Holidays are a time to meet the family, eat great home-cooked food, spend some down time, and create memories. It is also a time to come up with creative excuses to avoid relatives that drive us nuts, think of genius ways to salvage the over-cooked (read burnt) turkey, and brace ourselves for the onslaught of holidays advertisements that litter our newsfeeds, mail boxes, TV screens, and app interfaces.
However, every once in a while, there come holiday commercials that hit all the right chord. Brand messages that not only increase brand awareness but very effectively make us create connections with the brand.
Today we have brought you a list of 11, on-brand, Thanksgiving adverts that went viral, won hearts over, and made us really thankful for creative brands.
Let’s start with a Thanksgiving ad that turned the whole game on its head and set the bar for others to follow.
1. REI’s – #OptOutside Campaign
REI, the outdoor clothing, gear, and footwear brand launched a Thanksgiving ad campaign in 2015 using the hashtag #OptOutside. The campaign announced that the company will close its offices and stores all over the country during the Thanksgiving holiday, to pay its employees to go outside to spend time with families, and explore the great outdoors together.
The company’s decision to close its doors during the biggest holiday rush of the year was an unthinkable approach at the time. It effectively closed its doors to attractive sales and profits. The idea, however paid off, and what the company may have lost in terms of short term profits, it gained in long term brand awareness, brand message, creating a lasting connection with its consumers, and send an authentic message that resonated with people. According to the CTN News, the ad got 2.7 billion PR impressions during the first 24-horus of its launch with social media impressions reaching to 7000%.
Since 2015 to ever year, the company closes its doors to business and encourages people to go outside and do well. This year too, the company is using its #OptOutside campaign for a cleaning drive.
A perfect example of CSR initiative that is relevant to the brand and drives home an authentic, real message.
2. Postmates – ‘Friendsgiving on Demand Campaign’
Some years back Friendsgiving became the unofficial equivalent (and perhaps counterpart) to the traditional holiday of Thanksgiving. People who could not or did not want to celebrate the traditional holiday, started getting together with friends to celebrate Friendsgiving – an occasion to say thanks to the friends who become more than families.
The goods delivery service Postmates, joined the Friendsgiving trend in 2015, offering a bit of a twist.
It collected a selection of made-and-approved-by-Moms recipes of traditional and popular Thanksgiving foods that people could cook together or for their friends on Friendsgiving events. All the ingredients listed on the recipes could be ordered through the Postmates app.
Image Source: Postmates
All the recipes chosen were by real moms and not trained chefs – which added a side of nostalgia and sentimentality into the whole campaign. The campaign was a success and encouraged even more brands to join the Friendsgiving trend which continues till date.
3. NYC Tourism Promotion Ad With Robert Deniro And Billy Crystal
Another great advert that we have to feature in this list is the New York Miracle series ad that promoted NYC tourism after the tragic events of 9/11. Featuring Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal, the ad was funny, engaging, and light hearted.
4. Stove Top – ‘Don’t Run Out of Thanksgiving’
Stove Top is one of those brands who have nailed Thanksgiving advertising. Every year they come up with incredibly creative, simple in retrospect, and on-brand ideas to promote how good and ‘appropriate’ their stuffing is for Thanksgiving.
In 2015 they introduced the Millennial hipster who told us that we can eat Stove Top’s Thanksgiving stuffing all year long.
In 2017, the brand introduced its Thanksgiving Pants. Pair of unisex pants that featured elastic waistbands that allowed you to stuff yourself with Stove Top Thanksgiving stuffing in ‘comfort and style’.
This year again, the brand has come up with another hilarious ad campaign. Cautioning its consumers to not run out of stuffing, else they can face a lot of difficult scenarios.
Keep Thanksgiving simple and delicious with STOVE TOP stuffing, the stuff Thanksgiving is made of. pic.twitter.com/ricTM0SxyO
— Stove Top Stuffing (@StoveTop) November 17, 2017
5. Hotel tonight – ‘Visit Family, Stay With Us’
With so much sentimentality gracing the Thanskgiving and other holiday ads, brands who add a bit of naughtiness and humor into the mix ensure that they are remembered.
