Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Christmas in New York With Brand Santa

Muna Khan ponders over the importance of Santa Claus in advertising.
Published 24 Feb, 2024 11:01am

Christmas in New York City is something else, though admittedly, I don’t have much to compare with, given that a) I don’t celebrate Christmas and b) have usually been in Karachi or east of it, where it’s not as big a holiday.

New York City was alight with Christmas trees. From the much-photographed one at the Rockefeller Plaza to the tree at the New York Public Library; from the origami tree at the Museum of Natural History to the fabulous one at the Plaza Hotel. The trees alone are a sight to behold in the city. 

The sea of people on the streets at this time, however, are not. Most of the New Yorkers I spoke to said this year felt different as they had never seen as many visitors in the city since the pandemic. 

I certainly felt the jostle of shoppers on the streets, especially since window shopping takes a whole new meaning at Christmas, with the displays at Bloomingdale’s FAO Schwarz turning into tourist sites. This year Saks partnered with Dior to create a stunning installation called Carousel of Dreams which covered 10 stories of the department store. The structural facade turned into a light show in the evening – this area was always packed. 

People were out shopping. According to MasterCard Spending Pulse, retail spending in the 2023 holiday season rose by three percent year-over-year which marked a return to pre-Covid spending. Spending in restaurants was up by 7.8% from 2022.  In a report by the Commerce Department clothing and accessories, retailers reported a 1.5% increase, as did online sellers. This is all good news, especially since consumer spending accounts for nearly 70% of the U.S. economy.  

All this demonstrates how Santa Claus is the biggest brand. While he alone may not be selling products, he is certainly inspiring consumers to go forth and shop in his name. Or he is proving how he’s still got it when it comes to advertising and marketing. 

Coca-Cola is often credited with creating the image of Santa as he is recognised today, dressed in the bottle’s colours, too. Their first Santa campaign began in the 1920s and by 1931, they had created the image of Santa that is widely recognisable now. This year, their campaign, The World Needs More Santas, shows lots of Santas in busy cities doing acts of charity and kindness, inspiring people to do the same. It’s a sweet ad set to the song Anyone Can Be Santa by Celeste. 

Although Coca-Cola’s Christmas campaign is widely anticipated, and written about too, friends told me to look up a few other ads that had generated a great deal of buzz. I can understand why they wanted me to watch John Travolta playing Santa Claus to Saturday Night Fever for the Capital One credit card. The stylish white-haired Santa cruises New York City, buying stuff on his card until he is at the club dancing to the song that made him famous in the seventies. 

I did not want to like the ad by Amazon given their support for Israel, but it was very sweet. Three elderly women friends watch children sleigh down a snowy hill. One of the women orders hip cushions from Amazon which allows them to enjoy a ride. It’s heart-warming and a lovely reminder that it is never too late to reconnect with your inner child. Another heart-warming ad was by Chevrolet who partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to raise awareness about people living with the disease. In it, a granddaughter takes her grandmother out on a ride to her old town to help her remember her life. While the last two ads did not feature Santa, they represented the spirit of the holiday which, I’m sure brand Santa, would approve of. 

Muna Khan researches newsroom culture in Pakistan and
Tweets @LedeingLady.