Peter York On Ads: For top production values, you can't beat the first Noël

Coca-Cola

Advertising has a long history. And its own curators and analysts. People who see the Spirit of the Age in an American breakfast cereal ad of 1950 or a triumphalist BA commercial of the 1980s. Some advertisers are positively patrons of the arts. They commission memorable advertising that holds up 30 years later and tells the brand story all the way through (the marketing-speak word is "brand values"; values are hot now).

Lifetime Achievement advertisers have high production values and interesting approaches which remind you who did what first. And like the big films of their periods, a strong sense of what was powerfully aspirational in, say, 1973. Or sentimental. Old advertising doesn't hold it back any more than those films did. Old American advertising, especially, laid it on with a trowel. Still does.

The Hollywood view of Christmas comes across in all those films super- markets sell now, such as It's a Wonderful Life, and all those remade (usually less well) every few decades, such as Miracle on 34th Street.

There are several sub-texts - as we wannabe popular culture scholars say - going on here. First, the Christmas thing itself at the high point of the Golden Age of the East European Jewish movie moguls. Those films were Wasp fantasy culture, re-imagined - and miles better than the dour originals - from Prague or Warsaw. Then there was the family thing. But the brilliant sets, costumes and make-up of those supremely family films were overwhelmingly designed by un-family people, old Hollywood's legion of gay men and women - The Celluloid Closet, the Sewing Circle and the rest. Old Hollywood films aren't camp by accident, because we've shifted our perspective, but because they're absolutely chock-full of gay work. The very stuff that US evangelists see as representing the aesthetics and values of a lost, white-picket-fence America was produced by rootless cosmopolitans, employing leftie writers doing hack work and a bunch of whoopsies and lipstick lesbians who made it look wonderful.

Coco-Cola is a brand with a long advertising history, almost a film studio parade of ads and TV commercials with fashionable themes, current sentiments (the Unicef feelings of "Teach the World to Sing", for instance), and high production values. And a tradition of Christmas spectaculars. Those beautiful animated polar bears, that caravan parade of illuminated lorries. All of it powerful, schmaltzy, and almost beyond criticism. This year they've been down the archive, with a new commercial that's obviously drawn on decades of films, print artwork, old commercials - and a bit of Norman Rockwell.

It's a persuasive pastiche that starts, as you must, on the snow-covered roofs of a dream town - a low-rise 19th-century-ish gingerbread gabled town. A choir aahs away, Father Christmas materialises in the street. Not any ratty Father Christmas but the Father Christmas of pre-war Coke press artwork. The right face, the right silken wavy beard, the right red for the costume. He gives a red-ribboned trad bottle of Coke to a Forties girl looking in a glorious toy-shop window. Then on he goes, crossing little Venetian bridges, bestriding the town from a hill, giving a teenage girl skater a Coke while a 1950s film-device clock goes fast-forward and significant dates shine on to the snow. Come the 1970s he's leaving four Cokes in a milk cradle for a young mother with Karen Carpenter hair. By 2000 there's a grey-haired but radiantly unlined grandmother with her grand-daughter giving FC a Coke.

It's a pastiche of a pastiche, and according to the gnomic strapline, it's "The Coke Side of Life". But do the people at Coke HQ in Atlanta Georgia realise just how weird it is?

Peter@sru.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer / Front-End Designer - City of London

£27000 - £33000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End Devel...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Junior PHP Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Guru Careers: Front End Web Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: Our client help leading creative agencies ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot