It is that time of year again, some say the most wonderful time of year. Most of the flagship Christmas campaigns are out in the wild now, some are fantastic, others, well, not so much.
As these TVCs compete for love and attention, a bit of a debate has been inspired at The Drum – what is the best Christmas ad of all time?
Members of The Drum's editorial staff have weighed in as we try to determine the undisputed champion. Thankfully, there's something for every holiday ad fan in this list.
Minda Smiley (@MindaSmiley) - Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup (1998)
Agency: BBDO New York
This Campbell’s Soup commercial from the 90s is one of my favorite holiday ads because of its simple premise: a freezing cold snowman thaws into a little boy after enjoying a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.
As holiday ads become more and more elaborate, it’s always nice to see a classic that’s stood the test of time.
John McCarthy (@JohnGeeMcCarthy) - H&M 'Come Together' (2016)
Agency: Adam & Eve/DDB London
Here a group of strangers improvise a Christmas celebration on an impeccably designed train called the H&M Express. Wes Anderson’s locomotive suffers a ruinous delay on Christmas Eve resulting in Adrian Brody’s train conductor having to pull every trick in the book to assemble a Christmas miracle.
Despite the Christmas now being a train wreck, Brody acquires decorations, gifts and the tree he needs for the big day.
Meanwhile we are taken on a tour of the boxy, otherworldly train to meet the passengers – this includes a disconsolate little boy whose reverse in fortune marks a strong payoff for the four-minute video.
The Little Drummer Boy crescendos until it is usurped by John Lennon’s 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' also making it one of the best scored Christmas ads ever.
Jenny Cleeton (@jacandthebox) - Loteria Navidad 'Justino' (2015)
Agency: Leo Burnett Madrid
This Pixar-esque Spanish Lottery Christmas ad from 2015 always makes me smile (and cry a little).
It shows the fun and playful side that we all have as a solitary nightwatchman creates silly poses from mannequins and sweet thoughtful acts to make his fellow colleagues smile.
If anything, I wish I could sit with Justino and share a brew with him on his lonely nights at work to help create the fun treats he leaves for his employees.
Kyle O’Brien (@kobrie) - Hershey’s, Merry Kisses Bells (1989)
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather
Sometimes simple is simply the best. This Hershey’s Christmas ad from 1989 holds up over the decades by featuring musical chocolates. The ad, where Christmas colored foil-wrapped Hershey’s Kiss candies ring ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ like a bell choir, is an amazing display of how two holiday favorites came together in melody and harmony.
The stop-action animation shows the Kisses on a white background in a triangle, ringing like hand bells to the Christmas classic tune. John Dunn was Hershey Chocolate brands manager for Kisses at the time and worked with Ogilvy & Mather to develop the whimsical spot. The simplicity of the tune and the idea, and the fact that the final bell rings frantically at the end, is the merry best.
Stephen Lepitak (@StephenLepitak) - Irn-Bru, 'Snowman' (2006)
Agency: The Leith Agency
I love the Irn-Bru snowman advert. It's one of the finest pieces of advertising produced in Scotland, with humour and charm in abundance. I went to its premier in Ashton Lane in Glasgow in my first year as a reporter at The Drum where it was presented in the old cinema there. They screened it three times to the press and it made me smile all the more each time they did. What a lovely idea it is.
But what was just as lovely was the 'Build your own snowman' goody bag that was given away afterwards. Carrot, coal and all.
I also remember saying to The Leith Agency's boss Richard Marsham afterwards it was an ad they could show year-after-year without it ever growing old. Turns out I was right. There's a rare thing to cherish in itself!
Katie Deighton (@DollyDeighton) - Harvey Nichols, ‘Walk of Shame’ (2011)
Like the severity of my own hangovers, Harvey Nichols’ Walk of Shame has grown on me throughout the years. Back in 2011 John Lewis hadn’t yet begun its Cry Crusade, so the humour in this cuts through now more than it did at the time of release – a time when laughter was, I imagine, easier to come by.
A smattering of school hymn piano and soft cinematography poke fun at the festive season’s drunken mistakes without slut shaming, and the use of all-female comic cast is grin-inducingly refreshing.
Rebecca Stewart (@bereccastewart) - John Lewis, 'The Journey' (2012)
After 2016's pithy 'Man on the Moon' spot, for me, this year's 'Moz the Monster' finally signalled the end of John Lewis' grip on the Christmas ad crown. (Not least because the plinky plonky cover of Golden Slumbers failed to segue into Carry That Weight).
However, cliched as it as, my favourite festive film is a John Lewis classic – 'The Journey'. Telling the story of a loverlorn Snowman traveling over mountains, motorways and muddy terrain to get his Snowlady a scarf to keep her warm.
The soundtrack, a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's hit 'The Power of Love', is just perfect. Yes, it is basic but there's just something about this ad that makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
Doug Zanger (@zanger) - WestJet, ‘Christmas Miracle’ (2013) and Unicef ‘Three Wise Men’ (2012)
Agencies: Mosaic, Forsman & Bodenfors
I’m going to cheat a bit and go both ends of the emotional spectrum. It’s not technically an ad, but the WestJet Christmas Miracle from 2013 (above) still gets me mighty misty.
On the funny end, I love Unicef’s 2012 Christmas campaign, done by Forsman & Bodenfors of Stockholm. Though not a full-on belly laugh, it’s very clever, well cast and does some real good as well.
Any festive ad in which an old person is the main character is sure to tug at the heartstrings.
This charming number follows a Polish Grandpa as he attempts to learn English in order to communicate with his granddaughter for the first time by sticking post-it notes across different items in his house, including his dog, another essential for a Christmas ad. I’m not even sure what the ad is advertising either, which isn’t such a bad thing.
Making the story the focus is much more memorable than relentlessly pushing products.
Danielle Gibson (@DRLGibson) – Toys R Us (1989)
There have been various remakes of the 1989 Toys R Us Christmas advert over the years, including this year’s CGI, Pixar-esque adventure, but none hold up quite like the original.
Once you heard “It’s a magical place”, you knew it was Christmas. Bum parked in front of the telly, cross legged, eyes wide open; the age of innocence. And they certainly played on that.
For an Xmas ad, it didn’t actually sell anything; no products or prices, just how magical the store is. Capturing the attention of both young and old.
How smart of Toys R Us, leaving kids to nag their parents for a visit to Geoffrey and his helpful employees… And purchase a few presents along the way.
Sam Bradley (@sammbradley) - Coca-Cola’s Christmas Trucks (1995)
Agency: WB Doner
These iconic spots first aired over twenty years ago, heralding the onset of the holiday season long before John Lewis got in on the act.
Created by WB Doner, they drew together the dazzle of Industrial Light and Magic, the FX company better known for Star Wars and Back to the Future, and the classic imagery of artist Haddon Sundblom.
Playing on the excitement and anticipation of Christmas, the spots used a little seasonal magic to transform Coca-Cola's delivery trucks into the deliverers of Christmas itself. If you can get waving crowds to venture out into the winter to greet your delivery drivers, you’re doing something right.