Ads of Christmas Past

A certain department store will be unveiling their new Christmas advert tomorrow. Ahead of this, I thought I’d write about a few that have come before. Yes it’s a bit early for Christmas – apologies to all of the grinches out there! However, it’s never too early for corporations to start exploiting the festive season for some healthy profit. Which is the purpose of all of these heart-warming adverts at the end of the day. Still, the commercialisation of Christmas is another blog post in itself.

Holidays are coming


This is a Coca-Cola advert that aired almost two decades ago, some time after the ‘Holidays are Coming’ campaign’s inception in 1995. Look familiar? It should do, it’s largely the same advert we see to this day. Rarely would a company to stick to one campaign message for so long without changing tacts. 20 years is a long time in advertising!

Why has it been so long-lasting? Coca-Cola have managed to achieve the holy grail. We’ve adopted their advert as part of our festive tradition, something we rely on each year to let us know the season is upon us.  This is no mean feat. Especially since Cola is not a particularly Christmassy drink. Given that the campaign has been running for as long as I’ve had a functioning memory, it also has the nostalgia factor. This is a powerful one, especially at the time of year that we are so taken with tradition. With it so embedded in the public’s psyche, it makes little sense to change things too much. Instead the Coca-Cola brand update their marketing efforts for the year-round campaigns. That way they are still seen as current and innovative. They have their cake and eat it too.

Annual red truck photo opportunities reinforce the campaign, then get shared on social media. More free advertising. It all works though, I get sucked in. When I see the trucks for the first time I get excited. If I see that Santa has been added to the bottles in the supermarket I’ll want to get them. Perhaps I should be more immune to this as someone with a design education…

John Lewis

You probably realised this was the department store in question. John Lewis have received a lot of love for their well-crafted adverts in recent years.  Some of these have had incredibly impressive production behind them. However, this one remains my favourite:


It’s a lot simpler than the others, sure. A big part of why I like this advert is it’s context. This was the type of company it had in the ad breaks that year. Young children singing an intensely annoying song about the expensive gifts they’d received. I didn’t like the guilt-tripping going on here. If you can’t afford all of these things then I’m sorry, but you don’t win the title of ‘lovely, lovely mother’.

The John Lewis ad takes a different approach. Not only is there a great improvement in creative direction, but the message is a lot more in the spirit of Christmas. We’re led to believe we are watching a little boy waiting impatiently for the big day so that he can open all of his presents. However, the last few seconds show him rushing past his own to fetch a haphazardly wrapped one from his cupboard to give to his parents. ‘For gifts you can’t wait to give’. In my house we all turned to each other and said what a lovely change it was. It’s interesting that another advert actually assisted in making this one more effective!

It also speaks to me because I enjoy giving as much as receiving when I know I have found a gift someone will love. I can even remember being about the age of the little boy and saving up my pocket money to buy my older brother a pen. I was so chuffed with what I thought was a fantastic gift. He did actually end up losing said pen at school but let’s not ruin the moment.

Keep your eyes peeled for the new John Lewis ad tomorrow, I might share my thoughts if it’s a good one!
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