It’s already December? How did that happen?
Thanks to an unusually late Thanksgiving, it completely caught me by surprise. Now I’m panicking. It’s the month that flies by in a week! I’m two power naps away from January! Screw that.
Renewing Dino Drac’s celebration of all things red and green is my latest ongoing feature, Classic Christmas Commercials. It’s a horse I’ve been kicking the shit out of since the early 2000s, but thanks to another assist from Larry P., I’m now armed with enough old holiday ads to… I don’t know. Fill a really stupid cannon.
Ancient TV commercials are some of the best windows into Christmases past, and I’m confident that at least one of these will shoot you back to an era of bad haircuts and smaller shoe sizes. Enjoy!
M&M’s Holidays Candy!
Not everyone knows this, but “holiday-colored” M&M’s isn’t a recent invention. I remember them being around in the ‘80s, and the only way I’m wrong is if my best friend’s mother used to pick the red and green ones out of normal bags in the spirit of Christmas. There is no way she did that.
Even by 1992, the special M&M’s were still being sold in quaint, old-fashioned packages. If you’ll take my meaning, that made them feel less like “candy” and more like “dessert.” These were the fork-and-knifers of the M&M’s set, and eating them made us feel so fancy.
Pay close attention at the nine second mark. Notice how the kid breaks from decorating his Christmas tree to perform a touchdown dance, seemingly in response to the voice-over’s announcement that each bag now included 14% more candy? Even if I was willing to suspend my disbelief and allow the idea that he somehow heard that, I’d still think the touchdown dance was too much.
Pizza Hut’s Pan Pizzas!
If there’s one subset of Christmas commercials that I enjoy more than any other, it’s gotta be fast food Christmas commercials.
There were dozens of them, which led the younger version of me to believe that people really did treat fast food like special holiday “occasions.” You didn’t just buy and eat it. You put on a scarf, caroled in the car and then you bought and ate it.
Pizza Hut’s ad was a little dry by comparison, but since it was up against anthropomorphic Chicken McNuggets begging you to devour them at your Christmas party, of course it was.
I still love the idea of beating the holiday blues just by ordering pizza. It’s a believable premise, too. Pizza can fix just about anything. Dream up a really rotten day, and imagine it ending with pizza. Would you trade a good day that didn’t end with pizza for it?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on VHS!
This one is PRECIOUS. It’s fifteen seconds of pure bliss.
Here, parents were urged to buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on video for the low price of $24.99. It was what “every kid wanted for Christmas,” or so suggested the unseen spokesman with the super familiar voice.
I loved (and still love) that movie, so of course I had it on video. Mine was just a duplicated rental copy, though. That means I didn’t get the cool black box, with the movie logo surrounded by a ghoulish glow. Which, in retrospect, was probably worth 25 bucks.
The best parts are the cutaways to random tandems of kids shouting Ninja Turtle catchphrases. These were presumably lifted from the actual movie promos, because I don’t think anyone would’ve specifically filmed “man on the street” reactions to upcoming videocassette releases. Either way, I got to see kids wearing ridiculous sunglasses. I am happy.
Pepsi’s Winter Cool Collection!
Since its connection to the holidays is so rich and deep, I will always put Coke ahead of Pepsi during Christmastime. Seriously, you can’t search for vintage Christmas photos without finding at least one old Coca-Cola ad. They usually feature Santa holding a bottle of Coke like it’s a bowling trophy. It gets to the point where cynics must wonder if the whole season wasn’t fabricated just to sell soda.
Pepsi’s never going to win the holiday war, but they came pretty close in 1990. The “Winter Cool Collection” redressed every Pepsi product with cheerful wintery labels, and if there was ever going to be a Christmas that I picked Pepsi over Coke, it’d have been the one when Pepsi had tie-wearing penguins on the cans.
Also: Thanks to this ad, I just spent fifteen minutes looking up why anyone would want to swim in freezing water. Apparently, it eases the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, which somehow isn’t a species of dinosaur.
Jell-O Christmas Jigglers!
Bill Cosby has an idea! Since Santa Claus already gets forty trillion cookies, why not give him something different? Why not feed the fat man neon Jell-O in the shapes of trees and bells?
Bill seems more excited than usual, I guess because this was the one time he got to make star-shaped chunks of Jell-O dance along to Christmas music.
It may be my favorite of today’s commercials. Christmas-shaped Jell-O Jigglers have long been a part of my lexicon, but I’m not sure that I ever made the obvious leap to leaving them out for Santa. It’s a great concept.
Well, it’s a great concept with an asterisk. Look at how everyone handles the Jigglers in this ad. In real life, you could never do that! They’d break into gloppy pieces and ruin the holidays. I’m not saying that Kraft Foods used silicone Jell-O props, but I’m not saying that they didn’t.
I’m looking forward to spending the next 25 days being merry with you. Or 24. I don’t know. I can’t count. Happy Easter.
Note: A few paragraphs up, I used the word “lexicon.” There’s a strong chance that I used it incorrectly. If so, please overlook it. I’d rather be half-wrong and get to use the word “lexicon” than be 100% correct with no lexicon. Call it your Christmas present to me.