11 Holiday Campaign Ads You Need to See and What Makes Them Successful

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By: Karen Claveria, Internal Marketing Strategist at Dream Local Digital

The holidays are in full swing, and that can only mean… holiday campaigns are flooding the airwaves and social media! Whether it evokes joyful, nostalgic and heartwarming memories or heartstring-pulling tearjerkers, there is always one that hits too close to home. Stroll down holiday lane and view the #Honeybadgers’ favorite ad campaigns through the years (in no particular order). 

‘Tis the season for an emotional roller coaster. – Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

1. Pets.com Christmas

https://www.youtube.com/embed/LQm1adSgqEo

“I spent many years in Silicon Valley and got to see a lot of really innovative companies start, and also create really memorable advertising. When Pets.com first launched, they built their brand entirely based on VERY funny advertising centered on their mascot, affectionately known as “the Pets.com Sock Puppet”. Pets.com was many years ahead of its time, delivering pet food directly to their customer’s door… Many years later, when I was starting Dream Local Digital and considering our mascot, I came upon the funny HoneyBadger video that also used a sarcastic funny voice, and it brought me back to the Pets.com Sock Puppet. I loved the sense of humor in it…I think what made it most successful was they created a memorable character and then adapted what the character was doing for the holiday campaigns. They leveraged humor, real pets and pet antics (chewing presents, etc.) and a hilarious mascot.”Shannon Kinney, Founder and Client Success Officer at Dream Local Digital

2. Holiday Surprise | Publix, 2021

https://www.youtube.com/embed/NkSEYlBk8Y8

“Anyone who lives near a Publix grocery store knows the chain’s holiday commercials tug on the heartstrings. And “Holiday Surprise” from 2008 is no exception. The commercial features a young doctor heading home from work to spend Christmas alone because his family is celebrating the holiday at his parents’ home in a different city. His lonely walk is interspersed with images of his happy family, young and old, bustling to put together the holiday feast, decorating cookies and trimming the tree. Then, when he opens the door, he discovers they are all there waiting for him. They had been decorating his apartment. As someone who traveled across the country by myself for work when I was young, I know what it’s like to be an “orphan” at the holidays. The commercial does a great job of showing the importance of family at the holidays. And the twist at the end gets me every time.” -Denise Scott, Marketing Editor at Dream Local Digital 

3. Polar Bear Christmas Party | Coca-Cola, 2005

https://www.youtube.com/embed/K9rb7ZfNmr8

“I’ve always loved animals, so it’s no surprise my most memorable campaign is Coca-Cola’s Polar Bear Christmas Party. Coupled with the iconic holiday classic “Little Saint Nick” by the Beach Boys, I’m not surprised my 10-year-old self (oh no, have I dated myself?!) latched onto the advertisement… I think this campaign is successful because it’s light-hearted and evokes a feeling of warmth throughout the whole spot. Although the commercial takes place on icebergs, the ad doesn’t feel frigid; from the baby polar bear snuggled up with a parent to the penguins partying like it’s not below freezing, it just feels cozy. It also depicts a feel-good story that everyone loves, especially around the holidays… Using a mascot is a great way to create brand recognition. Did you know it was a Coke commercial before the penguin brought out the bottle?… Consumers don’t want to feel like they’re being talked at, so utilizing an upbeat holiday song is a great tactic to make sure the consumer doesn’t change the channel. It’s more difficult to change the channel if you’re bopping along to a song (which is exactly what I was doing when I was re-watching it to write this). In my experience, animals and babies always do well in marketing, and they hit two birds (penguins, if you want to be specific) with one stone, or iconic advertising spot.” – Katherine Waters, Fulfillment Team Member and Project Lead at Dream Local Digital

Learn more about Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears : https://www.coca-colacompany.com/company/history/coca-colas-polar-bears 

4. Home Alone Again – Google Assistant | Google, 2018

https://www.youtube.com/embed/-lfHXKbsMLE

“I loved Google Assistant’s “Home Alone Again.” “Home Alone” is a movie that definitely marks the holiday season for me, but I always thought that in this day and age, the movie wouldn’t be able to have a remake because we have so much technology, it’d be impossible to keep the plot. However, I LOVED how they used Google Assistant. It was able to mix a classic with new technology and touch the nostalgia of a great classic. It calls to emotion and nostalgia — one that’s most likely to hit its target 100% of the time. I’m sure that like me, a lot of people felt that throwback to probably a much simpler time and a great holiday season. They also made users aware how easy it is to use their assistant, how you can use it to help with chores around the house or just everyday tasks.” – Laura Dominguez, Fulfillment Team Member and Project Lead at Dream Local Digital 

5. Time To Come Home | Edeka, 2016

https://www.youtube.com/embed/H4a-_2kybWI

“Successful marketing campaigns are those that elicit emotion in the viewer, whether it be sadness, happiness, or even surprise or hope. Why? Because people resonate with a brand if they can relate to it in some way, and when a feeling is sparked, the ad will stick in the viewer’s mind. Around the holidays, this is especially effective, and somewhat easier maybe, as most people tend to already be a bit more emotionally vulnerable during this time of year. A German supermarket company created a holiday commercial last year that brought tears to my eyes ( I dare you to watch it without crying.)… Audiences young and old can connect to the elderly man, his children and even the grandchildren in this powerful commercial about love and family and the spirit of the holiday season.” -Janette Ross, Marketing Editor at Dream Local Digital 

6. The Surprise | Apple , 2019

https://www.youtube.com/embed/Rx0om7rWhl0

“I really connected with this ad. I have witnessed my grandparents’ on both sides of my family lose their spouse and saw the struggle they went through. I am currently witnessing it with my great-uncle, who is more like a grandfather to me. Whenever I see him, he always talks about his wife and you can see the deep sadness he has because he misses her so much. I have realized how important it is to have family present, reminisce, and keep the memories alive. I believe this campaign is so successful because it really pulls at your heart strings. At first you might think the grandfather is just grumpy and that the granddaughters are being rowdy, but then you realize what he is going through personally and what a special gift the girls are making using technology. This video campaign really captures the viewer emotionally. It makes you realize that technology can be used for good, not just entertainment. It brought the grandmother back to life and made it easy for the grandfather to look back at all the great memories. He will be able to watch the slideshow anytime he desires.” -Sierra Hayes, Senior Operations Manager at Dream Local Digital

…and now presenting the Christmas queen herself!

