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Friday, December 18, 2009

The Christmas commercials that never die

Who doesn't love a good holiday tradition? Everybody's got 'em: Roasting chestnuts by the fire, caroling door-to-door, baking cookies shaped like angels, trying to intercept drunken Uncle Steve before he relieves himself behind the lighted Christmas tree and shorts out the entire house...

Good times ... gooood times.

But probably no holiday tradition is more enjoyable (unless you ask Uncle Steve) than gathering around the TV to catch one of the 2.8 billion or so Christmas specials that air every year. The classics -- your "Charlie Brown Christmas," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "A Christmas Story," "Tiger Woods' Christmas Ho Ho Hos" (just making sure you're paying attention) -- deservedly run nonstop throughout the season ... every season.

It's not just movies and specials, though, that have earned such longevity. Even commercials -- which typically have the lifespan of a fruit fly, especially if the fruit fly is on sale -- can enjoy a long, healthy run when tied to the holidays, in some cases airing year after year without fail. Here are the top five, in no particular order:

The popularity of M&M's spokescandies Red and Yellow was at its candy-coated peak when this ad debuted in the late 90s. They were obviously so popular that even Santa Claus is overcome upon meeting them, and faints on the spot. Funny enough the first couple times you see it, but that doesn't explain its lasting appeal. Rather, those CGI niblets (voiced here by "Futurama"'s Billy West and "The Closer"'s J.K. Simmons) must cost a pretty penny to animate, especially back in the early days of computer animation, so why not just recycle this 15-second spot every year, and save the real money to R&D those nauseating peanut butter and jelly-flavored candies they came out with this summer? Keep up the good work, M&Ms!

This one I love, because you don't get that overt sense of being sold something. Rather these cute little Hershey Kisses are just so eager and nervous to put on a good performance of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and their conductor, Silver Kiss, is so darn professional the way he clears his throat to call them to attention, and the bell sounds they make (because Hershey Kisses make bell sounds when you shake them, I've tried it) is so clear and joyous, and that overexcited red Kiss does SUCH A GOOD JOB at the end, and he's SO ADORABLE when he wipes his brow with his tag, and ... dammit, I'm gonna go out and buy a big bag of them right now...

You're not going to make me cry, Folgers. I'm just telling you now. Don't even try it. You've gotten a lot of mileage out of this 1986 commercial, mostly because it reduces even the most hardened man into a quivering blob of gelatin. Clean-cut college kid Peter returns home early Christmas morning, where only his little sister, Cindy Lou Who, is awake. But instead of yelling "Yo, I'm home! Feed me!" to wake everyone else up like I would have done in his place, Peter brews a big ol' pot of Folgers coffee (from a tin can! It's the 80s!). The smell of that roasted goodness rouses the rest of his family, including, apparently, the mom from "Gremlins." Everyone comes down the stairs, sees that their prodigal son has returned, and... well... I'm not made of stone, you know!

Sidenote: Folger's recently remade this ad, to not nearly the same effect.

Not quite as recurrent as the first three, this McDonald's spot from the early 80s still pops up periodically. To be fair, it does look egregiously dated (what are those, hand-drawn animated forest creatures? What, Ronald's magic couldn't conjure up some CGI?) Yet its simple story of a little boy who can't skate until a multinational fast food conglomerate's mascot lifts him up and teaches him through the power of, I don't know, chicken McNuggets or something, is still pretty heartwarming after all these years. Bonus points for that climactic music that apes Disney's "When You Wish Upon a Star" just enough to get away with it.

Finally we have this 1995 gem from Campbell's (have you noticed a trend with these commercials, by the way? I guess the holidays really are all about food after all) which isn't technically a Christmas commercial, per se. It does use "Let It Snow" as its background music, though, so I'm including it. It's a very clever, very cute ad about a snowman who gets too cold, so he clomps his way indoors, where an unseen woman just hands him a bowl of soup. As he eats, the snow melts away to reveal he was a little boy all along. What you don't see is what happens next, when the boy calls the Department of Children's Services on his mom for leaving him out in a blizzard for so long that he became a snowman in the first place. Justice is mmm-mmm good.

Do you have any other favorite recurring holiday commercials that aren't on this list? Drop us a line! And happy holidays!

-- Adam Reinhard,

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Sung often and with sugar-inspired fervor around the Roz household.

-- Tom

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At December 18, 2009 at 2:23 PM  

You can't beat "ho, ho, ho I'm hu, hu, hungry," but this is a good one too:

By Anonymous Mary, At December 18, 2009 at 4:37 PM  

What about the terrible commercials like all those Jared and Kay jewelry ads that make no sense? I think you need a counter list of the worst holiday ads, too!

--Malavika aka Scrooge

By Blogger Malavika Jagannathan, At December 18, 2009 at 5:04 PM  

Because I'm a Mac geek.

By Blogger Antony, At December 19, 2009 at 8:47 AM  

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