With few exceptions, blizzard of holiday commercials welcome as black ice.

December 1, 2008

images-2imagesTwo silver sleds but only one is a holiday classic.

Tis the season to be jolly… like it or not. That means we will be shot up with more Christmas commercials than Nikki Sixx was with heroin. Recession? Bah Humbug. No matter how perilously close to bankruptcy any given advertiser might be, they will not be able to resist the loss leader tactics run riot between Black Friday and New Year’s Day. Stories about companies scaling back for the recession are misleading. Most holiday campaigns were paid for and made during summer. Pulling out now is no solution to winter’s cold economic reality. Might as well bundle up and plow through. What choice do we have?

Will it be a “December to Remember” for Lexus? I hope not. Is there anything more annoying than a rich, white women subduing a shriek as her husband reveals a silver sedan posing in the driveway? Yes there is. The effen red bow on said sedan. That is more irritating. Add one patriarchal, waspish voice-over and you’ve given pretension a new standard. Wouldn’t it be funny if hubby bought wifey a Prius instead? She’d probably strangle him with that damn red ribbon.

Speaking of annoying people, what do you suppose Gap and Old Navy have in store for us? Plenty of cheap sweaters no doubt. But what about in terms of advertising? I’m guessing more of the same. Which means waves of hyper-smiling celebutants dolled up and dancing or, in Old Navy’s case, mugging in various campy scenarios. When both retailers began these respective campaigns, it was actually refreshing. Hip even. But then so was Bill Clinton playing a saxophone.

Do you think Radio Shack (how on earth do they survive?) will be trotting out more abysmal theater from Howie Long and his desperate housewife? Nothing says Christmas like Howie in a ski sweater. Yum!

And here’s to all the one-offs: cute kids setting out treats for Santa, bumbling dads stringing up lights, befuddled husbands holding up ties, shrieking girlfriends flashing new rings. And so on and on and on…

Maybe our children will come to regard these spots as holiday classics. When I was a boy I adored the Norelco Christmas commercials featuring Santa Claus zooming over the snow-covered hillside on an electric shaver with three floating heads. This TV spot first appeared in 1961 and has been updated through the years. Today it is one of the most fondly remembered Christmas commercials ever made. It’s like grandma’s fruitcake –wonderfully terrible, terribly wonderful. Christmas just wasn’t the same without it. For you youngsters, I’ve dug up a copy. Joy Norelco!

Fairness Warning! I’ve seen new creative from some of the above-mentioned advertisers. I do not want to be a bad reindeer so I offer an update, largely in their favor…

For 2008, Lexus has added a nostalgic twist to their “December to Remember.” Films imagine 30-somethings as kids, opening the “best gifts ever.” We then superimpose mom and dad now as they receive an updated vehicular version. It’s better creative for sure -save for the red bow and cloying music.

Radio Shack appears to have cut Howie from the Xmas team. They are now running generic ‘home for the holiday’ commercials. Forgettable but not hateful.

Old Navy is, once again, filling our lives with garish color, this time to the strains of “I want Candy.”

Several months ago I ripped Cadillac’s creative, calling it arrogant and off-putting. Their current holiday commercial, for the Escalade, is a beaut. A smug hunk recites all of Santa’s reindeer’s names as seven beautiful women hop into his “sleigh.” He closes the door on Blitzen, his buddy. “Sorry, I’ve only got room for eight.” Bro, that’s cold. Earlier in the spot (during the bootie call), when he says “Vixen,” I didn’t know whether to pump my fist or puke into it, such is the line they are walking.


10 Responses to “With few exceptions, blizzard of holiday commercials welcome as black ice.”

  1. Malcom Z said

    You’ve captured my own love/hate for the Caddy spot perfectly. It’s clever and simple despite being potentially misogynistic. And speaking of cars, i too am WAY TIRED of those Lexus spots but…sadly…I do think they’re becoming iconic.

  2. name said

    the kay jewelers spot with the deaf girl is on another level. sure it’s cheesy. that’s to be expected. but it has a weird sexual undertone with the “i’ll show you with my lips.” banter at the end. not to mention, he gives the deaf girl earrings. earrings!?! what are these people thinking?

  3. I have not yet seen the Caddy spot.
    But now I really want to.

    But you’re spot on as far as I’m concerned with the Lexus “December to Remember” spots. It is nice, however, to see the campaign updated. I think they had been running the exact same spot for 7 years. At one point I honestly thought they just had a flame artist take out the old model, and put in the new. After all, it would seem wasteful and tedious to shoot the same schlock every year. Beyond crappy advertising, the one thing that bothered me the most was the logic of it… who the heck actually surprises someone with a car? A car is a very personal choice. If someone surprised me with a Lexus I would first be pissed, then I’d go trade it for an Audi.

  4. SRP said

    Regarding the Kay Jewelers spot, I almost wrote an entire article about it! And for all the reasons you cited in your comment: The consumer facing cheesiness with an undercurrent of sex. The other piece that disturbs me is creating a handicap (deafness) to manipulate our heartstrings. Remember that US Cellular spot last year, where the phone store employees supposedly taught the illiterate old man how to read? Icky-poo-poo.

  5. Jason Fox said

    Anyone remember the Kay spot from a few years ago (it ran for at least two seasons) in which a guy pops the questions as he and his future wife walk along a snow-dappled avenue and then exit in a taxi driven by Santa Hack? The commercial isn’t memorable for it’s narrative (as if), but because the couple looked, shall we say, exceedingly Jewish. I mean like some of my Long Island peeps. And while I do have several Jewish friends that exchange gifts at Christmas, I still think a more Gentile-focused bit of casting might have been in order just this once. Sadly, I cannot find a video of this online.

  6. While we’re on the topic of the Kay’s ads… we should take a moment to give some hatred to the Jared spots as well. “He went to Jared!” All guys become real (and desirable) men when the go to Jared.

    Please… going to Jared is like taking her to T.G.I.Friday’s for your anniversary. Perhaps the most puke-inspiring jewelery ads ever.

  7. SRP said

    I cannot recall this commercial but I am very curious to se it.
    Bad casting makes me cringe, drawing me in to a commercial for all the wrong reasons.

  8. Katie K said

    Everyone keeps saying that during a recession advertising is the first thing to cut back on, so it is interesting to hear that all of the ads have already been paid for and were being created this summer.

    I totally agree with you about the Lexus commercials. In a time of global and economic crisis, people should be spending their money on luxury sedans? I wonder what emotions would be portrayed in that commercial scenario if it was a hybrid. That would be an interesting parody of a commercial to create.

    And the Gap and Old Navy ads don’t really bother me, they are just trying to lift people’s spirits every holiday season.

  9. SRP said

    Oh, they’ll cut back -in 2009!
    But for national advertisers, the xmas trains have mostly left the station.

  10. […] are fun, some are bad and some will put you to […]

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