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What’s the best holiday season ad of all-time?

This Apple ad about how the teenage generation is digitally misunderstood dropped a couple of days ago. It’s pretty good and fairly emotional (you might cry, as it seems like Time Magazine did). Got me thinking: the holiday season is really the apex for ad-men (whenever I say ad-men, I think of Pete Campbell screaming “NOT GOOD, BOB!”). You have to craft ads that accomplish two very distinct things all at once: (a) get people emotional and thinking about family/the season and (b) make people want to buy things. I’m actually not sure the above ad does the latter, but Apple has so much cash on hand that I think they can drop a warm fuzzy and be fine with it.

Forbes did a good article about this very topic a little while ago; they convened advertising industry executives to discuss it all, which is not something I have the power or ability to do, so +1 for them. Here’s the essential takeaway, from within the article:

“The holidays are naturally an emotional time of year,” Graves says. “Advertisers traditionally try to use this to create memorable advertising and emotional connections to their brands. The ones that find a way to do this in relevant and entertaining ways tend to be remembered. The ones that simply insert themselves into the holidays will easily be forgotten.”

So, what are the actual best spots?

A lot of people are partial to this 1996 spot from M&Ms called “Faint.”

The Coca-Cola Polar Bears are a big thing too; “Sledding” is an ad that often gets referenced in these lists.

“Peter Comes Home For Christmas,” from Folger’s, is actually one of the first times I remember getting a lil’ misty at a commercial.

This ad from John Lewis (a UK-based retailer) I had never seen before (probably on account of only having been to London on layovers), but it’s literally beautiful and amazing and speaks to the real message of X-Mas:

I was never really a fan of the Hershey’s “Holiday Bells” campaign, but it deserves to be on this list:

Ditto on the Clydesdales — sometimes a fan, but not always — but their Christmas version should make this list:

(I’m pretty sure that limited voiceover is George Clooney, but I could be wrong.)

People like the Macy’s “Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus” campaign, which was tied into a million other things (TV movies, balloons, contests, etc.)

If you want to go really old-school, here’s a Christmas ad from Lucky Strike. Cue the Don Draper references:

Figured I should toss a toy company ad on here, so here’s a delightful little 1976 spot from Toys R’ Us.

I remember this McDonald’s ad pretty vividly, mostly because if I saw Ronald on a rink, I’d probably scream, run, and call the cops. He is a freaky-looking dude, although parts of this are endearing.

This is a pretty catchy 1970s Coke commercial:

“I’d like to teach the world to sing … in perfect harmony…”

Alright, one more. The Honey Nut Cheerio Bee meets Scrooge. I think it first aired in 1989.

Honestly, having just racked back about 20 different Christmas ads to write this post, I would probably go with the John Lewis advert from 2011 (the UK one). It has a cute kid, good music, a simple message, and ends almost perfectly. Now, I’m not about to run out and buy something from John Lewis, so maybe it missed the mark in that regard — but I’m fully on board with, and cognizant of, their brand now and if I see something from it, I might be more inclined to buy it simply because of a 1:31 ad I saw on YouTube. That’s powerful.

Ted Bauer

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