Meeting Santa Claus is such a special moment for one and all during the holiday season. You might be surprised to hear quite a few of our favorite characters have met Kris Kringle. Some brand mascots actually saved Christmas. Others, well, they may or may not have passed out at their first glimpse of Jolly Saint Nick.
With a twinkle in our eye, we’ve ranked the five most memorable ad campaigns revealing how advertising’s most iconic characters met Santa Claus.
5. 7 Up’s Cool Spot
In the late 1980s throughout most of the 1990s, soft drink 7 Up’s brand mascot was a red dot wearing sunglasses. This was Cool Spot, who was often accompanied by several other Cool Spot characters to save the day with the refreshing drink.
In this 7 Up Christmas commercial directed by Richard Taylor, Santa has finished delivering presents and stuffing stockings for the night. He has also finished drinking the glass of 7 Up (hey, nice alternative to milk!) and eating the cookies left behind for him. The crew of Cool Spot characters leap out of the soda can immediately once Santa has gone up the chimney.
However, a bright red toy truck has fallen out of Santa’s bag. It’s stuck on the roof. That toy is meant to be under the tree as a present! As Santa flies away in his sleigh, it’s up to Cool Spot to save the day. Through a series of festive hijinks, the Cool Spot characters work together and get the truck under the tree.
4. Aflac Duck
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Santa Claus got stuck in a particularly narrow chimney? That’s what happens in this 2003 Aflac spot from Kaplan Thaler Group.
Santa gets trapped in a chimney. He loudly bemoans his lack of workers’ compensation insurance as a confused little girl reacts below. The Aflac Duck waddles on top of the roof, trying to say “AFLAC” loud enough to get Kris Kringle’s attention. The Aflac Duck finally does, but sneezes, presumably from the chimney soot. The icon falls off the roof and lands in a snowman.
How long will Santa be stuck in the chimney? Hopefully not for long, but it’s tough to send in a backup when it’s Christmas Eve. Next time, sign up for Aflac — and when in doubt toss the toys down the chimney.
3. The Pillsbury Doughboy
Exhibit A: A jolly fellow who loves to “ho ho ho!” laugh out loud.
Exhibit B: A tiny, enthusiastic character who giggles “hoo hoo!”
What happens when you put the Pillsbury Doughboy and Santa Claus in the same room? There’s a bit of Christmas magic in the air, by way of baked treats and gifts and a spot envisioned by creative agency McCann Erickson. But, it’s mostly chuckles. Poppin’ Fresh gets poked in the tummy by Santa, and pokes him right back. These two definitely have a case of the giggles!
For Christmas in 1997, the Red and Yellow M&M’S icons brought Santa a bowl full of red and green M&M’S. This is in lieu of cookies and milk, altogether it is interesting in retrospect that Red is okay with, well… red M&M’S in the bowl.
The color of the M&M’S aside, all does not go well. The BBDO spot is titled “Faint” for a good reason.
As the duo is naturally inclined to do, the pair bickers as they head to the tree.
“So, you think Santa will like these red and green M&M’S?” Yellow asks Red.
“I don’t know. I never met the guy!” Red irritably replies. Yellow has clearly asked this question many times. If I had to guess, it’s that Red (probably) doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.
Lo and behold, but who should they see? Jolly Saint Nick!
“WA-HO! He does exist!” Red exclaims, completely bug-eyed and shell shocked.
“They do exist,” Santa whispers, in shock that the M&M’S are real.
Both characters faint. Yellow holds up the bowl, hesitant. “Um, Santa?”
1. Coca-Cola Polar Bears
Coca-Cola has no shortage of holiday mascots. The soft drink company worked with an illustrator named Haddon Sundblom to reshape the appearance of their famous Santa Claus imagery. Sundblom also drew Sprite Boy, a short-lived, elfin character with a personality just as sparkling as Coke’s carbonated bubbles.
Sundblom, however, did not create the Coca-Cola Polar Bears. These iconic furry faces were brought to life by Ken Stewart, former Senior Vice President, Creative and Advertising at Columbia Pictures. Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears, inspired by Stewart’s yellow Labrador Morgan, were illustrated and animated alongside digital animation company Rhythm & Hues. The Polar Bears were introduced to the world in 1993, delighting and dazzling audiences worldwide. For more than 25 years, the holidays have been a bit more magical because of Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears.
Cheers (clinks glass Coke bottles) and happy holidays!