Our Favorite, and Least Favorite, Holiday Ads.

According to sales figures and Black Friday injury reports, 2011 has been a banner year for most retailers. But when it comes to holiday ad campaigns, which brands stood out enough to make our nice list? 


Image removed.E-Bay

Messing with the lyrics of holiday songs is a familiar conceit, but this 12-days of Christmas spoof is extremely well done. The set-up works. The casting is spot on. And the rapid-fire lyrics demand repeated listening. It took me three tries to fully understand “I just hope you all stuck to my list this year, sorry to be so frank, I just don’t need another needlepoint throw pillow Aunt Carla...” To balance out the spot’s slightly materialistic tone, E-bay also created a very nice online Give-A-Toy Store to facilitate charitable giving.

Image removed.WalMart

You’ve got to hand it to the Martin Agency, the Walmart work just keeps getting better, and the holiday campaign is no exception. The “Busted” spot where everyone in the family including Dad sneaks toys to the dinner table was my favorite. But there were other winners in the mix too that made mundane promotional offerings like Price Guarantees and Layaway seem cool.


Image removed.Target

Target kicked off the holiday season right and kept rolling with its “Santa has Elves, You’ve got Target” campaign. The kick-off spot, in which a house is magically transformed into a winter wonderland literally one minute after Thanksgiving dinner ends, poked fun at the stress of the holidays but still set the right tone. And they’ve continued the fun with a series of more product-specific efforts.


Image removed.Chevy

This series of spots with the Santa look-alike salesman are oddly effective. The understated performance of “Nick” and the slightly awkward interactions he has with customers–“Yup, that’s my beard”–make these spots stand out. They could easily have gone too broad with this, but didn’t. Hope Nick’s back for the 2013 model year.


Image removed.Old Spice

After defeating a challenge from Fabio, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like goes on a quest to give a gift to every single person on Earth this holiday season. Hilarity ensues, but I have to wonder just how much magic is left in those abs.




Old Navy

They tried too hard (again) and came up short (again) with their Puffy Jacket and Grandma Robot spots featuring the voice of Fred Willard. Fred deserves better.


The “Give a Garmin” spot (sung to the overexposed tune of “Carol of the Bells”) was the polar opposite of e E-Bay’s musical effort. Forced, creepy and annoying. I’d rather re-watch the classic SNL sketch.

Lump of Coal Worthy

Image removed.Lexus

Finally, in what’s becoming a holiday tradition of annoyingness, Lexus gets a lump of coal for their yearly parade of beautiful people giving each other expensive cars adorned with giant red bows. Only this year, they’ve managed to add a whole new layer of absurdity by implying that the “December to Remember” theme music is some kind of magical hint everyone recognizes. “When you hear that song, you know it’s time...” the copy reads. Yes, time to turn the TV off.

Congratulations to the brands that read the cultural mood correctly, and crafted engaging messages and experiences that will attract people long after the holidays are over. (We call brands like these Magnet Brands. And better luck next year to the ones that, in our humble opinion, missed the mark.