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By Erin Wood ’09
Matt MacDonald ’98 learned the art of telling stories when he was a member of Bradley’s speech team. Now, a decade later, his stories reach a nationwide audience. As a creative director at JWT New York (formerly J. Walter Thompson), Matt works on the Macy’s account, including its holiday advertising campaign, “Believe.” What began last year as a successful collection of TV commercials encouraging children to drop their letters to Santa Claus in red in-store mailboxes, has snowballed into an animated holiday special, Yes, Virginia, that will air at 7 p.m. CST on December 11 on CBS. The movie tells the story of Virginia O’Hanlon, a young girl who wrote to the New York Sun in 1897, asking the newspaper’s editor if Santa Claus exists.
“The entire point of the movie is celebrating that when you believe, you can make the world a better place. It’s far more powerful than a 30-second TV commercial,” Matt said. “That message is universal regardless, but it’s more poignant in tough times. This is an idea that can live forever and be a perennial message every Christmas for Macy’s.”
Last year, some of Macy’s Christmas print ads featured Virginia’s letter to Santa Claus, but Matt and his team wanted to emphasize the story this holiday season. “We knew that was a great story,” he said. “People know the expression ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,’ but not the history behind it. We thought it would be a fantastic animated holiday special.” After finding a director and a script, among other tasks, the project got the green light in March. Eight months later, the completed Yes, Virginia was shipped to CBS. The half-hour special features the voices of Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alfred Molina, and Michael Buscemi. Ten-year-old Beatrice Miller is the voice of Virginia.
“I’m proud of it because it’s one of the few examples of an advertising agency producing branded content for broadcast television,” Matt said. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Texas, Austin. He and his wife Sandra live in Rowayton, Conn.