Ho ho ho! No, we’re not talking about the Green Giant but another big guy who has a penchant for red apparel, a love for milk and cookies, and answers by plenty of alternate names including Kris Kringle and Saint Nick. It’s none other than Santa Claus himself who has had a starring role in many holiday-themed ad campaigns alongside some of our favorite ad icons.
When a mascot meets Santa, magic happens. These are no ordinary encounters. Sometimes he’s there to offer a helping hand or share a heartwarming message. Other times he’s just doing his job and the mascots help him — or accidentally scare him on accident! From the North Pole to the TV screen, see what I mean below in our list of the best moments where brand mascots got to meet Santa Claus.
Aflac | “Chimney” | Kaplan Thaler Group
Every kid’s worst Christmas nightmare plays out in this Aflac spot from 2003 from Kaplan Thaler Group when Santa gets stuck coming down the chimney. Trapped with a bag of presents, Santa moans that he doesn’t even have insurance to cover getting injured on the job (in so many words) to the inquisitive child waiting for him on the other side. She doesn’t quite understand though and insists he send down the toys anyway. Meanwhile, up on the rooftop is the Aflac Duck who sneezes and falls off, landing in a snowman. The snowman’s builders are hardly fazed and stick a carrot in his beak. Let this be a lesson to anyone interested in a future career at the North Pole — don’t forget to ask for Aflac during the interview process.
The Coca-Cola Polar Bears | “Always Coca-Cola” | Creative Artists Agency
In 1993, Coca-Cola debuted an ad spot called “Northern Lights” starring larger-than-life, CGI-animated polar bears. Ken Stewart created the concept for the brand with the help of Rhythm & Hues, a digital animation company, at the helm designing a new kind of polar bear mascot. One where nothing felt cartoonish and there was a deep narrative in every commercial. “Northern Lights” featured a group of polar bears in the Arctic enjoying a frosty cold Coke, like any group of humans would in the comfort of their homes. The ads immediately became iconic and a hit with consumers everywhere.
Santa would join the bears in 1994 as part of the “Always Coca-Cola” campaign from the Creative Artists Agency. This commercial features the polar bears ice-skating, with one bear in a green scarf accidentally tumbling after a flawless figure eight. Not to worry though because Santa is here with refreshing Cokes for the bears to enjoy. This is not the first time Santa Claus has been featured in Coca-Cola ads either — the character has been featured in print ads for the beverage brand since the 1920s!
Post Fruity Pebbles
Yabba dabba doo! Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble have long been the spokescharacters for Post Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles cereals, starring in commercials since the 1970s produced by ad agency D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. This ‘90s spot features Fred prepping a bowl full of Fruity Pebbles for a very grateful Saint Nick. Meanwhile, Barney is right behind him in a fake beard and red suit declaring, “Ho, ho, ho, I’m hu-hu-hungry!” as he slides down Fred’s chimney. Upon arrival, Barney is confused that Santa got the Pebbles first and Fred is irritated that Barney is declaring the Pebbles for himself. However, Santa gently reminds everyone “tis the season to be sharing” and the iconic duo put aside their differences to enjoy a bowl full of cereal together.
M&M’s | “Faint” | BBDO
In 1996, M&M’s beloved mascots Red and Yellow tiptoed into the living room on Christmas Eve to bring Santa a bowl full of red and green M&M’s. Yellow wonders aloud if Santa will like the candy while Red dismisses the worry since he’s never actually met Santa. When the pair stumbles upon Santa, the exchange becomes instantly iconic.
Red: “Wa-hah! He does exist!!”
Santa: “They DO exist.”
Red and Santa immediately faint while Yellow holds the candy bowl out and timidly says, “Uh, Santa?”
21 years later, the 15-second classic from BBDO received a sequel…
M&M’s | “Faint 2: A Very Yellow Sequel” | CLM BBDO and BBDO NY
Picking up where the first commercial left off, Red and Santa are still passed out. It’s up to Yellow to save Christmas and he does — clumsily, of course. The North Pole Mission Control monitors his every move as Yellow frantically pushes presents out of the sleigh as he passes houses, with gifts arriving to the wrong people in random yards. As dawn breaks on Christmas morning, Santa and Red both wake up with the North Pole Mission Control informing Santa about the major mishap. Standing on top of a roof watching the confusion below, Yellow worries that he ruined Christmas. However, Red assures him that he made it even better. Families are coming out of their homes to give neighbors the right gifts, ultimately bringing everyone together for the holidays.
Pillsbury | Saatchi & Saatchi
Eighteen years ago, the Pillsbury Doughboy sat up with a young Michael Cera (yes, that’s who the child actor is!) reading him the classic tale “T’was the Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve. Suddenly, the Doughboy is startled to hear Santa is in the room too. He tiptoes his way over, whispering to Santa that the family made cookies just for him. Grateful, Santa quickly pokes Poppin’ Fresh in the tummy before leaving. Before he goes, he makes sure to leave behind a special present for the Doughboy under the tree, to his surprise and delight. It is the second commercial featured in our roundup to receive a sequel in 2017…
Pillsbury | “Santa” | McCann Erickson
This year, a little boy goes downstairs on Christmas Eve to hear two icons with the case of the giggles. In the sequel to the 1999 classic, Santa is poking the Doughboy in the tummy to hear his “hoo hoo!” laughter while the Doughboy returns the favor for his “ho ho ho!” chuckles. A bit of holiday magic is in the air for every home that believes!
Progressive | Arnold Worldwide
Last, but certainly not least on our list, we have Kris Kringle buying insurance from Progressive’s chipper Flo spokescharacter for the holidays. But is it really Santa? He’s getting insurance for his sleigh— err, I mean, vehicle. The beard and hearty laugh are also not-so-subtle giveaways about his true identity, although he tries to cover the laugh up as much as he can. That’s okay, Saint Nick. Your secret is safe with Flo and the team at Progressive. Just take care when signing credit card receipts…