Apple tackles grief, love and hope in new holiday spot


My father passed away in 2004. My mother, very much in love with my dad, passed away 18 months later. Her cause of death was Dementia, but the truth is after 40 years of marriage, she died of a broken heart. So, this new poignant TVC from Apple and agency TBWA\Media\Arts Lab hit me very, very hard and its our second “Reel Ad of the Week.”

Making a thematic departure from the brand’s recent stylized holiday ads, this 3-minute film is a much more character-driven short film, like something you would see at a film festival. These are real characters, situations and stakes  we are thrown into as we meet a  family who has recently lost a loved one.

As most of us know, the first holiday without them is always the hardest.

Titled, “The Surprise,” the TVC was filmed in a real home (not a soundstage) and stars IRL sisters. Directed by SMUGGLER’s Mark Malloy, the video tells the story of family’s visit to a grandfather who recently lost his wife.

As the four make their journey, the expected fight over seats and constant bickering occurs as tensions fray during the typical Holiday Hell.

Once at the house, we realize the grandfather has recently lost his wife. The parents hand their kids an iPad to keep them occupied so they can concentrate on helping grandpa.

On Christmas morning, the girls reveal what they have really been doing on the iPad: creating a digital scrapbook telling the story of their grandpa’s life with his late wife. A clip of the last time grandma was captured on camera – coupled with the thoughtful sentiment of the gift – brings all the adults to tears.

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Apple apparently hopes the film will prove not all tech is for mindless consumption (looking at you TikTok); it can be used as a tool for creativity and an expression of love.

The story of grief and the apparent mundanity of family life is accompanied by Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino’s Married Life, better known as the theme from the Disney Pixar film Up, which also tells the story of loss in later life.

Of course anyone who has seen the first 20 minutes of Up knows you need a box of Kleenex to watch.

At only 3-minutes you won’t need an entire box, but perhaps a good quarter. We always say at Reel 360 in order to be named “Reel Ad of the Week” you need to make us laugh, wince or cry.

Congrats Apple, on making us do the latter. For all the right reasons. I miss you still, Mom and Dad.


Director: Mark Molloy

Contact Colin Costello at