Memories Unwrapped: Crafting Christmas Ads that Resonate Through the Years

The arrival of each holiday season conjures emotions of warmth, joy and a spirit of jovial generosity. Celebrations with friends and family, and reminiscences of a year almost gone, bring with them feelings of sentimentality, as well as a desire to see those emotions brought to life. 


And these organically-grown emotions are further heightened by businesses who capitalize on them through advertising and branding. By catering to, and heightening, people’s Christmas spirit, some organizations have even managed to create advertising so well-remembered that it becomes a part of the global Christmas tradition – anticipated and loved for generations. These timeless ads have become as much a part of people’s holidays as their mulled wine, fruitcake and Frosty the Snowman. 


It probably doesn’t require much recollection for you to remember a Christmas advert that has spoken to you through the years. Maybe you saw it during your childhood, when Christmas was a time of excitement and anticipation. Maybe you first saw the ad at a time when you were receptive to its emotional content. What we’re saying is we’ve all got our favorites. 

As an example: This Campbell’s Soup commercial has been warming hearts and tummies since 1993. For this blog writer, there’s simply no replacement for its comic, loving, cozy storytelling. It just works, and it has for thirty years!


But what inspires a timeless Christmas advertising campaign? It can’t just be a blatant attempt to cash in on the sense of familial goodwill that comes with the time of year. Nor can it simply be our need for all things green, red and schmaltzy. 


So, let’s explore the essential properties necessary in creating a timeless holiday advertising campaign. 


  • Emotional Resonance

Timeless holiday ads often tap into universal emotions that transcend generations. Emotional resonance creates a connection between the audience and the brand, making the message unforgettable. Take Sainsbury’s 2014 historically rich Christmas ad, “1914,” which beautifully captures the powerful sentiment of togetherness and the joy that comes with feeling as one with your fellow man, even during times of unprecedented hardship.


  • Storytelling

A compelling, relatable narrative can turn a simple ad into an image that people want to revisit year after year.

This British Airways image relays the universal desire for togetherness, especially for those who are far away. When paired with a simple, brilliant illustration, the meaning is communicated instantaneously. It’s a simple story that all of us have experienced, and it portrays the emotional pull for those who are on their way (and those who won’t be coming this year.)


  • Characters

This M&M’s commercial has been in constant Christmas rotation for more than 25 years, and that’s largely due to its strength of characterization. The characters, particularly the lovable Red and Yellow, have been part of the brand’s holiday campaigns forever. Their humorous and relatable personas resonate with viewers, making them a staple in holiday advertising.

  • Nostalgia and Tradition

Variations on the Hershey Kisses Bells of Christmas commercial have been a constant since 1989, with only slight variations and updates for high definition. Why? Because the simplicity, and festive nature of those ringing chocolate bells, has become a Christmas tradition. Due to its simplicity and yearly appearance, this ad, and many other fondly remembered ones don’t overstay their welcome. Activating the power of memory will ensure your ad becomes a seasonal touchstone. 

  • Sentimentality

As cynical and wry as modern advertising has become, the same can’t be said for holiday marketing, especially when aiming for something timeless. 

In many ways, our present feelings about Christmas were manufactured by 19th Century companies like printmaker Currier & Ives, and author Charles Dickens. The desire for a bygone era, chestnuts roasting by an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, etc., are all variations of wishing for a time and place no longer directly remembered, but also not to be ignored. We all desire togetherness, and the warm embrace of loved ones. We all dream of curling up by the light of a warm fire and making memories with family and friends. Embracing sentimentality within holiday-themed advertising is simply giving the people what they want at this time of year. 

Crafting timeless holiday advertising is more than selling products; its goal is to capture the essence of the season and create memories. We gather together every season to remember times past, and create new memories. The true gift of holiday advertising lies in the ability to connect with audiences, spread joy year after year and, in their own unique ways, become an authentically essential part of people’s Christmas season.


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