Which Classic Holiday Commercial Is the Best?

On a recent episode of the Speaking Human podcast, we made six classic holiday commercials from the past 40 years face off to determine which ones are the best of the best. You can listen to the podcast to hear where we landed. But before you fire up that episode, we want to hear your opinion.

Vote for Your All-Time Favorite Christmas Commercial

Check out the six contenders below and then cast your vote for the commercial that remains chiseled in your memory, makes you think of winter and the holidays, and stirs your heart with warm emotion…

1. M&Ms 1996 “Faint”

In this ad, the much beloved M&M characters who helped revitalize the brand in the 90s encounter another legendary character (this one with a white beard and a red suit) leading to the memorable exchange: “He does exist!” “They do exist!” And then both Santa and the Red M&M faint leaving only the Yellow M&M to pick up the pieces.

2. Hershey’s Kisses 1989 “Bells”

This classic commercial from Hershey’s features a simple premise: 11 Hershey’s Kisses in a Christmas tree formation play like bells to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. There’s not much to it, but the simplicity and sparseness of the ad is what’s helped keep it relevant and replayed for decades.

3. Folgers 1986 “Peter Comes Home”

In this commercial from the heyday of Folgers, Peter, a college student, arrives at the snowy home of his parents early one Christmas morning. He surprises his happy sister and wakes up his parents to the delightful scent of Folger’s coffee. They all have an emotional holiday reunion and enjoy “the best part of waking up”. This ad is also notable for inspiring this extremely awkward 2009 reboot.

4. Campbell’s Soup 1998 “Snowman”

In this wintry commercial, a shivering snowman decides to head inside for some warmth. So he picks a house, waddles over to it, opens the front door, walks in, and takes off his hat and scarf. Then he sits down at the kitchen table, eats some Campbell’s Soup which causes him to melt and, in an M. Night Shyamalan-style twist, he’s revealed to be a young boy! Along with being simple and seasonal, the effects in this ad still hold up surprisingly well.

5. John Lewis 2014 “Monty the Penguin”

You may have noticed this John Lewis commercial is the only ad on this list from post-2000. That’s no mistake. While the dawn of the internet has made commercials more interesting, creative and polished, it’s also made them less memorable since they are no longer collective experiences. But this ad from John Lewis, one of the modern masters of the holiday commercials, overcomes that mountain with an imaginative, emotional and timeless tale that’s also beautiful to look at.

6. Coca-Cola 1993 “Northern Lights” 

Probably somewhere high up on the list of “things that shouldn’t work” sits the concept of polar bears drinking Coke. And yet, this idea caught fire with audiences right from the start with this Coca-Cola holiday commercial. From there, the polar bears became pop-culture icons and appeared regularly in other holiday ads like this one. Somehow these cuddly white bears just capture the spirit of the season.