A Very Coca-Cola Christmas

A Very Coca-Cola Christmas

The ultimate goal of an ad is related to the overall sales and success of any brand. Some ads however, have managed to achieve more than just sales, instead they have become an inherent part of culture. Christmas is near and everyone is overwhelmed by the amount of gifts they have to buy; parents are anxiously trying to find out what their kids want from Santa and the race for buying the best turkey has begun. 120ADVERTISING invites you to take a break and read the fantastic tale of the brand which has redefined Christmas.

In 1931 Archie Lee, the ad agency creative director for the Coca-Cola account, was inspired to show a wholesome and kind Santa. Following failed attempts by Coca-Cola to paint Santa in 1923 and 1930, Lee hired Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop a new image for Coca-Cola’s Santa in a branded red suit with a big brown belt and hefty boots.

“My Hat’s Off to the Pause That Refreshes” - 1931

Sundblom’s painting of the big jolly white-bearded man holding a glass of Coca-Cola became the image of the Santa we now know and love. The inspiration came from Clement Clark Moore’s 1822’s poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ commonly known as ‘T’was the Night Before Christmas’ in which he described a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa.

The most significant part of the ads is associating the product of Coca-Cola directly to Santa with their recurring “the pause that refreshes” theme, replacing traditional milk and cookies with a glass or bottle of Coca-Cola which refreshes Santa on his long journey across the globe on Christmas eve.

“Please Pause Here … Jimmy” - 1932

Over the years,Santa not only continued refreshing himself with Coca-Cola but the ads continued evolving with the times; In 1938, following the Great Depression, Santa appeared for the first time with a child, reminding people of happy and innocent moments. In 1943, during the Second World War Santa appeared with war bonds in his sack to support the troops and every year’s ad continued the tradition of adding subtle elements of its time and remaining relevant to the mass audiences.

“Thanks for the Pause that Refreshes” - 1938

In 2001 Santa came to life for the first time in an animated holiday commercial created by Academy Award-Winning animator Alexandre Petrov.

Sundblom continued painting Santa for coca cola until 1964. The image of Santa appeared in various media through Coke ads holding the iconic bottle. Readers of The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic and the New Yorker were exposed to a red Santa. The painting was advertised in magazines, store displays, billboards, posters, calendars and as a doll.

Consistent, persistent and on-point in many ways, Coca-Cola became Christmas, painting the celebration in its branded red colour and taking ownership of its main character.

The ad campaigns have never stopped and have only evolved with time turning into Christmas videos, Christmas songs and the famous Coca-Cola Christmas truck which marks the beginning of Christmas both on TV and with its physical tours.

To this day Sundblom’s most prized Santa paintings continue to be exhibited in the world of Coca-Cola, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and more. Most importantly we continue to think of Coca-Cola’s ad as our Santa and our Christmas.

Happy Holidays from 120ADVERTISING.