Addressing Mental Health, Santa Questions the Outdated Choices of ‘Naughty or Nice’ for Kids

St. Nick seeks to build more empathy and understanding

Naughty, or... NAMI
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For as long as we can remember, conceptualizing holiday giving for children has rested mainly on the binary ideas of naughty vs. nice. At a cursory glance, it’s a winning model: a child wants a new bike, said child refrains from fighting with their siblings or flaking on their homework and, voila, the child gets a bike and forever aims for relative decency. For many households, it’s a system that works.

For a child navigating the world with mental illness or a developmental disorder, the society-friendly concept of “naughty or nice” presents obstacles that those without any experience can’t possibly imagine. For instance, what may look like a tantrum on the outside may actually be a child with specific sensory sensitivities struggling with a beeping produce scanner. A violent outburst may be a product of a chemical imbalance that blocks impulse control. Do these children who unknowingly engage in ostensibly “naughty” behaviors not deserve a decent Christmas?

It’s a question that has Santa in the throes of an existential crisis in a new campaign from The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and W+K New York.

In a short, emotional film titled “Naughty Or…” a despondent Saint Nicholas sits atop a roof, interrogating the outdated “naughty or nice” system. “It started with good intentions,” Santa explains. “A way to motivate behavior, to codify gift-giving, streamline deliveries.”

But he begins to explore the flaws in this ultimately reductive system, one that is not kind to children who find it challenging to comply with societal perceptions of respectability. “Isn’t it just as possible that they’re nervous or nice? Uncomfortable in their own skin, or nice?… ‘My impulses are beyond my control,’ or nice?”

As Santa unravels the very system that has inspired both impossibly held standards for growing children and Christmas carols, he also interrogates a stigma that has plagued neurologically atypical people for eons.

CREDITS:

Client: National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI)
Project Name: “Naughty Or”
Format: Short Film (online)
Client Contact: Katrina Day, Will Jarred
Launch Date: 12/17/19

Agency: W+K New York
Executive Creative Director: Karl Lieberman
Creative Directors: Jaclyn Crowley, Sean Mclaughlin
Copywriter: Katie D’Agostine
Art Director: Hope Jordan
Head Of Integrated Production: Nick Setounski
Producer: Jordan Leinen
Studio Manager: Jill Kearton
Account Director: Samantha Wagner
Account Supervisor: Jasmine Cogdell
Assistant Account Executive: Demornay Harper
Brand Strategist: Brian Ritter
Comms Planner: Lizzie Manning
Social Strategist: Leah Greene
Junior Social Strategist: Faith Daniels
Project Manager: Julie Knight
Business Affairs Manager: Michael Moronez

PR Partner: The Door
Public Relations Director: Theresa Collins
Public Relations Specialist: Sanam Shah

Production Company: O-positive
Director: David Shane
Executive Producer: Marc Grill
Executive Producer: Ralph Laucella
First Assistant Director: Ken Licata
Production Designer: Dan Ouellette
Director Of Photography: Berenice Eveno

Editorial Company: Arcade Edit
Editor: Geoff Hounsell
Post Producer: Arlene Perez (NY)
Post Producer: Sarah Schachte (LA)
Executive Producer: Sila Soyer
Editorial Assistant: Chris Angel (NY)
Editorial Assistant: Luke Mcintosh (LA)

Shoot Supervisor: Antoine Douadi
Lead Compositor: Anne Trotman
Compositor: Tara Holland
Matte Painter: Gillian George
VFX Production Supervisor: Colin Blaney
VFX Senior Producer Clairellen Wallin
VFX Producer Andrew Gilson
VFX Production Coordinator: Katharine Mulderry
Colorist: Fergus Mccall

Mix Company: Sound Lounge
Mixer: Tom Jucarone
Executive Producer: Becca Falbourn, Alicia Rodgers

Sound Design Company: Henry Boy
Sound Designer: Bill Chesley
Producer: Kate Gibson


Shannon Miller is a writer, podcast creator and contributor to Adweek.
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