15 of the Best Holiday Advertisements of All Time

15 Best Holiday Commercials - Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Tet & Diwali
Scott Kalapos on Nov 16, 2018

As the holiday season draws near, we all find ourselves feeling a bit more sentimental. Along with these feelings, those of nostalgia also arise. That's why we thought this would be the perfect time to share with you our selections for the 15 best holiday commercials of all time. Some are well-known and included on nearly all such lists, while others are more obscure. In addition to covering popular Christmas commercials, we're also including some for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Diwali, and Tet. In no particular order. here they are!

 

1. Norelco Santa Commercial

This is one of those ads that everyone in America knows. This is most likely the case due to the fact that it's now been airing, in different versions, for over 50 years. The earliest versions feature crude (by today's standards) stop motion animation, while as time went on, the animation grew smoother and eventually shifted to CGI. Until recent years, the commercials would always close with the name Norelco being shown as "Nöelco", stating, "Even our name says Merry Christmas." This was phased out in favor of the politically correct, "Norelco brings you closer to the holidays."

One thing that hasn't changed since the beginning is the basic format of the commercials. Each one features Santa Claus coasting along over the snow in the screen of a Norelco electric razor. As he moves along, the trip is interrupted by narrated showcases of Norelco's top products for the years. Interspersed with these plugs are shots of Santa moving along into a small village. Take a look at the video below and see how this ad has evolved through the ages due to shifts in technology and popular culture.

2. The M&Ms Meet Santa Claus Commercial

While this may seem like a newcomer to anyone over the age of 30, this classic Christmas commercial has now been with us for 22 years. In it, we see one of the earliest appearances of the now famous anthropomorphic M&Ms. The sarcastic red M&M and bumbling yet good-natured yellow peanut M&M are walking through a festively decorated home, leaving out a dish of red & green holiday M&Ms (cannibalism anyone?) for Santa. "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" plays in the background while the two walking candies make their way to the Christmas tree. Yellow asks red if he thinks Santa will like the holiday themed M&Ms, while Red replies with an annoyed, "I don't know, I've never met the guy!"

Suddenly, both M&Ms stop in their tracks when St. Nick drops through the chimney. The red M&M gasps, "He DOES exist!" in astonishment, followed by Santa exclaiming, "They DO exist!" in similarly shocked fashion. They both proceed to faint on the spot, with the yellow M&M checking to see if Santa is okay. While that may sound like a lot, this entire ad is packed into a mere 16 seconds.

3. Hallmark "Old Friends" Hanukkah Commercial

This 1993 commercial first appeared during the airings of a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" tv movie presentation. Predictably enough, this is a commercial that tugs on the heartstrings in a way only Hallmark can. It starts out with a large yet somewhat low-key family gathering, with a family happily celebrating Hanukkah together. The grandfather and patriarch of the family is sort of quietly running the show. As this goes on, his grandchildren prod him to tell them once again the story of his childhood immigration to America.

Based on the grandfather's age and the way in which he tells the story, it would seem that his family was likely fleeing the Holocaust at the time. He says that he knew nothing of America and felt scared boarding the boat crossing the Atlantic Ocean, having no idea what would await him. During the voyage, he meets a boy named Jake with whom he instantly becomes best friends. Spending every day together, they make the trip fun and forget about their fear. Sadly, their arrival in America marks the last time they'd have any contact with each other. In a regretful tone, the grandfather concludes his story by saying that he always wonders what Jake is up to this time of the year.

At this point, one of his grandsons hands him a Hanukkah card and requests that this be the first one he opens. His grandfather complies with the request, and while reading the card, he becomes very emotional. As it turns out, the card is from none other than Jake himself. He then happily states that now, he needs to change the end of his friendship story.

4. Hess Truck Christmas Commercial

Like the Norelco Santa commercial we discussed earlier on, this is another commercial that's seen several incarnations over the years. This is one that shows up every December, as it has for decades. Each one features a group of children singing about the special edition, limited time only Hess toy being released that year. While usually a truck, there have been other years where the toy has been a helicopter, trailer, and emergency response vehicle. In every version, the children sing about the toy in tune to "My Boyfriend's Back". Concluding each is the line, "For Christmas, this year the Hess (insert toy)'s here!"

