Hooray, I can finally dust off one of my favorite topics: Classic Christmas Commercials!
If you missed Volume 1 and Volume 2, this series of posts includes ancient holiday-themed TV ads. Christmas commercials were such a big part of the festivities back then, and if you’ve ever felt that more recent holiday seasons have been missing something, it’s probably ads like this.
Hell, when you think about it, so many of our idealized notions of perfect Christmases came as much from TV commercials as they did movies, shows and well-photographed store catalogs.
These ads were donated by Larry P., and this is just the first of several batches you’ll be seeing this year. Get excited!
“Spot: The Video Game” Holiday Promo!
7UP’s best Christmas commercials had something in common: Spot, the super adorable anthropomorphic “dot” mascot. With his spindly limbs and oversized sunglasses, Spot singlehandedly transformed 7UP from a soda we would drink to a soda we had to drink, out of some misguided loyalty to the jumpy cartoon character who made commercial breaks tolerable.
This is one of the rarest of those ads, where Spot (or more accurately, an army of Spots) illustrated our chance to save five bucks on Spot: The Video Game for the Nintendo Game Boy. The image of two red dots struggling to carry a Game Boy into frame will stay with you forever, and you won’t mind it one bit.
Despite this essentially being a video game commercial, it’s still incredibly Christmassy, featuring both soothing sax music and a shot of a two-liter 7UP bottle morphing into a Christmas tree. Play this on an unending loop and you’ll never need Ativan.
McDonald’s Holiday Film Festival!
The McDonald’s Holiday Film Festival promotion offered fast food fans the chance to buy videocassettes for competitive prices. I don’t know why!
In 1992 (I believe this promo went on for a few years), the big push was for Dances with Wolves. This film joined several others that the 1992 version of me had no interest in. I remember being so pissed about that. The thought of scoring videos from McDonald’s was so appealing, but even for six bucks, I had no use for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
The best thing about the commercial is the shot of a Christmas tree, decorated with sliced up film reels and around ten thousand McDonald’s logo ornaments. Again, I don’t know why!
Nobody Beats the Wiz Christmas Commercial!
I’m fairly certain that Nobody Beats The Wiz only existed in the northeast. It was an electronics store chain, not entirely dissimilar from Best Buy, and yet nothing like Best Buy.
I think the main difference was in the layout. It wasn’t as much one store as ten different little stores, separated into rooms across what was basically an expanded ranch. There was a room for music, a room for video games, a room for televisions… everything had its own room, and most of those rooms had dedicated cashiers. I only mention this because that sort of arcane layout certainly wasn’t limited to Nobody Beats The Wiz, and I’m sure you can remember other fallen chains that shared it. Those layouts made zero sense, but I miss the hell out of ‘em.
Nobody Beats The Wiz was locally famous for its Christmas commercials, most notably one that aired after Christmas and starred a befuddled Santa Claus. This one isn’t quite so thematic, but it makes up for it by including some killer products. Hey there, Sega Master System!
You’ll also spot a Sony Watchman. Oh man, that thing. At various points in my childhood, I’d save up all of my gift money and refuse to blow it on little things. No, I’d only blow it on one really big thing. Sometimes this worked in my favor, like the time I bought a VCR. (If you didn’t have one in your bedroom as a kid, holy God did you miss out.)
Other times, I wasn’t so successful. Like when I bought a Sony Watchman. This was a tiny, portable, black-and-white television that nearly never got reception. If it did get reception, it usually meant that you were in the vicinity of a normal TV, anyway. In Sony’s defense, this perhaps had something to do with my miraculous ability to break the Watchman’s antenna within the first week of owning it.
I think that happens to every kid. The “big regrettable purchase.” I picked a clunky two-inch television over a new video game system? What was I thinking?
Fotomat Christmas Commercial!
If you’re too young to remember Fotomat, it was a chain of photo developing kiosks stationed only in the weirdest of places. They were more or less standalone sheds, strategically placed wherever the fuck they’d fit.
There obviously isn’t much need for photo developing kiosks in 2014, but evidence of Fotomat’s prior prominence still exists today. Many of the shacks were torn down, but it seems that just as many found new purposes. Around here, former Fotomats became the homes of locksmiths, newspaper vendors and everything in-between. If there’s a tiny, standalone store near you that defies all explanation, chances are good that it used to be a Fotomat.
Carvel Christmas Cakes!
And here’s my favorite of today’s ads. I don’t know if Carvel ever managed to truly go nationwide, but the chain of ice cream stores still exists today, and they’re making the exact same kinds of goofy treats that you’ll see in this commercial.
(If you’ve never had Carvel, its ice cream is unlike any other maker’s. It’s hard to explain, but imagine soft-serve ice cream poured into fun shapes and then left in a freezer for days on end. It’s Parallel Universe Ice Cream.)
Carvel’s most famous offerings were its character cakes, which, thank God, are still in production today. Even those who live nowhere near a Carvel have assuredly heard of Cookie Puss, a cake shaped like a bizarre alien head, with saucer sandwiches for eyes and an ice cream cone for a nose. Throughout my childhood, that was my birthday cake nearly every single year.
Cookie Puss was frequently redressed for various holidays, and Christmas was no exception. During December, Cookie Puss’s usual “whatever the hell” colors were limited to those in tune with the season. (This generally meant noses made from a pistachio ice cream cones, and lots of gooey red icing.)
It’s worth noting that Carvel still does these seasonal dress-ups, even if they don’t advertise them. I actually inquired about it last year. They’ll make a Cookie Puss cake however you want, so long as you’re willing to wait for it.
Thanks for reading about old Christmas commercials!