night” thing was when our afternoon flight was canceled and we had to take a later flight (which was delayed) to a different airport and drive to town because the event we were flying in for was at 9am and the next available flight wouldn’t have gotten us there. We arrived around 2am.
        I think it’s most likely a thing out of flight/driving delays due to winter (holiday) weather?

    • old man fatima says:

      Did Peter SHAKE HANDS with his father after surprising him for Christmas from, I assume, far enough away that they don’t see each other often?? Is this normal? That had better have been his step-dad! Give your father a hug, Peter!

    • flanny says:

      This commercial made me feel young because even though I vaguely remember it, I have never in all of my coffee-drinking adult life have ever had to open a coffee can with a can opener! Whoooooaaaa. #youth

    • gah, my parents used to make fun of me for crying over this commercial when I was a little. I was a sappy mom even as a kid.

  6. gnidrah says:

    We’ve talked about the John Lewis penguin advert… I’M FINE I’M FINE, SHUT UP LEAVE ME ALONE DON’T TOUCH ME *SOB*.

    I’d be interested to know what you think about this one, for one of our biggest supermarkets:

    I’m not a fan, but that puts me very much in a minority.

  7. So this afternoon one of the “grown daughter comes home late at night to surprise mom” commercials was on and after it was over my 2 year old jumped up and ran over to me to give me a hug. The emotional manipulation is even effective on babies!

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