This one is from 1997.

5. Folger's Peter Comes Home Commercial

This now famous advertisement made its debut in 1986. It starts out with a young man being dropped off from a car in front of a house on a very snowy morning. This young man is revealed to be Peter when he enters the house and is joyfully spotted by a young girl. His exact relation to most of the people in the commercial isn't really explained, but they're sure happy he's there. Peter and the girl then proceed to the kitchen, where they brew up a pot of Folger's coffee. This wakes up the rest of the family, all of whom come downstairs and react with elation when they see Peter. Apparently, this man of nebulous connection wasn't expected to come around that Christmas, and a jovial reunion takes place over cups of hot Folger's coffee. The ad concludes with, "Best wishes for this and all of your mornings from Folger's."

6. 1960s Cool Whip Thanksgiving Commercial

This is the second oldest holiday commercial of the bunch, being preceded only by the Norelco ad. This commercial consists of a large family gathered around the Thanksgiving table getting ready for dessert. As the pies are being sliced and passed around, one man keeps asking for a smaller and smaller piece of pumpkin pie, and is eventually served a flimsy sliver. He's perfectly happy with this though, because the pie wasn't meant to be the star of the show, at least for him. Upon receiving it, he is handed an old-fashioned glass  Cool Whip tub. As he excitedly heaps spoon after spoon of Cool Whip onto his pie, the narration extols the various virtues of this non-dairy dessert topping. Before long, the entire bowl has been emptied and the pie slice is no longer visible. The spot ends with the narrator saying, "Some people like a little pie with their Cool Whip."

7. Sargema Carvaan - #SarYaSangeet (Music or Noise) Diwali Commercial

If you're not familiar with the holiday of Diwali, it's one of the most important celebrations to people of the Hindu faith. it's also celebrated by some members of the Newar Buddhist, Sikh, and and Jain religions. It's known as being a festival of lights, but not in the same way as Hanukkah. All lights in homes, businesses, streets, candles, and any other place possible are light to their brightest settings, along with numerous firework displays. It takes place on the darkest day of the Lunisolar calendar (dates determined by Earth's orbit around the sun and the moon's orbit around Earth) and has a theme of good triumphing over evil.

This is a five day festival, with the third generally being the darkest day and the most celebrated. In addition to the lights, people clean their houses, wear their finest clothing, exchange gifts, indulge in feasts, and gather with friends and family. It's a sacred and beloved tradition, but one that some feel has become too commercialized and in the process, is losing meaning. That's what the commercial we're about to show you is all about. It's an advertisement for a company called Sargema Carvaan, which is promoting a portable digital music player.

In the ad, an annoyed looking elderly couple pace around their home while their dog seems afraid, hiding his head under the couch and whining. They've clearly had enough of all of the noise. Gradually, husband and wife close all the windows and doors, shutting out the racket. The husband then turns on the music player, which plays an old traditional Indian tune. He and his wife soon cheer up, as does the dog, who comes out of cowering and is embraced by his family. The commercial includes the hashtag #SarYaSangeet, which translates to "Music or Noise". The point they're conveying is that the old and the new, commercial & intimate, young and the old, can bridge all gaps and come together when priorities are kept and the time is taken to consider what is truly important.

 

8. Nestlé's "Farfel" Christmas Commercials

Farfel is one of the best known puppets not to have been brought to life by Jim Henson. He's the famous Nestlé mascot woo slowly sings "Choooocolate" after "N-E-S-T-L-É-S - Nestlé's makes the very best." He started out as a ventriloquist dummy, operated by master puppeteer Jimmy Nelson. Though he stars in Christmas commercials, Farfe's name actually was inspired by the name of a Jewish pasta dinner Nelson saw while dining at a restaurant. He eventually auditioned for a role in a Nestlé commercial in 1955. Due to being highly nervous at the time, he closed Farfel's mouth harder than intended, resulting in an audible clap in the recording. 

The above situation is one of those times where a mistake worked, as Nestlé's executives loved it and soon made Farfel's jaw snap the lynchpin of his act. Farfel would soon evolve into a larger full-size puppet, accompanied by a whole family of Nestlé-loving hounds. While his first run of ads went from 1955-1965, Farfel and family made a comeback in the 90s for a series of Christmas commercials. One of the most popular ones is included below. 

9.  Hershey's Kisses "Christmas Bells" Commercial

This fun Christmas commercial is Hershey's longest-running television advertisement, having debuted in 1989. It's remained unchanged ever since and it's one that virtually everyone can fondly recall. It features a set of Hershey's kisses in green, silver, and red wrappers, lined up in a flat pyramid style arrangement. Conducted by a silver wrapped Kiss (by way of waving the tassel label around) the chocolates perform "We Wish You a Merry  Christmas" in bell tones. At the end, a red wrapped Kiss has an exceptionally vigorous solo, gasping when done. 

The ironic part of this becoming such a popular and memorable advertisement is that it almost didn't happen at all. In 1989, Hershey's was running an otherwise forgettable "Whimsy" ad campaign. The Christmas Bells spot was nearly an afterthought - a last minute addition to the lineup. Who would've thought that would be the only one anyone would ever remember?

10. Honey Nut Cheerios - Scrooge Christmas Commercial

This is another commercial that's seen a few alterations over the years, but we're going to show you the original version. First airing in 1987, this ad features the unlikely pairing of the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee and Ebeneezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol fame. When the commercial starts, Scrooge is seen hard at work in his office on a cold, snowy day. The Bee enters in Bob Cratchit style garb, trying to get Scrooge to try his cereal. He's quickly dismissed, being pushed away by a quill as Scrooge informs him that, "gruel will suffice." 

Despite mentioning the cereal and its flagship properties several times, Scrooge is for some reason unmoved until the Bee describes the cereal as being a blend of golden honey and crunchy nuts. This sways the old miser, who then indulges in a bowl, visibly rising in mood. "It's a honey of an O," which was the cereal's slogan at the time, is heard being sung in choir-esque fashion.

11. Christmas Crunch Commercials

Christmas Crunch has been a treasured holiday cereal for generations. It's particularly beloved by those who grew up (and those who are still growing up now) in homes where health was the name of the game when it came to cereal. This once-per-year indulgence was always heavily anticipated and heartily enjoyed. The only problem that would arise would be debates over whether or not the icing that came with it should be refrigerated. This author of this article always took the anti-refrigeration stance, if anyone cares about that. 

Anyway, let's get on to the commercials. Different ads would run each year, but this one from 1998 was one of the more memorable ones. It begins with a matronly woman sitting in an antique chair, reading from a very large book. Her narration is interrupted by the chair swirling around in a cyclone, eventually revealing Cap'n Crunch loving kid in the woman's stead. He excitedly tells the audience about the new features of that year's Christmas Crunch, interrupted only by Cap'n Crunch himself. The Cap'n proceeds to explain the special red "rocks" that come with the cereal, aimed at turning milk red. Once this is complete, the chair whirls around again, taking the ad back to where it started with the kindly old lady.

12. Coca-Cola Polar Bears Christmas Commercial

Despite their immense power and size, there's something about polar bears that many people find irresistibly cuddly and cute. Coca-Cola cashes in on this sentiment with their nearly universally popular polar bear commercials. Most, but not all of these have a Christmas theme. Such is the case with the ad following this paragraph. In it, a father, mother, and baby polar bear are sleeping in the snow. They're suddenly awakened by penguins throwing a party and blasting "Little Saint Nick". The cub slides down the snowy hill, bumping into the penguins, literally crashing the party. His concerned parents bound down the hill and for a while, things are tense. A baby penguin then waddles out and hands the cub a bottle of Coke and he happily drinks it. All tensions are now eased, as the polar family joins the penguins in their celebration.

