Santa Abducts and Tortures a Single Mother in 2016’s Weirdest Christmas Ad

Russian spot is met with outrage

Headshot of Tim Nudd

A bizarre Christmas commercial from Russia is under fire for showing Santa Claus trying to teach a single mother a lesson in being a better parent—by abducting her and dragging her through the wilderness by a rope and eventually pulling a knife on her. And the ad's creators seem baffled that anyone could have a problem with it. 

The spot, for Credit Bank of Moscow, was created by ad agency 3Sba. It is beautifully shot, which makes it even weirder—clearly no expense was spared in producing the film, yet how no one raised a red flag during its creation is baffling. 

Check out the ad here:

"It's time to think about the things that matter," says the copy line at the end.

The makers of the spot would have been wise to take that line to heart—and think about things that matter like violence against women in Russia. One in three Russian women have experienced violence, and every 40 minutes a woman in Russia is killed by a family member.

The head of psychological services at a crisis center for women and children in Russia, who gave her name as Tatiana, emailed AdFreak about the spot on Wednesday.

"I love good advertising. I support creativity. But this is something different," she wrote. "It's harmful to our society, and none of us here at the crisis center will be surprised if the film actually inspires someone to get a good rope for Christmas and teach his woman a lesson on good motherhood."

"This is a clear propaganda that the woman who doesn't meet the society's standards of a good mother, doesn't stay at home to take care of her kids, needs to be taught a lesson and deserves punishment," Marie Davtyan, an expert on women's rights, told

Meanwhile, the spot's director, Charley Stadler, released a lengthy statement expressing shock that "some people interpret the film in the complete opposite way that I intended" and that the film is meant to depict a journey toward love and unification.

"Yes, the journey to get there is dirty, unsettling and ugly, but so is life at times," Stadler says. "I believe many of us need to be led through the 'mud' in order to open our eyes. I chose the image of Santa pulling the mother by a rope as a metaphor for this, and of course it represents a safety line as they walk through rough nature. Once they reach the top and out of danger, Santa cuts her loose. Symbolically and figuratively, she went through a journey of her inner-self crisis, an internal story of transformation."

Stadler adds: "As the famous Christmas song says, 'He knows if you've been naughty. He knows if you've been nice. He knows if you've been bad or good …" Well, our Santa knows about the mother, so you better watch out. Santa Claus is coming to town."


Client: Credit Bank of Moscow

Agency: 3Sba, Russia

Production: 3Sba, Martini Shot

Director: Charley Stadler

Director of Photography: Ivan Solomatin

Actors: Nikolett Barabas, Sergey Studenikin, Alisa Tekucheva

Set Designer: Papuna Papashkiri

Costume Designer: Elena Ushakova

Music: Shamala Tamrazova, Von Seefeld

Song Producer: Adrian Bushby

Sound Design: Srdjan Kurpjel

Computer-Generated Imagery: Sergey Movchan

Cut: Nikolay Ivanov

Grading: Artem Leonov

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.
Publish date: December 21, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT