The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

November 3, 2023 | 5 min read

We catch up with Coca-Cola’s global head of creative strategy to hear how the soda brand thinks there’s a little Father Christmas in all of us.

Coca-Cola has had a longstanding affiliation with Santa Claus, ever since he appeared in its holiday ads in the 1920s. This year, its festive offering draws on that association, featuring a multitude of red suit-wearing characters.

“Santa is a symbol and, because of his association with us, we took that as permission to use him,” says Islam ElDessouky, global head of creative strategy and content at The Coca-Cola Company.

“We are focused on Santa’s spiritual and behavioral manifestation more than anything – what he represents in terms of kindness, generosity and goodwill. We found that this is quite a rich association to tap into.”

Coca-Cola put out an open brief to its creative partners, with a focus on company values and what it believes Christmas is about. The ”sweet spot,” explains ElDessouky, is somewhere in the middle of that and there’s usually one clear vision that the team will then chip away at. Planning for the took around a year in total.

“Christmas is a very fertile, textural environment for us to be in. We had a lot of concepts and one of them kept evolving, developing and really resonating with consumers.”

Coca-Cola goes through lots of rounds of testing with its festive campaigns – it’s a way for them to be ”humble” too, ElDessouky adds.

Eventually, the team landed on the message that we all have an ”inner Santa,” a part of us that can spread joy and be selfless – something that Coca-Cola’s lead creative believes is necessary with all the hardships in the world right now.

He says that leveraging the brand’s association with Santa is what sets it apart from other festive spots. “There is a lot of joy on our side that is consistent with our values. And we’re showing that, year after year, in a fresh way.”

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

To coincide with the TV ad, there’s also a digital quiz where people can determine what type of Santa they are, as well as the iconic truck tours, on-pack competitions and out-of-home activations.

It is clear that ElDessouky has the most fun making Christmas ads – he has been at the company for over 17 years, after all. “It’s super fun, especially when you know that you’re going to have a lot of family and friends talking to you about it,” he laughs. “I met the person who plays Santa this year. I met him a couple of times. I actually asked him if he could give me a gift, like a child, and I took a photo to show my kids.”

It scored him ”cool dad” points, he says, and the end results gives him an energy and feeling of happiness that he can’t quite put into words, while the team revels in the fact that people wait for the Coca-Cola ad each year, he adds.

“There are moments when you’re trying to grab attention and break through the clutter, so when there is an expectation for you to talk and make a moment and a statement, I love the opportunity. As a person who works in the creative industry, challenges are why we’re here.”

Watch all the latest Christmas ads here.

Creative Creative Works Coca-Cola

More from Creative

View all