With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s clear that the 2020 season will be quite different from past years. The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, particularly in the United States, making the season’s trademark large gatherings dangerous and unlikely. However, that doesn’t mean the holidays are canceled! Right now, marketers are making their lists and checking them twice as we prepare for the unofficial holiday kickoff: Black Friday.
To help get into the festive spirit, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite holiday marketing campaigns from the last few years. Sure, the jingling Hershey’s Kisses and Coca-Cola polar bears are classics, but these newcomers are also worthy of holiday cheer.
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Lagavulin’s 10-Hour Yule Log
We’ve all heard the adage about video ads: the shorter, the better. However, it appears we can make an exception for calming fireplace scenes — not to mention the calming presence of actor Nick Offerman. In 2015, Offerman posted a twist on the traditional Yule Log video on his YouTube channel, “My Tales of Whisky,” sponsored by liquor manufacturer Diageo. In the video, which was originally 45 minutes and then looped into a 10-hour version, Parks and Recreation star Offerman drinks Diageo’s Lagavulin Scotch while sitting silently in front of a fireplace.
The timing was particularly brilliant; Parks and Rec had ended its seven-year run earlier that year, and fans were already missing Offerman’s grumpy, government-hating, Lagavulin-swigging Ron Swanson. On top of that, this was a smart way to rebrand an old tradition for a new generation. Five years later, Lagavulin’s Yule Log has become a holiday staple in many millennial homes, with the added side effect of making viewers thirsty for a good Scottish whiskey.
Google’s Modern Take on Home Alone
Originally released in 1990, Home Alone has been a heavy part of the holiday movie rotation for 30 years. (Yes, we really are that old.) In 2018, Google decided to reimagine the beloved Macauley Culkin film for the modern world, showing all the ways the voice-activated Google Assistant could help with your holiday checklist: ordering food, setting reminders, turning the house into a booby-trapped fortress.
It’s a brilliant combination of nostalgia and humor that’s perfectly executed by Culkin’s return — now nearing 40 — as protagonist Kevin McAllister. Add in the setting, music, and even dialogue from the original film, and the result is the rare commercial 90s kids actually want to watch more than once. Oh, the good old days!
Apple’s Touching iPad Tribute
Typically, the desired outcome of a holiday marketing campaign is not to make people cry. Leave it to Apple to create a commercial that touts the iPad’s benefits while tugging at the heartstrings. That’s exactly what the tech behemoth did in 2019 in “The Surprise,” an ad with an all-too-familiar theme for parents: When the kids are rowdy, put a screen in front of their faces.
In this case, that screen is Apple’s iPad, and it’s seemingly the only thing that can make the young sisters in the ad stay calm. While that sounds like a troubling message at first, the commercial has a twist ending: the whole time, the girls were working together to create a touching tribute to their family, including their late grandmother. It’s a perfect way to show off the iPad’s myriad capabilities, from watching movies to taking pictures to creating art. Even more than that, it shows that despite all the stresses the holidays can bring, it’s worth it to be with your family.
The 2020 holiday season might be different from those that came before, but as these marketing campaigns show, there’s always room for new traditions. Wherever you find yourself in the closing months of this impossibly long year, we hope it’s filled with love and joy.
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