With Christmas just days away, we can all look forward to the end of one holiday scourge: the Christmas commercial. We don't mean ads for candy or kids' toys. Those could pop up anytime. And this isn't to say the TV commercials we are thinking about only roll around once a year, it's just that the style of these commercials seem to turn particularly gross in November and December.
It should also be noted that there are loads of Christmas commercials we like. That Corona ad with the little shack on the beach and the palm tree lit up for the holidays makes us happy every year. These ads, however, inspire little in the way of holiday spirit and mostly make us want Christmas to be over with sooner.
Bargain Clothing Retailers Singing and Dancing
What is it with places like the Gap and Old Navy that turn their commercials into mini episodes of Glee? It would be weird enough without the tie-ins to movies like Pitch Perfect 3 (they made three of these?), but remember when the Gap did an ad full of swing dancers? It's as if someone in their marketing departments desperately wanted to be a Broadway writer, but his parents told him to get into advertising so he'd have something to fall back on and he just kept falling back.
This year, it's a wildly diverse bunch of people in their pajamas singing Christmas carols in a variety of styles and somehow blending them seamlessly on the fly. Hip hop, R&B, country, pop...it's all in there. We are halfway surprised they didn't have a gospel choir decked out in colorful print "jingle jammies." Next year.
Happy Perfect Families
We're not sure about you guys, but our holidays were never exactly postcard perfect. If it wasn't dad screaming at the Christmas tree stand that didn't quite fit because he refused to pay $10 to have the guy at the lot put it on for him, it was that drunk aunt who kept pinching the cheeks of every little kid and laughing like a banshee, or the incessant noise of new toys driving parents to scream, "Will you PLEASE turn that damn thing off?" by noon on Christmas day. Yet, in every holiday commercial with a family, they are like the damn Hoos in Whoville holding hands and singing happily.
Case in point this L.L. Bean ad with a cozy family preparing for Santa only to find everything had been moved out into the snow the next morning. Instead of calling the cops like normal humans, they all go and frolic together because did we mention that every ad is set in a gorgeous home just on the edge of a perfectly snowy forest?
Luxury Cars and Giant Bows
The giant bow on top of the expensive car has been much lampooned in articles and late-night comedy. Yet, the giant bow on top of a luxury automobile is as ubiquitous this time of year as mistletoe. It might be adorable if the car that was given as a gift didn't cost 50 percent more than the average family of four makes in a year. Lexus and its annual December to Remember is the most pervasive. This year, they've homed in on children (classy) by taking kids and having them fall in love with cars (a little obsessively in love if you ask us), eventually growing up and living out their dreams of driving a white, mid-sized sedan. That's right, Timmy no longer dreams of racing cars. He just wants a comfortable life in a nice suburban home with their overpriced "luxury" car. Way to reach for the stars, Timmy.
The truth is nobody gives a fuck if he went to Jared. Every kiss does NOT begin with Kay Jewelers and no one is getting laid for a Pandora bracelet. And, let's be totally honest here, that is EXACTLY what these ads are selling: the chance that a guy might get sex in exchange for a gift. Here, it's not prostitution, it's thanks for remembering that she's shallow. And this isn't to say women don't like jewelry—many do—or that it makes a bad gift—the right piece can be a wonderful holiday treat for someone.
But, let's not pretend that Zales is selling diamonds in the above ad. They are pimping "buy her this shiny thing and she is going to let you try that thing you've been asking her about for six months tonight." Don't bet on it sport, especially not something from a mall chain jewelry store. Now, if you went to Tiffany, maybe.
And finally we come to it, the worst of the worst in Christmas commercial fodder, the perfume ad. None of us know what any of these bizarre vignettes are supposed to mean. They feel like a cross between a French film and a fever dream. We cannot for the life of us figure how they influence anyone to do anything. Are we supposed to see Charlize Theron floating across a quiet lake in flowing gold robes and think, "Damnit, I want to smell like her!"
In what has to be the dumbest role of Johnny Depp's career (that includes his stint as Tonto in the Lone Ranger), he drives a muscle car into the desert to bury all his jewelry. He also plays slide guitar and drives past a random buffalo. It's really, truly as stupid as it sounds and even dumber than the name of the cologne he's probably not wearing in the ad because, in that, he looks like he smells like sweat, gasoline and pretension. SO-VAHJ, Johnny. Really? Go back to Jump Street, Johnny. You're drunk.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.