There are some big swings in this edition of Classic Christmas Commercials, so if you thought I’d be down to the dregs by now, THINK AGAIN.
A Fruity Pebbles Christmas! (1986)
I’ve covered this spot before, but in an ancient article that’s unrelated to this series. Forgive me for double-dipping, but this one *needed* to be a part of Classic Christmas Commercials.
I don’t know if I’d call it my favorite Christmas commercial now, but it certainly was during childhood. I was obsessed with this ad, which for me was a bigger indicator of the holiday season’s arrival than even those ringing Hershey’s Kisses.
Santa squashing Fred and Barney’s longstanding cereal beef was THE feel-good moment of the ‘80s. It came off less like a commercial and more like a thirty-second prime time special. It wasn’t just a lucky break for Post, either — everything from the animation to the sound design was several steps beyond the typical Pebbles Cereal TV spot. This was made to be major, and it was!
Every time this came on television, it was an instant dopamine hit. I’m surprised that Post hasn’t yanked it out for a nostalgia run, since the most-affected people are now choosing cereals for their own kids.
Snuggle Bear Christmas Ornament! (1986)
As some of you know, I’m in love with Snuggle Bear. Always have been. While the more recent “iterations” have been cute, nothing beats the original Snuggle Bear — literally a teddy bear come to life, with a voice that taught me about ASMR before it was even an acronym.
Back then, my adoration was almost painful. It was another “Gizmo situation” where I wanted nothing more than my own pet Snuggle Bear, but had absolutely no way to get one. Living, breathing teddy bears just didn’t exist.
This commercial — specifically the last fifteen seconds — shows Snuggle Bear at his all-time cutest. Just you try not to adore Snuggle Bear as he crawls out of a fireplace wearing a Santa hat, giggling at himself. Seriously guys, my kingdom for this fucking bear.
(And yeah, I fully intend to grab an official 1986 Snuggle Bear tree ornament from eBay. Might not get here until after Christmas, but since I intend to hang it from my rearview mirror, that’s okay!)
Friendly’s Jubilee Roll! (1995)
Man, for a commercial that isn’t on anyone’s list of holiday favorites, I’m amazed at its ability to send me right back to the mid ‘90s. As soon as I hear that music, I can remember every poor decorating choice in our old living room — from the six-foot clock to the framed painting of exactly one lily.
It was all about repetition. I know Friendly’s is mostly an east coast thing, but that’s where I am, and this commercial was on television CONSTANTLY. And at all hours! You could be watching TV in the middle of the night, and Friendly’s would still be chucking this thing in-between spots for Toyota Corollas and debt consolidators.
Friendly’s famous Jubilee Roll is still available today — both in sundae form at their restaurants, and in intimidating log form in supermarket freezers. It’s exactly as good as ice cream covered in fourteen different snacks sounds like it would be. The Jubilee Roll has hardly changed at all since its introduction during the ‘70s.
The Real Ghostbusters at Hills! (1988)
The audio quality is horrible, but this was too good not to share. There were no Hills department stores where I lived, so I completely missed out on their amazing run of toy commercials as a kid.
During Christmastime, most of those ads were hosted by Spryte the Elf — a helium-voiced fellow who looked like a tiny Santa. And this guy was hands-on. He was constantly surrounded by toys, and like a pre-internet Pixel Dan, he’d even demonstrate their action features while telling you about them.
The low-fi feel of the commercials only adds to their appeal. The Real Ghostbusters toys seen here don’t look any different than they would’ve in a home movie of some kid’s 10th birthday party. Without meaning to, Hills cut through the polish of “official” toy commercials to show you what everything was really like.
Nintendo Fun from Sears! (1991)
For a commercial stuffed with old school Nintendo goodies, this is inexplicably unexciting. I dunno, maybe that was just the law of the land with Sears. Even by the early ‘90s, their brand identity could’ve best been described with terms like “old yellow cake” or “blank dusty canvas.”
And hell, even earlier than that, there seemed to be a wild disconnect between the glories of the Sears Wish Book and the actual in-store experience. The Sears nearest me had a two-aisle toy section randomly shoved into its hardware department. Its escalators smelled like battery acid. The first “S” on its lighted logo was perpetually on the fritz, so you couldn’t walk into the store without thinking about ears.
I’m not complaining, though. That was part of the charm. You’d go to the mall, get overstimulated by the sights and sounds, and then drop by Sears for a reprieve. It was a comparative library in there. You could drop a Snickers on the floor and still find it a week later.
Thanks for reading! I hope my scatterbrained diatribes about talking bears and waning department stores made you feel warm and Christmassy. If you missed the last two editions of Classic Christmas Commercials, they’re here and here.