7.  All Mariah Carey Wants This Christmas | Walkers Crisps, 2019

https://www.youtube.com/embed/WvuS3Xz_q-8

“I just found it hilarious, and Mariah Carey is a Christmas icon. That song is always stuck in people’s heads during the holiday season just like this ad stuck in my head! This campaign is successful because they chose to make the ad entertaining rather than “informational and stiff.” This campaign does not feel like it is selling something but rather just a celebration of the holiday season that still somehow leaves you craving Walkers Crisps. I think they definitely utilized emotional appeal in this ad because of their speech regarding how Christmas is a time for sharing — except when it’s the last bag of Walkers Crisps.They also utilized a guest appearance by Mariah Carey and Calum Worthy to appeal to their fan bases and because Mariah Carey is definitely an image that comes to mind when mentioning Christmas.” -Mayar Eli, Fulfillment Team Member and Project Support at Dream Local Digital 

8. Star Wish Christmas Commercial | McDonald’s, 1987

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2TbUXyd25PE

“In 1987, there was a single airing of “A Muppet Family Christmas” on network TV. I was only 4, but my mom recorded that airing along with a whole slew of other Christmas shows like Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Frosty and so on. Since it was taped onto a VHS from the TV, it included all the commercials that aired that night, too.

So, for years, my sister and I would watch these Christmas shows with the original commercials, and this one from McDonald’s stuck with me. Even now, at least 20 years since I have last seen it, I watched it and went ‘Awwww’ at the end. The characters that I saw in Happy Meals came to life in this commercial, and the whole minute is just filled with magic. Characters coming to life, being able to actually touch a star and then Ronald reminding us that stars and wishes are meant to be shared just gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. No matter who you are, where you are, you deserve the magic of wishing. I have always loved that!” – Kasey Ahlquist, Director of Strategy and Content at Dream Local Digital

9. Matters Of The Heart | Doc Morris, 2020

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2N2eSsIWtNI

 “This ad made me cry because it reminded me that sometimes we need to make some sacrifices for the people we love to create an irreplaceable memory. It made me remember things that families do for each other. Seeing my family’s smile and shine in their eyes is the real Christmas gift for me.

 The reason this ad was successful is because it touched our emotions and took us back to certain moments and memories we had with our family. It connected directly to our hearts reminded us to ‘turn on the alarm’ and to take care of those things that matter in our life. It’s also a reminder to make things special and show that a gift does not always have to be materialistic.The love you put on and the memories that we create for our family is what matters and Christmas is the best season for families to be reunited and share memories.” -Sheiny Almanzar, Fulfillment Team Member and Project Support.

10. Evolution of Hershey Kisses | Hershey Kisses, 2020

https://www.youtube.com/embed/8cPaFbP5mR0

“The holiday commercial that always stands out in my mind is the Hershey’s Kisses commercial where the kisses are bells ringing out “We wish you a merry Christmas.” When you hear those bells, you know the holiday season is here, and you know exactly what commercial is on without even looking. The commercial first debuted in 1989 and changed very little over the years until 2020, when the traditional commercial began with the kisses as bells, but then cut to a father and daughter making holiday cookies with Hershey’s Kisses. I have wonderful memories of making the “kiss cookies” with my grandmother during the holidays, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The next iteration came during the Covid pandemic, with the traditional bells playing, but it doesn’t sound right until the missing bell joins the group to finish the song, and the tagline “We’re at our best when we’re together” appears. It’s a great example of a brand taking a loved and recognizable commercial and changing it for the current times.” -Kaye Nisbet, Fulfillment Team Manager & Social Media Product Specialist at Dream Local Digital 

11. From Our Family to Yours | Disney UK , 2020

https://www.youtube.com/embed/tl57Gy5X_Kg

“The first time I saw this in 2020, I was ecstatic and felt ‘seen’ that Disney decided to highlight my Filipino heritage and traditions, but it was even more touching considering the year that 2020 brought upon us. Being away from my grandmother and family, who lived in the Philippines, really triggered my emotions, and I wanted nothing more than to be with them. SPOILER: I bawled my eyes out after watching it for the first time.

 Disney knows how to pull our heartstrings, and I think that’s the exact reason this advertisement was a success. With 4.7 million views on YouTube and countless articles online, it’s safe to say it touched not only Filipinos like myself, but many others around the globe. A compelling story depicted with emotion, accompanied by the perfect soundtrack, was the perfect mix to drive engagement for the campaign. Since Christmas and the holidays are known to unite families, this campaign tapped into the perfect target audience by reminding them of Disney’s trademark “magic” during a year filled with trials for many and separation from loved ones. Additionally, it served a purpose, as this campaign marked their 40th anniversary partnering with Make-A-Wish, through which 25 percent of Disney’s proceeds were donated to the Foundation.” – Karen Claveria, Internal Marketing Strategist at Dream Local Digital

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