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The reactions to Amazon's Christmas ad and YouTube's campaign tell us something positive about post-Brexit society

Capitalism goes where the interest and the money is – and if the money is in diversity and inclusion, we should feel optimistic

Nishaat Ismail
Wednesday 30 November 2016 17:14 GMT
Amazon TV ad features imam and vicar exchanging gifts

‘Tis the season to get the woolly hats out, plan which day you’ll be hitting the sales and recover from food-induced comas which have already added inches to your waistline. And, of course, ‘tis the season for our biggest corporations and supermarkets to advertise their goods to us in competitive display of festivity, in the hope of raising sales for the next year.

This year, there’s been a sea change: the best-loved Christmas advert has ended up being one that makes no overt mention or portrayal of Christmas. Earlier this month, Amazon launched a seasonal ad which tells the heart-warming tale of two old friends, a priest and an imam, who meet for a cup of tea and catch-up at the priest’s house. It shows the two clerics joking about the wear and tear on their joints inflicted by the requirement in both of their respective faiths to get down on their knees to pray. As they part, both come up with the same idea for a surprise gift for the other: a set of kneepads.

While other commercials have been criticised for tragically missing the point – notably Sainsbury’s, whose advert which told people “the greatest gift” they could give was their presence at Christmas while simultaneously asking its employees to work over most of the festive season – Amazon’s choice has led to an unusual outpouring of warmth and cheer across social media.

In a post-Brexit and Trump victory world, where both campaigns were mired with bigotry, many would not have been in the mood to live out the lyrics “’Tis the season to be jolly” – least of all those who found themselves targeted and vilified by Brexiteers and Trump supporters – but the unbridled support for an ad that showcases diversity and cross-cultural understanding is something I find especially encouraging.

At times of tumult and division in communities, people often look to those in places of power and influence to reiterate the values of tolerance and egalitarianism which are supposed to be the foundation of our nations. Amazon correctly identified the chasm between different faiths and ethnicities and the destructive consequences disunion can have on societies, which has seldom been addressed by our esteemed leaders. It’s far from a perfect company, but the response to its Christmas message shows that we remain more united than divided.

There are other important instances of showcasing diversity that shouldn’t be overlooked either. Youtube’s latest #MadeForYou campaign has brought together vloggers from various backgrounds to celebrate the talent thriving on their platform. The prominent face of hijab-wearing vlogger Dinatokio might once have raised questions in racist boardrooms – but YouTube has displayed her proudly up front. Some may dismiss it all as cynical PR tactics, but that doesn’t necessarily undermine its importance. Capitalism goes where the interest and the money is – and if the money is in diversity and inclusion, we should feel optimistic.

Yes, there are those who would much rather see immigrants “sent back to where they came from” as a Christmas present, but they are clearly in the minority. Capitalism tells us that’s true – and while cold hard cash might not feel like the most inspiring thing to talk about during the festive season, sometimes it can tell us some interesting – and uplifting – things about the society we live in when the sensationalist and xenophobic headlines are stripped away.

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