Snow, glowing hearths, candles, decorated Christmas trees, family gatherings and, of course, Father Christmas with his white beard and sack full of presents. The tropes of the fairy-tale Christmas haven’t changed over the years and today, like yesterday, they’re still very much central to the festive ads for most brands.
While we await the best ads of 2017, there’s no time like the present for a blast from the past. We decided to look back at some famous Christmas ads for big brands aired between the 70s and the 90s. And we’ve brought them together for you in this post.
From Coca-Cola to M&M’s: the best Christmas ads
We simply have to start with Coca-Cola’s Christmas campaigns. Many will recall that, back in the 1930s, it was Coca-Cola who first dressed Santa in his now-familiar red suit. The brand has hugely influenced how we imagine Christmas and has succeeded in turning Santa Claus into the official sponsor of the festive season. How did they do it? Through ads that have captured the imagination of children and adults alike. Let’s look at a few.
It’s the 70s. In this Coca-Cola ad, thousands of young people are singing a song in chorus. It’s a song we bet you’ll instantly recognise.
The product doesn’t even appear in the ad, and is only mentioned in the song’s lyrics. A choice that was ground-breaking at the time. Rather than the product itself, it’s the brand’s values that are presented: the pleasure of sharing and friendship. Coca-Cola creates moments of togetherness and harmony, moments that can build a better world. That’s the brand’s message.
Now fast forward to the 90s and this ad.
Magic and reality collide. While a father is trying to fix his broken-down car, the son sees a magical apparition: Santa Claus parks his sleigh right in front of him, buys a can of Coke from a machine, drinks it and then sets off again. A Christmas tale is inserted into a slice of everyday life, but the magical apparition is only seen by the little boy.
That decade also saw the launch of an ad fondly remembered by many, featuring red Coca-Cola trucks, bedecked in thousands of coloured lights, which criss-cross the snowy countryside bringing Christmas magic to all in their wake.
The red truck has now become synonymous with Christmas at Coca-Cola.
Now let’s turn to Italy. In 1991, Italian food company Barilla launched its Christmas ad with an extraordinary testimonial.
Santa Claus is revealed to be none other than actor Paul Newman. The ad features all the traditional festive images: snow, a sleigh, Santa Claus, presents, a Christmas tree, family gathering and children. Again, the product does not appear, and the brand’s values are presented in its place: family, tradition and the joy of being at the table together.
Let’s step back into the 80s with this Christmas ad for McDonald’s.
Ronald McDonald is ice skating with a group of kids. Everyone’s having fun, apart from a smaller kid who can’t skate and is left out. Ronald takes him in his arms and carries him to his friends. This is one of the few ads in which Santa doesn’t appear – Ronald McDonald takes his place. The clown is a friend to children, somebody who makes them happy. The product doesn’t even feature in the ad, but the brand’s values do: McDonald’s is the place where people can get together and have fun, where nobody’s left out because it’s accessible to everyone.
Now let’s go back even further in time with this M&M’s ad from the 70s.
Here the product is the star. The ad features a series of festive scenes in which M&M’s appear. But it’s a fleeting appearance because the sweets are so irresistible that they’re instantly devoured by everyone, including Santa.
These ads have been etched into our memories. You can call it the magic of Christmas, or if you prefer, the power of marketing. Either way, you’re not wrong. Merry Christmas from Pixartprinting.