By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

December 14, 2023 | 6 min read

The global beverage brand taps world-class Hollywood talent, from Oscar winner Octavia Spencer to Transformers director Steven Caple Jr, to create two short films offering fresh portraits of Santa Claus himself.

For nearly a century, the Coca-Cola Company has employed brilliant marketing, wielding the magic of the rosy-cheeked Ol’ Saint Nick to weave Coke into the very fabric of Christmas.

Building on that rich history, the beverage giant has once again channeled the holiday spirit with a campaign that reimagines the jolly man in new ways. This past Friday, Coca-Cola unveiled ‘The Santa Stories,’ a festive anthology comprising two enchanting short films, ‘The Note’ and ‘Ho Ho Heist,’ on Amazon’s Prime Video and Freevee.

The films boast a star-studded cast and creative team, including Bryce Dallas Howard, who is known for directing The Mandalorian; Steven Caple Jr, who was director and screenwriter of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts; the Academy Award-winning actor Octavia Spencer; the Screen Actors Guild Award winner Scoot McNairy and Star Trek star Colm Meaney.

‘Ho Ho Heist’ marks the first episode of the anthology. Directed by Steven Caple Jr, the heist-thriller follows Santa Claus as he lands behind bars on Christmas Eve. Detective Grinchauser, played by Octavia Spencer, interrogates Santa about a robbery orchestrated by a group of thieves disguised as him. To rescue Christmas for millions of children worldwide, Nate, a criminal played by Scoot McNairy, must bust the real Santa out of jail.

The second installment of the anthology is ‘The Note,’ directed by Bryce Dallas Howard. The short film takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland, where a fisherman, played by Colm Meaney, lives. By all accounts, the character is a bit of a Scrooge (known by his neighbors as The No Man because all he says is “no”) until a mysterious message in a bottle changes his outlook on life forever.

Both films aim to underscore Coca-Cola’s current Christmas platform, ‘The World Needs More Santas,’ and illustrate how embracing one’s ‘inner Santa’ (the embodiment of kindness, generosity and goodwill) creates real magic in the world.

Islam ElDessouky, head of creative strategy and content at Coca-Cola, tells The Drum that while consumers have consistently high expectations for Coca-Cola’s Christmas campaigns, this effort is poised to exceed them.

“People expect meaningful and impactful Christmas campaigns from Coca-Cola, especially because we are part of the culture and legacy associated with the holiday season,” says ElDessouky. “However, Coca-Cola believes in the power of storytelling and this encouraged us to explore longer form content as a way to tell stories that speak to our ethos of ‘Real Magic,’ humanity and bringing people together.”

The campaign was co-developed by WPP Open X, led by VML, Imagine Entertainment and production company PrettyBird.

Rafael Pitanguy, deputy global chief creative officer at VML, explains the creative brief behind this feat: “Some of the most memorable Christmas campaigns of all time were done by Coca-Cola ... No other brand has more authority to bring Santa to life than Coca-Cola. We decided to think of Santa not only as an imaginative figure but also in terms of what he represents: kindness, generosity, affection, etc. If that’s what defines Santa, then everyone can play a role and be a bit more Santa ... Both stories complement each other but stem from the same belief.”

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‘The Santa Stories’ marks Coca-Cola’s latest offering of branded entertainment content following the release of its anthology series last Christmas. Customers can watch ‘Ho Ho Heist’ and ‘The Note’ on Prime Video via Prime Video Direct and Amazon Freevee as well as on Coca-Cola’s YouTube and TikTok channels.

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