Video: 50 Years Of Coca-Cola Christmas Ads

Christmas is about stuffing your face, drinking too much and arguing with your family… and oh yeah, there’s some kind of religious thing too. But TV fans (that’s all of us right?) know that Santa’s checking his list when they see the first shmaltzy but brilliant Coca-Cola advert of the year. Glitzy, shamelessly sentimental and often depicting a utopian snow-filled wonderland, no company controls the holiday ad game better than Coke. We take a look at how their advertising has evolved over the last 50 years..

According to the company, Coca-Cola ads were instrumental in shaping our current notion of a podgy, bearded Santa Claus so we have them to thank for the image of an overweight geezer breaking into our homes in the middle of the night. Many of the original TV spots (like this from 1958) didn’t feature St. Nick and instead focused on convincing families that Coke is just as sugary and caffeinated in December as it is in the hotter months..

The trend continued in 1961 with this advert featuring actress and author Connie Clausen, who shamelessly promotes Coke’s original glass family-sized bottle. Little did the company know that one day, people would routinely drink that much soda by themselves. You can almost feel Don Draper’s influence here..

In the ‘70s, Coke launched one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time with their “I’d Like To Teach The World To Singâ€? commercial, which featured teens of all different ethnicities joined in harmony singing about the power of soda pop. In 1977 they took this concept and applied it to Christmas.

By 1980, this campaign was still going strong and as far as Coke was concerned, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. They did enlist the assistance of some classic Disney characters to refresh the commercial a little bit.

These days, the Coca-Cola polar bears make an appearance every year, but in 1993 they were revolutionary. They made their first appearance in a French print ad for Coke in 1922, but their screen debut came nearly twenty years ago in a commercial which used cutting-edge CG animation for the time.

We all have that one Christmas Coke ad that sticks in our memory whether we like it or not. For me, it is this one from 2000, not only because of the great song choice, but also because of it’s powerful message which has served me well for many years: Girls just like you for your Coke.

By 2002, the bears finally appeared as we know them thanks to the strides made in computer animation. There have been plenty of ads featuring the cuddly guys since, including ones where they lure seals and penguins (who live at the other end of our planet) in with bottles of Coke only to devour them seconds later. For some reason, the ads always fade out before that last part.

In 2006, Coke officially declared Santa to be an immortal God who watches over his cult followers as they grow old and die, rewarding them for their devotion every Christmas with a bottle of soda. Or maybe they intended to send a more pleasant message, I’m not sure.

Coke stopped showing their holiday truck commercials in 2001, only for fans to go crazy and send thousands of letters asking for their return. They came back in 2007 and have been used all over the world to artificially induce holiday cheer.

The current Christmas Coke campaign urges us to “Shake Up Christmasâ€?. While that’s a perfectly good idea, make sure you don’t open your soda for a little while after shaking it up. Last year’s ad featured a slogan performed by Train and this year Natasha Bedingfield does the honours.