Holiday Advertising Selling More Than a Product

During the holiday season, most companies go all out on their commercials. It is the time of year when people spend thousands of dollars on gifts, decorations, and other items they have been wanting to splurge on all year. Companies recognize that their marketing scheme has to be top-notch in order to take advantage of the holiday season. Specifically companies that benefit from the holidays through customers buying their products as gifts commission world-famous celebrities, write scripts focusing on key holiday themes and concepts, and use special effects worthy of a film with a high production value. Usually, these commercials have some kind of reference to the holidays, generally Christmas, with lights, Christmas trees, and other universally-recognized decorations and symbols adorning the background. Marketing teams also try to instill a sense of festivity and connection to the audience and the holiday season. Common themes include family, togetherness, and happiness are illustrated through storylines or images in hopes that the viewer connects them with the company and its intentions. The commercials put an emphasis on holiday themes, such as festivity and perhaps most importantly, nostalgia to sell their products. 

A majority of BCA students agreed that holiday commercials are imbued with feelings and themes associated with the holiday season. A majority of students surveyed (49 out of 51) believe that commercials released during this time of year try to convey festive feelings. However, whether the companies are actually successful with such endeavors is up to debate. About half of those surveyed believed that the commercials create a holiday-like atmosphere, while 40% are unsure of whether the marking teams do it accurately. A tenth of surveyed students said they are unsuccessful. The students find that the commercials give off a holiday spirit that they can relate to. Some instill a sense of nostalgia, such as the annually aired hershey’s Kiss commercial that plays “Carol of the Bells”. Others creatively use a heartwarming storyline and execute it so that themes of family and togetherness are emphasized. Some students explained that the execution of commercials released during the holidays include classic symbols and songs that make the advertisement entertaining and comical to watch while making a clear affiliation to the holidays. Even though the commercials, like the ones produced by Hershey, Amazon, Sprite Cranberry, or Coca-Cola, are able to create a holiday “vibe”, they are not as successful in selling their products to our generation. 

Many of the students surveyed were not fully convinced to buy the company’s products as 43% said they might and 29% responded that the commercials do not make them want to purchase products.
While the commercials are great marketing tools for corporations, these advertisements are also annual holiday contents that many BCA students resonate with. The qualities and feelings expressed in such commercials are the aspects that BCA students bond with. 

Some of the most well-known holiday commercials of 2020 include Amazon’s “The Show Must Go On”, where a teenage dancer whose performance is cancelled due to the pandemic is portrayed. With Amazon playing a supporting role, the dancer’s sister tries to cheer her up by hosting an outdoor performance and sends out invitations to the neighborhood. To help this performance become a reality, the characters purchase items from Amazon. By the end of the commercial, the dancer takes center stage in a climactic scene where all the lights are on her as she is in her elaborate costume dancing to the Nutcracker. This particular commercial grabbed the attention of many audience members as the themes portrayed filled them with sentiment and feelings of joy. According to the Independent, the advertisement had been praised on social media, and many had thanked Amazon for highlighting the struggles of artists and creatives during the pandemic. On Twitter, many shared their similar experiences and felt touched. One user explains, “The Amazon Christmas advert made me cry and was utterly beautiful. It was a moving film with a lovely message and a reminder of the beauty of the arts.” Others had shared similar reactions as the feelings of joy and happiness brought them to tears. 

Within BCA, a love of the arts is clear as one walks through the halls, specifically past the Auditorium, where images of past performances flash on screens. Similarly to the dancer in “The Show Must Go On”, many students felt impacted by the pandemic’s everlasting effect as performances and rehearsals have been canceled or postponed. Through its commercial, Amazon focused on the struggles of dancers and performers during this time, which allowed many students and others in similar situations to relate. Viewers of the commercial were able to feel a sense of unity as they can understand the emotional toll the pandemic has taken.

The 2020 Coca Cola Commercial hoped to embody the holiday spirit in a manner comparable to Amazon. The commercial creates an interesting storyline in which a father tries to deliver his daughter’s letter to Santa in hopes that her Christmas wish will be fulfilled. His journey turns into a long expedition as he has to overcome many trials and tribulations. When he reaches the North Pole, there is a closed sign on Santa’s house, making him feel defeated as his hopes of fulfilling his daughter’s dream is crushed. He is picked up by a Coca Cola truck and taken back home. The truck driver hands back the daughter’s letter, and the man reads it. his daughter wishes for him to be home for Christmas, creating a heartwarming conclusion as the father and daughter hug on Christmas Day. Coca Cola does not take the certain stage as the main focus of the commercial, and the drink itself is never featured; instead, the truck taking the father home is a Coca Cola truck and is festively lit. Both Coca Cola and Amazon’s marketing campaigns create advertising that resemble short films with storylines rather than traditional commercials. As their products take a side step to support the storyline, the viewers associate the company with these themes of kindness, family, and unity. Therefore the audience is encouraged to check out the respective companies and purchase their products. 

Other companies market their products as an essential part of the holidays. Within the commercial, the product will act as the main focus or will save the holiday from a chaotic or disastrous issue, transforming the situation from gloomy to festive. Sprite Cranberry was originally released in 2013 as a seasonal flavoring. Its iconic commercial, “Thirstiest Time of the Year”, featuring Lebron James and an original song produced by DRAM was released in 2017. The animation shows DRAM’s family celebrating Christmas as a chaos strikes, causing their feast to be thrown on the floor. Lebron James enters with a Sprite Cranberry in hand and saves Christmas. In 2018, the commercial was once again aired, yet the audience had a particular liking and popularized the iconic line, “Want a Sprite Cranberry?”. During that year, memes and rifts on the commercial appeared all over the internet as well as reactions to the memes, videos, and the drink. Even though the Coca-Cola Company rebranded Sprite Cranberry in 2019 to Winter Spiced Cranberry, the classic commercial once again made its way to the big screen in 2019 and 2020. Over the past three years, the commercial has remained the same except for the redesign of the Sprite Cranberry Can (as well as the blimp and field on the TV in the background of the 2019 and 2020 commercials). Keeping their commercials consistent over the past couple years was a key decision in their marketing campaigns because the viewers associate the holiday season with Sprite Cranberry and the commercial’s slogan and song. Additionally, the “meme-ability” of the commercial acted as free press to promote the product. According to Google Trends, during the holiday Season of 2018 and 2019 as well as a portion of 2020, Google searches for “Sprite Cranberry” increased dramatically compared to other times of the year, especially around late November when the commercials begin to air. 

The Google Trends Chart of Sprite Cranberry Searches over the past 5 years.

Many can agree that holiday commercials are some of the most entertaining of the year as they include amazing songs, colorful backgrounds, and festive themes. By imbuing their holiday marketing campaigns with nostalgia and feelings associated with the holiday season, the companies create an atmosphere of warmth and home. The audience is thrown into an environment that reminds them of being home during the holidays and enjoying the chaotic fun. These kinds of marketing campaigns hope to connect their company’s name and product with the happiness and joy of the holiday season. Similar to how the annual Hershey Kiss “Carol of the Bells” left a mark on BCA students over years of watching it on TV, the holiday season may not feel complete without these advertisements. These commercials establish a sense of nostalgia that remains with the viewer for years to come. As the pandemic continues, people are looking for reasons to remain hopeful and full of holiday cheer because they are unable to celebrate normally. These commercials provide them with normalcy and uplift their holiday spirit.