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


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?

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Resourcer / Junior Recruiter

£15-20k (DOE) + Benefits / Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright R...

Web Designer / Digital Designer

£25 - 40k (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Web Desig...

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments