Let’s face it. Holiday ads are pretty much the worst. I’m no Scrooge though – a nice sentimental or humorous holiday ad can really put me in the spirit of the season. Give me the unattainable fantasy or make me feel like a kid again, but please don’t ruin my Christmas with some “envelope pushing” gimmicky ad that I have to watch everyday for a month and hope my kid doesn’t walk in the room to ask why Santa is in a fight with some lady at Best Buy. Give us the idealized Christmas we all want for ourselves and our families. Give us the Folger’s “Peter Comes Home For Christmas” or the Coca-Cola “Polar Bears,” not half naked models in elf hats or holiday disfunction and disaster.
Below I offer you 10 ads that may make you want to pack up the Christmas tree preemptively, or at least keep your TV turned off during the month of December. Some of these are ads that creeped me out when I was a kid and others are just desperate and cloying attempts to cut through the holiday commercial maelstrom, killing my Christmas spirit in the process.
1. Kmart “Show Your Joe”
Jingle balls? Ok. No other Christmas commercial this year has gotten more attention than this crude attempt at holiday humor. I loved the Hershey Kiss bells, I loved the Pedigree barking dogs… but this, uhhh… well get your kids out of the room and take a look. I still haven’t made it to the end of this one… but I must assume they go Full Monty.
2. Mr. Kipling Cakes “Nativity”
According to the Youtuber who put this video up this ad received more complaints to the ASA than any other TV commercial, this one may make you want to burn your eyes out. See the crowd’s reaction about half way through? That’s pretty much the way my face looked the entire duration of this awful awful ad. Offensive is probably the last thing you’d ever want a Christmas ad to be. Congratulations Mr. Kipling! Your ad takes the cake, and burps it back up again.
3. McDonald’s “Ice Skating Ronald”
There’s a good reason Ronald has been largely put out to pasture by the monolithic McDonald’s. Clowns are creepy as hell! I’m no Coulrophobic but as a kid I remember feeling there was something sinister lurking behind the red and white face paint of Ronald McDonald. This ad tries to be all of the things that make some holiday ads enjoyable. It’s friendly and exemplifies the Christmas fantasy. But that close up of Ronald’s face still haunts my mind in much the same way Pazuzu’s face does in the Exorcist.
4. Victoria’s Secret “Christmas 2006”
I’m sure this ad exemplifies some guy’s holiday fantasy, but to me, Christmas is for and about the kids. Surely there’s a way for Victoria’s Secret to advertise during Christmas without tons of nearly naked ladies everywhere. “Cause baby, it’s cold outside!” Overly sexualized Christmas ads are a great reason to keep the remote control near if you’ve got kids in the room. Especially when you’ve got Tyra Banks groaning “I need it!” orgasmically at the end.
5. Old Navy “Griswold Christmas”
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is my favorite holiday movie ever. I watch it every year, usually a few times. Thanks Old Navy, now the legacy of this immaculately conceived holiday flick is tarnished for me forever. This commercial could have filled me with nostalgic joy. Instead, we get a half-hearted crappy re-make of one of cinema’s greatest holiday scenes. Things like this only work if they’re actually funny – this is just sad.
6. Coca Cola “Christmas Trucks”
Coca Cola typically does really well with their holiday ads. The clydesdales, the polar bears, Santa drinking soda by the fireplace. So how in the hell are a bunch of lit up semi-trucks supposed to warm my heart for Christmas? They don’t. And worse off the song they used makes me want to rip my ears off. Every time I heard this song a few years ago I felt my blood pressure rise, much in the same way as when country pop music enters my audible zone. It did, however, make me nostalgic for those older Coca Cola ads that once upon a time warmed my home with their soft glow ambience.
7. Tommy Hilfiger “Holiday House Par-tay”
At the risk of sounding like a bitter old man, when I watch this I want to slap these hip and pretty kids silly and tell them to put some clothes on… and I’m really not much older than a lot of the people in this ad. I get it. You’re selling to teenagers and 20 somethings. But where the Gap has gotten it so right, Tommy Hilfiger has gotten it so wrong. I feel for you Mr. Bloodhound and understand your pain.
8. John Lewis “Give A Little More Love”
I do not get this at all. This ad is truly “the winter of our discontent.” For those of us who aren’t British, John Lewis is a department store known for unusual Christmas ads like this one. They’re not oblivious to the fact that this basically comes across as a trailer for the Shining that replaces Jack Nicholson with a snowman. Note the cheeky scream at the end. But I still do not get this at all.
9. Nintendo 64 “Christmas Stunk”
Is there anything worse than being forced to watch spoiled bratty teenagers complain about their Christmas presents? Enough said.
10. Cake Film “Merry Christmas”
Fair warning, this is hands down the most depressing, slit-your-wrists Christmas commercial of all time. It’s the culmination of everything wrong with marrying Christmas to “edgy.” From Amsterdam comes this completely tasteless and Christmas-ruining commercial that may inspire a chuckle among those with the darkest of senses of humor. Thankfully I never have to worry about this ad unsuspectingly popping up on my TV right after an episode of Legends of Kung Fu Panda that my kid was watching. But still, I watched it online, and now I feel bad. Who else needs some spiked eggnog?
What’s your least favorite holiday commercial? Let us know in the comments section.