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Published on December 8th, 2010 | by Éilish Burke


Ad Nauseam’s Top 5 Best Ever Christmas Ads

Ahhh… Christmas ads. Who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with them? Love the ones that are such classics they’ve been airing for over twenty years. Hate the ones which browbeat us immediately after Hallowe’en with Christmas Sale – Buy Now! messages, made-on-PowerPoint and with a relentless sleighbell soundtrack (yes, I’m looking at you Harvey Norman). But fear not, for this post shall be focusing on the best of the best Christmas ads. I’m going to lay out my Top 5 Christmas ads of all time and tomorrow I’ll be asking you, dear readers, to vote for yours.

A word of warning in advance: this is going to be a no-holds-barred, rose-tinted-glasses, nostalgia-fest. So Grinches, you’re probably best averting your eyes right now. Whether you’re a believer or not, Christmas is a time of year wrapped up in a complex weave of meaning and emotion (much of it created by advertising to begin with). We could get stuck into a debate about how commercialism cynically uses our emotions to sell us shit. But frankly, for this post anyway, I’d rather wallow in all of its soft-focussed glory. So to begin, my Top 5 Best Christmas Ads Ever Countdown…

#1 Barrys Tea – Radio

“Santa’ll bring them what they want. This, is from me”

This ad turns me into a blubbering mess every time I hear it. The first time I come across it on the radio each year is, for me, the start of Christmas. It’s radio advertising at its very best, using the mediums qualities to full effect – an unparalleled sense of intimacy, an ability to evoke the listeners imagination and use sound to conjure memory. Too often radio advertising is treated as a poor cousin to TV advertising, but this Barry’s Tea ad shows that when you have superb copyrighting, radio advertising can compete with any medium.

#2 ESB ‘Going Home’

This is another Irish classic which conjures up such a cornucopia of memories from Christmases past to bring a tear to the eye (okay, I’ll admit, I’m a terrible romantic and cry at the drop of a hat). Many younger readers might not remember this ad, but anyone who has flown the nest will identify emotionally with the notion of a Christmas homecoming. Actually the ad never references Christmas explicitly, but the freezing fog hanging over the bleak countryside of rural Ireland as father and son drive to the homestead, elegantly evokes this time of year. The languid voice of Dusty Springfield is an inspired timeless soundtrack. The ad was made in the mid ’80s, back when dire economic fortunes forced a generation of young (particularly rural) Irish people to emigrate. We imagine that the son (yes folks, it’s Alan Hughes from TV3!) is coming home for Christmas from London or New York or Boston or Manchester. This underlying theme of emigration makes the ad feel all the more relevant today, as we face into another generation of Irish youth leaving the country.

#3 Budweiser – Christmas Clydesdales

What can I say? It’s just all in the jingle, which I find myself humming for hours on end when I see this ad on telly. In recent years they’ve cut the ad down to a 30sec edit which always makes me feel cheated. The version above is in its glorious full length, the way it was meant to be.

#4 An Post – The Snowman

“We’re walking in the air”

I’m devo cos I can’t find this ad anywhere online so the above clip is the full version of that very well-known song. An Post are still using the Snowman audio on their current ad but not the clip from the celebrated animated film. It’s probably down to the expense of continuing to pay for usage rights. A complete classic ad which brings back lots of childhood memories.

#5 Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

“I don’t know, this seems very unorthodox”

I actually struggled to include this in my Top 5 because I have a love/hate relationship with it. It’s just so very cutesy pie in an American way that it induces a saccharine sweet nausea in me. And let’s face it, the kids in this ad are very slappable in a MacCauley Culkin / Billy Barry Kids kinda way. It comes from the school of American advertising (American life?) which is all about striving for perfection. And everything is indeed perfect in this upper middle class family, from the cherubic blonde youngest child to her perfectly stereotyped elder siblings (he’s a future captain of industry, she’s going straight to Yale Law). But there is no denying that this is an absolute classic, and it is redeemed by the performance of said cherub. Her whispered “Bye!” and little run does make your heart break. There! I’ve caved in.

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About the Author

Éilish writes the Ad Nauseam series of posts for Culch.ie as well as some other bit and bobs. She used to work in adland and still likes to dissect the advertising she comes across, though these days mainly from the comfort of her couch and in the form of angry tirades while her flatmate rolls her eyes to heaven. She secretly harbours smug feelings that instead of saving and putting a deposit on a house she spent all her life savings on extravagant holidays and has therefore escaped a lifetime in negative equity. She co-runs a company called Amp Music Marketing. You can get in touch with her at eilishburke{at}gmail{dot}com or follow her on Twitter.

13 Responses to Ad Nauseam’s Top 5 Best Ever Christmas Ads

  1. Christine Davis says:

    Love them all but think the ESB one got me best. must be the way im feeling today. 🙂

  2. Corrina says:

    Ahh they are fab but my favourite has to be the Barrys Tea ad 😉

  3. Niall says:

    And then the trucks came over the hill… is the best. Shame on you for leaving it out. 🙁

  4. Ah jayzus, how can you leave out the Guinness ad with the snow and the horse and the “don’t forget to turn off the lights” and the currach?

    I shed a tear at the sight of it and I have a heart of stone!!

    “You’ll never guess what Santa brought”? Girl, puh-leeze!!

  5. Different strokes Joe, different strokes…

  6. JT says:

    What about the “Holidays are coming’, holidays are coming…” Coca Cola ad? !

    Horrified that you didn’t include such a classic Eilish!


  7. TheQ47 says:

    Funny, although they’re very similar, I never liked the Coca-cola ad (Holidays are coming) but I LOVE the Budweiser one. Until I’ve seen that on TV, Christmas isn’t allowed to start in my house.

  8. Sweary says:

    The Kellogg’s ad is amazing stuff, love it so much.

    I’m so annoyed that An Post don’t do the classic Snowman ad anymore. Their new tagline, “the moment you send a card, it’s Christmas” is all the more infuriating because it USED to be that the moment you saw the An Post Snowman ad, it was Christmas!

    But … my favourite has to be the ESB ad. The Wesht, the dishco, the Mammy; it’s far more Irish than any Guinness campaign and I absolutely love it.

  9. Bngr says:

    Penney’s is the no 1 nostalgic for me but now that you say it, that Barry’s one is fantastic. Makes me want to go back in time and be small again.

  10. seanear1ey says:

    I have to say the Denny Ad this year was adorable. Home-movie esque footage of a small girl coming downstairs to see Santa has been during the night and having her Da cook her a big fry. Reminds me of my own Christmasses gone by…

  11. I just mentioned the Dennys one in a post for tomorrow Sean. It is rather cute isn’t it?

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