One YouTuber made a comment on this commercial pointing out that penguins are only found at the South Pole and polar bears at the North. He/she hints that it may be a subtle message of Coca-Cola and the holiday spirit connecting the whole world together in harmony. Was this just an ironic error or was it Coca-Cola's intent? You be the judge.

13. 7-Up Spot Christmas Commercial

One of the more easily recognized advertising mascots in the world, the 7Up spot is a red dot with sunglasses, extremely thin limbs, and disproportionately large hands and feet. The spot has the magic ability to transform himself from just being part of the label into a live being. Dubbed "Cool Spot", this mascot made his debut in 1987, but it was a 1992 Christmas commercial that really propelled him into the limelight. In the following year, a Cool Spot video game was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. 

In some ads, the Cool Spot appears to be a species rather than one individual character. That's the case in their 1992 Christmas commercial. it introduces two Cool Spots who are hard at work, chipping away at a block of ice with a chainsaw and power drill. When their carving is complete, a tall glass of 7Up is exposed. They then drop in a red and white striped straw, which is then curled into a candy cane shape. Just in time, they get out of the way and the arm of Santa Claus pops into the frame, getting ready for a cold and tasty drink. One Spot then throws a snowball toward the viewer, which reveals the phrase "The Uncola", which was 7Up's slogan at the time.

14. Neptune Cooking Oil Tet Commercial

This commercial is the most emotional of the bunch. Just to let you know, it starts out very sadly, but fortunately concluded with a truly happy ending. Before we get into that, we should probably explain Tet to put things into proper context. Like Diwali, Tet is a holiday whose timing is based on a Lunisolar calendar. Taking place in January or February, this holiday is the Vietnamese New Year celebration and the most culturally treasured & important holiday in Vietnam. On Tet, people customarily clean their homes and yards, eat special meals, gather with loved ones, and exchange gifts. 

The most significant gifts exchanged on Tet are those given to children and to the elderly. This isn't too hard to understand when one considers that ancestor worship is a central part of Tet. The exchanged gifts are known as "lucky money" or "lucky wishes". With this explanation provided, we can now get to the advertisement. it starts out on a very somber note. An elderly couple receive a call from their son. They are deeply saddened when he says that he can't come home for Tet that year because his home is being remodeled. However, he does give them a gift. This gift is placed atop a bureau and unopened. 

As the year goes on, other items are placed upon and removed from the bureau, with the unopened gift and card still sitting in the middle. Eventually, the son calls again. This year, he says he won't come home because he's taking his family on a vacation. Again, he sends a gift and card, which are placed alongside the ones from last year. His crestfallen parents sadly go through the motions of decorating their house and yard. At one point, they see a car pull up, from which a happy family emerges and runs to greet the neighbors. This proves too much for the elderly couple, who sadly retreat inside. The woman declares, "We have have everything here except for our family."

We then see their son at home with his wife and daughter, preparing to depart for their vacation. As he explains Tet and its meaning to his daughter, she mentions that it's been a long time since they've sent her grandparents lucky wishes. She asks if they're still healthy and how much longer she'll be able to give them said wishes. Her father chokes up a bit, realizing his mistakes. We then cut to a scene of the elderly couple being blissfully surprised by the sight of their granddaughter running into their house, happily greeting them with her parents in tow. The son embraces with his parents and the reunited family happily enjoys a feast while watching fireworks.

15. Campbell's Soup Snowman Commercial

While this commercial isn't specifically about Christmas in and of itself, it's typically aired around the Christmas season. It begins with a shivering snowman standing around in the cold. He then decides to enter a house, where he sits at a table and is handed a bowl of soup. As he eats it, he slowly melts, revealing a child underneath who was apparently outside for a LONG time. He happily eats his soup, with a narrator stating, "Nothing melts the cold like a delicious, hot bowl of Campbell's Soup." Like the Hershey's ad, this one is only 16 seconds in length, yet manages to make quite an impression nonetheless. It's been running for more than 20 years now and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

So there you have it, the 4AllPromos picks for the 15 best holiday tv commercials of all time. Did we jog any treasured memories for you? Did we forget any ads you feel should have been on the list? Get in touch with us and let us know!

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