Villing & Company

These Holiday Commercials Betray Spirit of Season

The headline of this article is the same one that appeared in the newspaper recently. Maybe it grabbed your attention as much as it got mine. It headlined a column by Hank Stuever of the Washington Post in which he lamented holiday TV commercials by the folks at Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target that “depict a consumer culture that is grabby, hasty, heartless and smug.”

O…K…. So where’s the news here? One would be hard-pressed to dispute the basic premise that Christmas is over-commercialized. But I think people have been expressing those same views for decades – if not centuries. To be sure, the issue does seem to be escalating, what with all the craziness about Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the like.

What I found curious about Mr. Stuever’s point of view is that he was so negative about campaigns that were fairly benign by holiday advertising standards. He seemed to find the commercials by Best Buy to be particularly egregious, calling out spots such as the one entitled “Game On, Santa.” You’ve probably seen it, but if not, click here. Basically, a woman disses Santa because she has purchased more presumably relevant gifts from Best Buy than Santa traditionally brings to her family. Stuever seems particularly distressed at trash-talking poor, sweet Santa Claus.

News flash, Mr. Stuever (and children, cover your ears): There is no Santa Claus. And if there is any symbol of the commercialization of Christmas, it may be dear old Santa himself.

As holiday commercials go, I thought the Best Buy campaign was relatively well done with just the right blend of whimsy to go with the hard-core sales message. If we want to take pot shots at absurd Christmas commercials, my nomination would be the automotive category. I am obviously not part of the elite One Percent, but I know few people who gave or received a new car for Christmas. Lexus has even turned the idea of a hundred thousand dollar new car with a big bow on top into something of an icon. Other manufacturers give us elaborate song and dance routines that would make the Radio City Rockettes envious. To me, these types of commercials not only lack originality, they are so over-the-top as to be laughable. But, hey, who am I to judge other people’s marketing strategies? Maybe they know something I don’t. Maybe there is a segment of society to whom Santa really does bring new luxury cars. In which case, I have two questions. One, how do I get on that list? Two, how does Santa fit a new car into the gift bags on his sleigh?

Filed Under: advertising

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