Should Macy’s pull its Santa ad and apologize?


Yes, Jeff, there is a Santa Claus.

And Macy’s can prove it.

We see all sorts of consumer complaints here, but Jeff Loiselle’s recent request is a first. He contacted us and asked us to help him get a Macy’s ad pulled. Why? Because he thinks the ad campaign is “awful” and has caused his three-year-old to — gasp — ask him if Santa Claus is real.

Loiselle also wants an apology from Macy’s.

An ad campaign that encourages little children to question Santa’s existence? Of course, we were as outraged as Loiselle. So, we raced to the internet to see this irreverent commercial.

Questioning Santa’s existence is nothing new. In fact, the most public questioning of Santa’s actuality was in 1897 when eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, discouraged by her friends’ insistence that Santa was not real, wrote a letter to The New York Sun. Her father told her that if she saw something written in the New York Sun, that would prove its truth. So, she asked the very question: “Is there a Santa Claus?”

What resulted was a beautifully written published response from the editor: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

The editor explained to Virginia that her little friends have been “affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe what they do not see.”

I would suggest that with the internet inundating our lives, the skeptical age has exploded.

For his part, Santa has never publicly attempted to prove his reality. Presumably, he is much too busy running his affairs in the North Pole to fight against this “Santa Does Not Exist” propaganda. And the fact that he has always maintained that children must be asleep “all snug in their beds” when he arrives also bolsters his mystery.

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On a practical level, this policy makes a lot of sense. You can only imagine how long his Christmas Eve route would take if he needed to stop and make a little idle chitchat with each family. That problem is easily solved if everyone is sleeping.

Now, back to Loiselle’s concerns about the Macy’s ads. The ad campaign is called: #SantaProject: Our Movement to Keep the Magic of Santa Claus Alive. I watched the ads and did not agree with Loiselle’s negative perception of the campaign. While it does acknowledge that children are being exposed to information on the internet, and elsewhere, that Santa doesn’t exist, the goal of the campaign is to prove that he does exist.

The commercial starts out with children of various ages and ethnicities explaining who Santa is and what they love about him. Later in the commercial, they express concerns about the things that they have seen on the internet telling them that Santa doesn’t exist. They show one child typing “Does Santa exist?” into his phone.


Other children complain of fake videos they have seen on the internet that say Santa is pretend. And one little girl tells us that she heard “about 1,000” people who said he isn’t real. All this negativity does not seem to sway the children’s beliefs, but they do appear to feel bad for Santa that he has to endure this cynicism.

Macy’s has a solution to all this negativity on the internet concerning Santa’s existence. The commercial states, “Macy’s Believes.” It suggests that the internet be flooded with stories, pictures, tweets, videos that confirm a belief in Santa. The idea is that when children do an internet search for “Does Santa Exist?” they will encounter all of the information that is hashtagged #SantaProject.

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The commercial ends with the children happily giving clear evidence that Santa exists by explaining that on Christmas morning the cookies that were left in the kitchen for Santa are eaten and that the milk carton is empty. Who can argue with these facts?

A current Google search of #SantaProject reveals thousands of submissions on a variety of social media platforms.

Naturally, there will be many who say that children should not be on the internet unsupervised at an age when they would be asking such a question as “Does Santa Exist?” But, the ad campaign can be used with parental guidance to help reinforce your family’s holiday traditions that involve Santa.

Loiselle took to our forums to elaborate his complaint. He said his daughter didn’t really understand the commercial and, at the conclusion, her take was that the kids were saying that “Santa isn’t real.”

She misunderstood the message.

But a three-year-old misunderstanding a message certainly is not uncommon. That’s why children have parents to help guide them and correct misunderstandings at this age, especially while watching TV. Loiselle says he “used some quick thinking” and handled his daughter’s question, but was angry at Macy’s for putting him in that position.

As a parent myself, I feel for Loiselle. But I also know that this will not be the last time that his child asks him an unexpected or startling question that will need quick parental explanation. It’s par for the course in parenting.

The concept of Macy’s ad is heartwarming and the premise is sweet and innocent. Macy’s believes. Not just in Santa, but in the spirit of the holidays and magic of the season. Macy’s wants children to see positive Santa-related stories on the internet. How can that be wrong?

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We can’t join Loiselle on his quest to shut down this campaign, but we wish him and you a very happy holiday season!

