Much like the Super Bowl, one of the best things to look forward to during the holiday season are the clever TV commercials. From dancing nutcrackers to M&M’s catching a glimpse of Santa Claus, the best holiday ads are capable of making us feel warm, fuzzy, and hungry, even though we know we’re being manipulated.
Striking the right balance of sentimentality, humor, and festive cheer can be tricky. With the holiday season in full swing, these are the brands that have managed to dole out the laughs, the feels, and the goodwill, without making us want to change the channel.
Amidst grocery inflation, ALDI has made a point to let shoppers know they can create a holiday feast on a budget with products from its shelves. The grocery chain’s holiday ad, “Swindle Season,” drives that point home even further.
The commercial takes jabs at grocery stores that keep their prices high this time of year by restricting sale prices to members of their rewards programs. Shoppers are shown in various stages of tantrums and meltdowns throughout the aisles of just such a grocery store, until they are transported to ALDI, where holiday items like charcuterie are reasonably priced to make hosting easier. Seeing a bunch of pissed-off shoppers smashing gingerbread houses, knocking down displays wielding candy canes like baseball bats, and standing on top of checkout counters while screaming their lungs out is both funny and cathartic—because in the midst of holiday shopping season, who hasn’t felt close to doing the same thing?
Coca-Cola has always skewed sentimental in its holiday advertising, and this TV spot feels right at home beside previous ads featuring polar bears sipping soda and children gifting neighbors bottles of bubbly. In 2023, Coca-Cola has once again delivered not only the warm feelings, but plenty of shots of its logo.
This year’s ad, “The World Needs More Santas,” depicts a whole metropolis full of Santa Clauses, each one doing everyday tasks like folding their clothes in a laundromat and working at a diner. In each vignette, the Santa Clauses are also shown performing acts of kindness, such as spotting another Santa struggling with the bench press at the gym or giving the last Coca-Cola from the vending machine to a fellow thirsty Santa.
Eventually the ad shifts to showing regular, non-Santa people being kind to one another. For being an ice-cold beverage, Coke is hell-bent on warming hearts.
Kroger isn’t just pulling on the heartstrings with this year’s holiday ad—it’s yanking on them. This animated commercial depicts a couple who chooses to host a foreign exchange student in their home and come away forever changed by the experience.
In an effort to make the student feel less homesick, the couple cooks up dishes from the student’s home country. The trio then takes a happy photo together enjoying their meals as Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph” plays in the background. After the student returns home, the couple is shown over the years hosting other foreign exchange students from all around the world.
Eventually the couple grows older, and one day all of their former students come to visit and cook a big feast to all share together in that same home. It’s like if the opening montage of Up didn’t end with anyone dying, and if your eyes aren’t watering just a bit by now, I trust you’re bawling like a baby on the inside.
The holiday season is just getting started, so there’s still plenty of time for other big-name brands to hit us with their best shot of seasonal cheer. Like the Kroger ad says, “Food connects us all.”