25 days of Ausmas: Tim Green, CD, M&C Saatchi Australia, Coca Cola's Santa Claus

Every day an advertising creative from Australia and New Zealand will offer their own favourite Christmas campaign from over the years as we celebrate the best work from the festive period the world over and hear their views on what is best in class.

A Christmas ad that stands out for me was done in 1931 when the artist Haddon Sundblom reimagined Santa Claus, the very embodiment of Christmas, for Coca Cola. It was more of a Christmas branding campaign than a single ad but they had one simple thing in mind. Trust.

Dragging itself out of the great depression like every other brand, not only was money in short supply but so too was trust. Coke needed a face that Christmas that people could trust. They realised previous incarnations looked a little dodgy. You can almost hear the surfeit of double-breasted, plaid suits standing over Haddon’s shoulder; “He needs glasses”, “Make him fatter”, “Fatter!”, “Rosy-up his cheeks”, “Give him a hat, he needs a hat.” “That’s not a beard. Bigger!”, “People want a beard they can trust!” The rest is well-written history.

Fast forward a couple of generations of mass consumerism and here we are again, at the pointy end of another year, with brands still trying to out jingle-bell each other. Year on year the techniques have become so much more sophisticated. The storytelling has become more insightful, more emotional and thankfully more diverse, and there have never been more ways to connect with consumers and help them part with their money. So many great ads have been made since. Essentially though brands are still wanting to sell the same thing and interestingly that thing is back in short supply.

It’s the thing that can make a brand like Coke more valuable to people still today than a brand like Facebook. According to Interbrand Coca Cola is ranked the fifth most important brand in the world in 2019, and Facebook is not even in the top ten*.

Bearded, fat, white blokes definitely have little to do with trust these days but what Coke’s Santa stood for back then has never been more important for any brand today.

Tim Green, creative director, M&C Saatchi Australia

Check out the latest holiday ads from Australia and New Zealand here, and keep an eye on The Drum's ongoing Christmas coverage.

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