Five Classic Christmas Commercials (I Got 5 Honest)
There are few things in the world that I love more than the Christmas season. From the chaos of Black Friday through the anticipation of Advent leading to that wonderful week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s, no one time fills me with more joy. Is it the caffeine, the presents, the milligrams of Holly? The lights decorating every street? The promise of Christmas Vacation which, now that I’m a high school music teacher, is still a huge deal? I’d wager it’s the combination of all these things that not only bring out the best in all of us, but rose tints my world with everything I love about being alive. And, like all great things, this sentiment can be boiled down into 30-second long commercials. Therefore, I give you my picks for five modern Christmas classics.
Coca-Cola Santa Packs Are Coming
This is always the first Holiday commercial to air, usually the week of Thanksgiving, signaling the beginning of the Christmas Season. Coca-Cola was on a roll with some pretty cutting edge marketing in the mid-90s. One year after their unforgettable Halloween Monster of the Gridiron promotion, they did a complete 180 and went from ‘cool’ to ‘warmth’ with a Polar Express for the Consumer Generation. Originally airing with the lyrics “Holidays are coming,” the spot was retooled to emphasize the more Coca-Cola-centric aspects of the season: the Santa Packs. As a loyal Pepsi drinker*, this is the one time of the year I’ll go out of my way to see jolly ole St. Nick smiling back at me. FUN FACT: Contrary to urban lore, Coca-Cola did NOT create the modern image of Santa AND anyone in 2010 who still believes so is an ill-informed fun-hating miscreant.
Fruity Pebbles – Tis the Season to be Sharing, Fred!
I absolutely loathe it whenever people use the term “’nuff said,” largely because it’s a way for people to boast that their opinion is so perfect, it requires no justification or critical thinking. However, this commercial seems almost like the rare case where such a statement is justified. You have a standard holiday theme rewritten, the finest animation ever used by the Post corporation, and the one time when Fred willingly shares his beloved Fruity Pebbles with Barney. Such kindness was never shown to the Trix Rabbit, the Cookie Crisp Theif, Sonny or even the Hamburgular. Barney’s grateful response wraps the whole thing together a great way to introduce the concept of generosity to children. It saddens me to think that Madonna’s television-deprived daughter Lourdes grew up without it.
12 Days of Christmas on Fox Kids
My senior year at NYU, I took a class on sitcom writing under the great James Felder. One of the rules for the class was that we couldn’t write Holiday-themed episodes as they were often easy-to-write cheap one-offs for series to just coast on and not really try for a week. This is a truth of the trade so known that shows such as ‘The Office’ and ’30 Rock’ have spent the last decade deliberately cranking out legitimately great Holiday episodes that rank among their respective seasons’ best, just so the staff writers can show just how good they really are. Of course, being fortunate enough to be both a lover of Christmas and one of the elite few selected to become a member of the Fox 29 Kids Club, my passion for the seasonal sentiment was enough to hold my attention for their entire Saturday Morning Christmas line-up. The ’94-’95 season was undoubtably the best, boasting not only returning favorites like ‘X-Men,’ ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ and ‘Animaniacs,’ but the debuts of ‘The Tick,’ ‘Spiderman’ and on this particular Christmas weekend, ‘Life with Louie.’ I would always tape these Saturdays and (thanks to the magic of 8-hour Extended Play Videocassettes) I’m sure I still have them in my basement back in Minnesota. While my college thesis on children’s television of the 80s and 90s sufficiently killed off any and all of my interest in nostalgia, the Tree-side wins again as this spot still brings me back to that 3rd Grade Holiday season.
M&M’s ‘They Do Exist’
This classic M&Ms spot airs year-after-year for the simple reason that it’s that darn good. Both the Santa Claus and Red & Yellow are beloved omnipresent characters of modern lore. One is a Seasonal icon, a staple of traditions and cherished by all ages. The others are corporate mascots, a staple of traditions and cherished by all ages. When the two side of the same wonderful coin are squished together on the train-tracks of life, only magic can ensue. It’s a Christmas
The Coca-Cola Bears
I think everyone remembers where they were when they first saw the original Coca-Cola polar bears commercial. If they don’t, they at least remember how the commercial first made them feel**. At a time when commercials were beginning to be all about in your face screaming, it was a mostly music-less feat of computer animation, packaged with genuine subtlety and a reminder of the warmness of family through the celebration of Coca-Cola. Sequels each year opted to up the cuteness ante and introduce a baby penguin and a baby seal, all making adorable baby animal noises. Sadly, these now air overdubbed with the music of Phil Collins, significantly tarnishing what made them so soft-spoken and endearing in the first place.
Hershey’s Christmas Kisses
A timeless, unaltered classic. Funny, disarming and direct, the Hershey’s Christmas Kisses is the one Holiday commercial that has aired every year since its 1994 debut and gone completely unaltered. Next time you watch it on a High-Definition television*** look for the clear untouched video lines. Is this laziness on the part of the Hershey’s Corporation? I don’t believe so, rather I think they want to let this particular spot be the one perfect gem you can always go back to without any unnecessary bells or whistles. It’s grandma’s turkey recipe in the form of a chocolate company’s ad campaign.
HONORABLE MENTION – CAMPBELL’S SOUP SNOWMAN
This one airs all winter long. DISQUALIFIED!
BONUS BEAT – GOTTA BE DOMINO’S!
There’s nothing particularly heart-warming or special about this commercial outside the fact that it’s probably the single most obnoxious thing I’ve ever seen. Hyperbole aside, it’s a spot that looks like it was written by the loudest drunkest belligerent football fan on the back of a bar napkin during a commercial break in efforts to impress a bartender moments before a bouncer removes him as the visiting team scores the winning touchdown. “So, Santa thinks he’s so hot with his reindeer and Christmas and stuff when SUCK MY DUST, KRINGLE the Domino’s guy pulls up in his Buffalo-drawn carriage and totally disses him! Then uhhhhhhhh, what do you call those Christmas teeny-weenahs? Oh yeah, an ELF tells him he’s out-of-touch and so they tell the holiday to f-off and they just get Domino’s and party on some kids roof so yeah, take THAT Christmas!” Gotta love the 90s!
And yes, I know I gave you way more than five. Merry Christmas.
We give these Classic Christmas Commercials a Five Out of Five
So until next time…let’s agree to agree!
*Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi is my weapon of choice on the frontlines of Generation NeXt.
**If they don’t, they are genuine heartless zombie shells of faux-humanity and should be exterminated as such.
*** AKA H-Def.
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