HotelTonight, the hotel booking app, made headlines in 2016 with their ‘Visit, Don’t Stay’ campaign for people who dreaded staying with families over the holidays. The campaign offered them discounts on hotel bookings for holiday stays. With its cheeky humor that was based on real life scenarios, the campaign was a roaring success.
Image Source: Geo Marketing
6. Publix – ‘Catching Up’
Publix, the employee-owned supermarket chain created a sentimental and heartwarming Thanksgiving story last year. ‘Catching up’ was about slowing down the pace of life that’s zooming past you and take time to create and share memories.
Focusing on a mother and son bond, the ad film features a mom who isn’t able to get a moment alone to enjoy the company of her son visiting from college. This is a story shared by mothers world over, of not being able to spend enough time with growing children who may have more exciting things to do than sit with mom and ‘catch up’.
The ad is definitely emotional and if you are a mother, it may make get the tears rolling.
7. Dollar Shave Club – ‘Perfect Gift For Almost Everyone’
Most brands tout their universal appeal when promoting themselves. Truth is, not every brand is ideal for everyone. Even for very similar products and services, there are people who’ll prefer one brand over another. And for niche target markets – like bear sporting people – who by default cannot promote their universality, what to do?
Well, Dollar Shave Club took this as an opportunity in 2015 to embrace and celebrate the fact that except for a few obvious sections of the market, they may be perfect for everybody else!
Image Source: AdWeek
8. Samsung – Unwrap The Feels
2016 was a year of great holiday campaigns. It was the year when Samsung introduced its VR Gear as the perfect holiday present. In Samsung’s ‘Unwrap The Feels’ video people experiencing the VR through Samsung’s latest gear can be seen going through a range of emotions: Laughter, shock, surprise, fear, giggles. The video is extremely engaging, entertaining, and absolutely feel-good. A perfect thanksgiving tribute from the designers.
It was also on par with tech brands moving more and more towards experiential marketing.
9. BMW – The Road Home
We always say that taglines are perhaps the most important piece of an ad campaign. A good tagline can make an ordinary ad absolutely extraordinary. To prove this, we have included BMW’s ‘The Road Home’ campaign featuring holiday travelers rushing to reach homes and meet families, parents, and childhood friends.
Keeping in tradition of sentimental ads for holidays, the ad has its moments and a fitting piece of background music, but for us, what steals the show, or perhaps puts a really nice bow on the whole package is the tagline at the end. Watch for yourself, we can’t spoil it for you.
10. Edeka – ‘Time’
Edeka is a German supermarket that creates really emotional, thought provoking, and tear-jerking holiday ads.
In this ad, they focus on how during the holidays we can be so invested in making sure the occasion is a success that we forget to spend time with those that matter. Since the message of the ad has universal appeal, it doesn’t matter which language you view in – human species speaks a common emotional tongue.
However, for viewing convenience, the ad is available in closed captions translations. Have a look.
With three consecutive brands in this list creating emotional adverts for holidays, we are going to end the list on a hilarious and absolutely on-brand example.
In 2017, Durex China published a series of poster ads on its Weibo account during the Thanksgiving week. The ads, 13 in total, interacted with other brands like Wrigley’s, Snickers, Levis, Budweiser and others, thanking each brand in a series of mischievous messages.
Here, take a look at one.
Image Source: Marketing Interactive
The ad says, “Dear Wrigley’s, thank you for always being by my side, and for providing an excuse to buy me.”
Wrigley’s felt compelled to reply with its own ad.
It says, “Dear Durex, you are welcome. Feel free to anything you want – I’m here.” – Yours, Wrigley’s Doublemint.
Such brand interactions not only make people take note but can be great ways to foster brand partnerships, take advantage of the social traction, and have fun while doing it.
12. Whole Foods and Progressive Insurance — “Thanksgiving Turkey Protection Plan”
Every Thanksgiving, thousands of people cook their Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. While nobody wants to mess up their first Thanksgiving meal, accidents do happen, and rushed trips to the grocery store are a staple of holidays.
In 2020, that wasn’t possible for everyone.
Dinner gatherings were smaller, people were struggling financially, and not a lot of grocery stores were open. Everyone had to make sure they didn’t botch their turkey.
Talk about expectations and pressure.
But anticipating the issue, the Whole Foods brand teamed with Progressive Insurance, and together they brought forward a novel insurance product: the Thanksgiving Turkey Protection Plan.
