I know that the last edition of Classic Christmas Commercials was published just a few days ago, but inspiration hits where it hits. I’m back on my bullshit.
For what it’s worth, there are some serious heavy hitters in this batch. Everything from a rapping Santa Claus to a soup-eating snowman. If these ads don’t put you in the mood to make earrings out of wild holly, nothing will.
Call Santa’s Rap Hotline! (1988)
This was just one of dozens of Christmas-themed hotlines that popped up in the late ‘80s. Since most of them just featured slow-ass promises from “Santa” to bring presents to the good little boys and girls, a rap hotline really popped.
I never called 1-900-909-RAPS, but this commercial got so much play that the pitch song in of itself became a big part of the season. Catchy, isn’t it? It’s hard to imagine that any raps from the actual hotline topped the one from the ad. Get a load of these lyrics:
The Christmas season once again is here!
And Santa’s been selected the man of the year.
The hip hop jive, it’s a well-known fact:
No shade from me about Santa’s Rap Hotline. Similar hotlines from the era preyed on kids’ collective desire to stay on Santa’s good side. With this one, at least you knew what you were getting!
Ronald McDonald: Winter Therapist! (1995)
Okay, sure, if you want to be cheeky, this commercial gives you plenty of material. How does Ronald know so much about this girl’s family? Dude’s cased her house to the point where he knows where the damn wind chimes are located, not to mention the name of little Lindsay’s goldfish. (Mr. Goldfish, FYI.)
Whatever. It’s all too wholesome and adorable to criticize. This was a pure image spot that had zero to do with cheeseburgers, and if the point was to inspire brand loyalty to McDonald’s, check and mate. As conceptually risky as it was to do a spot that’s *literally* about Ronald talking a child out of running away from home, they pulled it off wonderfully.
I’d have to call this Ronald’s best performance from any McDonald’s commercial. (At this point, I believe the actor would’ve been Jack Doepke?) I like funny Ronald, I like goofy Ronald, I like dancing Ronald and I like getting-a-haircut Ronald, but nothing’s better than deep and sentimental Ronald. Give this guy a radio call-in show! Put it on after Delilah.
Campbell’s Soup: Snowman Boy! (1995)
This ad is a masterpiece that completely deserves its reputation. Here we have a “snowman” warming up over a bowl of Campbell’s soup, which melts the snow away to reveal a happy little boy underneath.
Obviously, the idea was that Campbell’s soup was THE THING to eat after playing in the snow. I have no doubt that this inspired thousands of children to beg for soup the second they got done losing their snowball fights. Hell, I could see myself enduring snowy conditions even when I was totally not in the mood for snowy conditions, all on the promise of piping hot soup.
Course, in my version, it would’ve been Lipton soup, or Progresso’s Chickarina. I’ve never been fond of Campbell’s noodles, which remind me of something a bird might fish out of my front lawn.
Kay-Bee’s After Xmas Sale! (1987)
In the mid ‘80s, Kay-Bee Toys (later known as KB Toys, of course) had a series of commercials starring random puppets who’d invariably end up buying things from their stores. I suppose that the puppets — which looked like Muppets mixed with Cabbage Patch Kids — were Kay-Bee’s answer to Geoffrey the Giraffe.
The ads were cute, but I don’t think they captured what made Kay-Bee great. They always presented the stores as these stark white behemoths, like FAO Schwarz or something. Meanwhile, the whole appeal of Kay-Bee’s stores was that they were small, jampacked and absolute explosions of color.
This particular ad promoted Kay-Bee’s post-Christmas sale, where kids could pick up the stuff “Santa forgot.” Eagle-eyed viewers will notice oodles of Nintendo goodies, including a copy of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. (Incidentally, that was one of my post-Christmas pickups in 1987… with an assist to that twenty dollar bill from Grandma.)
Scrooge Remastered! (1999)
The original version of this Honey Nut Cheerios ad is one of my all-time favorite Christmas commercials. That ad had a few “updates” over the years, leading to this one, which I believe was the last version in use.
The basics are the same, but a thorough breakdown reveals a staggering number of changes. Most notable was redubbing the original Scrooge’s voice track with someone who definitely wasn’t the original Scrooge.
For a while, I thought they only did that to make his lines clearer, as the original Scrooge was a little garbly. Now I’m of the mind that General Mills didn’t have the original spot with split audio tracks, which meant that if they wanted to change anything, they had to change EVERYTHING. And boy, they did! Compare the original spot to the one embedded here, and count the alterations.
Both Scrooge and the bee’s voices are different, and some of their lines have been changed. The cereal’s box art was updated. The bee’s pitch to Scrooge is less about it “being Christmas” and more about Honey Nut Cheerios being part of a balanced breakfast. Even the background choir is new! (They used to sing “it’s a honey of an O,” but in this version, it’s “nobody can say no.”)
It’s maddening to watch one right after the other, since they look nearly identical but sound so different. I prefer the original, but this reworked version was certainly better than nothing. I’m mostly impressed that they were able to gut the original in so many ways and still end up with something that played seamlessly.
Thanks for reading! And for watching grainy videos!