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Vintage Christmas Ads to Make You Smile (or Cringe)

Updated: May 1, 2023

Who else here grew up with the image of the Coca Cola Santa? Classic. Here are a few other vintage ads that revolve around this jolly figure.

Kramer as Santa

Straight from the imagination of cartoonist Thomas Nast, the modern version of Santa Claus based on the traditional German figures of Sankt Nikolaus and Weihnachtsmann was created back in 1863. Since then, the red suited, white bearded figure of Santa Claus has been incorporated in holiday advertising campaigns, books, movies and everything in between, for decades. Here are a few examples of how companies leveraged his star status in the olden times.

Let me just dive right in.

Great example of cringe-worthy Christmas ads: Murad cigarettes from 1920

Vintage Murad Christmas ad

Here’s something you’d never thought you’d see: Santa taking a well-deserved break from jumping from house to house and delivering presents, to smoke a cigarette.

This Christmas ad first appeared in Country Life in 1920. Yes, you read that right… 1920. Before WWII.

The copy? “What more could you Enjoy more this Xmas than MURAD?”.

Hey, for being published in the ‘20s, it’s not that bad. And the whole “Xmas” instead of Christmas…

Ok Murad, you naughty kids, you.

Colgate’s Soaky Santa ad from 1962

Vintage Colgate Christmas ad

This Christmas ad's better. While the “Fill a stocking full of fun with a Santa full of soaky” might seem like a mouthful, what’s next is better:

“The fun bath kids love… and when it’s empty, it’s a toy!”. Talks about its benefits in a short and concise way.

Plus the Santa is very cute with its red chubby cheeks and his hand on his belly.

Classic Christmas ads: Coca Cola in 1954

Vintage Coca Cola Christmas ad

To me, this is Santa. This jolly guy was created by illustrator Haddon Sundblom back in 1931 and modeled after his friend, Lou Prentice. Coca Cola paid Sundblom $1000 to design what would become the classic interpretation of Santa.

And the Santa I grew up seeing on tv in the Coca Cola trucks tv ad which is my all time favorite Christmas ad. To this day it gives me chills.

I started with this distant sound of bells jingling and you’d just know something magical is coming. Then you’d see a long line of beautifully lit up Coca Cola trucks in the dark of the night, coming into a small town and bridging it to life.

That was in the 90s but this Santa ad designed by Sundblom first appeared in National Geographic in 1954.

Camel cigarettes Christmas ad in 1950

Vintage Camel Christmas ad

While only a decade earlier than the fictional time frame when Mad Men ran, March 1960 to November 1970, for some reason this looks like something Don Draper would prepare while saying something acid about the consumer’s behavior around Christmas.

This ad was published by Reminisce back in 1950 when promoting cigarettes was still a cool (dnd legal) thing to do.

These Christmas ads might seem basic now but if you stop to think about it, they can teach us (or remind us) copywriters and advertising people a few very important things like there are better ways to attract attention than shocking people with aggressive visuals.

But that’s just me… thinking out loud.


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