As per that plan, if you bought your Thanksgiving turkey at Whole Foods, you were eligible for a $35 gift card if that turkey got ruined during the cooking. It encouraged novice cooks to try their hand at the turkey and not worry if there’s any disaster.
“The Thanksgiving Turkey Protection Plan allows customers the freedom of culinary exploration, knowing all is not lost should their cooking go astray,” said Theo Weening, vice president of Whole Foods meat and poultry in the campaign announcement.
As far as marketing plans staying on-brand goes, Whole Foods had hit the mark. It’s a grocery brand and the holiday is food-centric. But it was refreshing to see an insurance company make itself relevant to a holiday that has nothing to do with financial products. This is called ingenious marketing.
13. Budweiser — “King of Leftovers Locker”
Remember the Moist Maker? Ross almost lost his job yelling at his coworker who ate his leftover Turkey sandwich.
If only he had a Budweiser leftovers locker.
— Budweiser (@budweiserusa) November 18, 2020
Knowing that Thanksgiving is a time when sandwich-thieves come out in droves, Budweiser released a limited-edition leftovers container in 2020. The tupperware container included a drink compartment that could fit a beer can plus a section for leftovers. The best thing? You could lock it with a 3-digit passcode.
The Twitter post gained a lot of traction and encouraged people to tag who they considered thieves of sandwiches. It gave the brand a lot of user-generated content, the best kind of engagement. Plus, featuring a limited-edition product, it capitalized on people’s FOMO, ensuring the campaign and the product become a success.
Not bad Budweiser, not bad.
14. Walkers + Comic Relief — “Raise a Smile”
So, food is the best part of Thanksgiving, but what’s the worst?
Being forced to meet nosy relatives.
Even when your relatives aren’t nosy, the holidays bring their own kind of gloom. In a room full of people laughing and enjoying the cheer, you could feel all kinds of lonely. According to the American Psychological Association, 40% of American adults experience anxiety and stress around the holidays. This includes social anxiety, financial stress, lack of quality time, and more.
Walkers, a British snack brand, and Comic Relief, a nonprofit using entertainment to impact change, decided to bring this important issue to notice in their holiday advertising for 2021.
In this Christmas video ad, the campaign used an animated emoji to represent what the main character is feeling throughout the ad, while keeping an outwardly happy face. You can see the emoji going through a range of emotions as the character meets different people. Uncertainty, feeling shy, stressed, confused, sad, and eventually, happiness. The last one comes when an old friend sees the guy and asks him how he’s really feeling.
15. Paleton — “He’s alive!”
Kanye West may have been the most controversial figure of 2021, but the headline maker of that year goes to another man from Hollywood — Mr. Big.
Actor Chris Noth reprised his popular Sex and the City role, Mr. Big, Carrie’s one, true love, in the oven-fresh sequel And Just Like That!
The show started off with a bang but (spoiler alert!) before the first episode was over, Mr. Big had died. The poor guy suffered a fatal cardiac arrest after an intense workout on his Peloton bike.
The internet was in uproar. Not only had he died, his beloved wife, Carrie, also never tried calling 911. Plus, the fact that he died after a workout on Peloton didn’t work out that well for the brand (what a surprise). The company stock plummeted and everyone was a bit worried, frankly. Could the workouts on a Peloton bike cause heart failure?
Cue everyone’s favorite Hollywood guy, Ryan Reynolds and his marketing company Maximum Effort.In just two days after the airing of the episode, the company released an ad featuring Chris Noth, hale and hearty, talking to a new trainer, and thinking of another workout. The ad concludes with Ryan Reynolds narrating the benefits of working out on a Peloton bike and ending it with a funny ‘he’s alive’ in his signature deadpan way.
The ad is hilarious, right on brand for everyone, and creates a win-win situation for all included. Much, much better than Peloton suing the show for unfortunate product placement.
Feeling Holiday Feels Yet?
Creating a powerful, true to brand, and memorable holiday ad campaign is not easy. It requires you to turn to your audience and find what they most expect from you, have a look at yourself as a brand and see what you are all about, and then figure out a unique way to merge the two to send holiday cheers your customers’ way.
If you feel inspired by the creativity and success of these creative brands on thanksgiving we have shared, comment to us and let us know what you think.
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