Fortunately, there are no more “fake” Santa ads this year, but this was a worthy discussion when we had it a few months ago, and especially important if you have young, impressionable kids.


Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a consumer advocate, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. As the managing director of Elliott.org, she leads the advocacy, editorial and production departments. Read more of Michelle's articles here.

  • SirWired

    Yeah, I thought it was a sweet commercial… If he’s depending on shielding his kids from the world SO MUCH that he gets to decide what tough questions they ask when, he’s in for more disappointment than a kid who gets coal in his stocking.

  • Dutchess

    Gasp!! Your child saw something on the internet you disagreed with!! Double Gasp!! I’ve made this comment before but it bears repeating, instead of using this opportunity to talk to your child and teach them about critical thinking and that not everything you see and on TV or the internet is real you decide to behave like a child and demand they remove the ad. Instead you taught your child that you should overreact emotionally instead of using reasoning. Well done dad! Sounds like dad needs to work on his critical thinking skills and identify a learning opportunity when they occur.

  • DChamp56

    Unfortunately, people can be idiots. Lets leave it at that.
    Santa is real.

  • AJPeabody

    But, as per Chico Marx, there is no Sanity Clause.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    Did any “war on Christmas” letters get filtered this year?

  • greg watson

    Merry Christmas everyone !!………………….don’t forget to leave Santa……..milk & cookies………..simple isn’t it ?

  • SirWired

    Don’t forget the carrots for the reindeer! You want those hard-working flying quadrupeds to starve? :D

  • Bill

    Sadly, this shows anything will offend SOMEONE. Was it that long ago that when you didn’t like something, you simply moved on? Now we expect ANYthing that offends ANYone must go away (and the one who perpetrates it too).
    Macy’s tried. Shame shame.
    He needs to shield his children from the cr-p out there, but he also needs to take these moments to teach his values to his daughter, not expect the world to sit idly by and never offend him.
    I think I’ll get on Macy’s website and look for gifts now.
    Merry Christmas everyone! And a Happy New Year!!

  • George M

    Mr. Loiselle and his entire family should take a couple of hours and watch “Miracle on 34th Street” (the original version) in which Santa’s existence was “proven”, at least to the satisfaction of the US Postal Service and a Court of Law. The traumatized three-year-old might just come away from this with a new perspective on Santa, on Macy’s and on life.

  • Mel65

    We taught our kids that Santa was more a magical concept of kindness and joy throughout the season and gifts are our family’s celebration off that, rather than a single real man who visits “everyone”. I was always aware as a teacher back then that poorer kids were often confused and hurt that this ubiquitous Santa everyone said visited “good kids” didn’t visit them, leaving them feeling less than their peers and forgotten. I’ve always hated that mythology.

  • joycexyz

    Excellent! You hit the nail right on the head! Unfortunately, too many people use too little brain power. No critical thinking at all. They see or hear something, no matter how outlandish, and react. And the internet? Sorry, but all the good stuff out there is eclipsed by the sheer volume of garbage.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow. I think everyone else already pretty much said what needed to be said about this parent, who seems to be under the mistaken impression that the the whole world is responsible for protecting his child from reality.

    I certainly have no problem with the ad. But let me just say that I personally don’t really agree with what Macy’s is doing with their “Santa project”. My family’s approach was always that once a child is old enough to rationally ask if Santa is real, they are old enough to know that he’s not. I think it’s a mistake to work so hard at proving to kids that Santa is real, in order to keep them believing a falsehood well beyond the age when they should.

    In my experience, both as a child and as a parent, the older a child is when they finally learn the truth about Santa, the more it upsets them and can actually shake their world! I know of many children whose parents went to such outrageous lengths to keep them believing in Santa that the kids were well into double-digits in age…and when they finally did learn the truth, they were devastated. Many kids were angry at their parents for lying to them and tricking them. I remember in grade school, fist-fights broke out between a couple boys who still believed, and all the others who knew the truth. And then when those boys finally learned they were the ones who were wrong, they were humiliated and heartbroken. Why put your kids through that?

    Santa is a charming fairy tale to tell your small children. We did the whole thing with our kids too – cookies & milk and all. But we always treated it as a magical fantasy, and didn’t try to protect them from seeing things that might cause them to question their belief. By the time they were old enough to grasp the difference between fantasy and reality, they realized they already knew Santa wasn’t real…so they never had to ask us. There was no big tearful scene, no trauma. Just…growing up.

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