Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy an Ad Agency

Kunle Campbell

Hershey’s Kisses have been a popular confectionary since their introduction in 1907, and by 1989 they were the 5th most popular brand of chocolate in the U.S., with sales topping $400 million.

In the same year, their ‘Holiday Bells’ advertisement was released.

At only 15 seconds long, the ad shows ten of the iconic teardrop –– or bell –– shaped sweets ringing out the tune of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas,’ with an eleventh conducting.

At the end, one of the bells rings out frantically before appearing to wipe its brow.

How this ad came to be is a short story in defying your boss.

John Dunn was the Hershey’s Chocolate brand manager in 1989, and the company was working on a new marketing campaign for the Kisses. Ogilvy Mather, the advertising agency of record for the brand, was working on the project and had come up with a concept utilizing tabletop stop-motion animation and CG product photography.

The ad was created with time to spare before the holidays, and on a flight out to San Francisco, Dunn asked two other creatives, Carl Willat and Gordon Clark to come up with a different approach –– without the approval of his boss or the financial backing of the company.

Focusing on the whimsical and relatable, Dunn’s non-commissioned ad won over his boss and viewers alike.

The commercial has aired annual since 1989 –– continually “ringing” in the holiday season.

The decision to portray the sweets as bells is also slightly reminiscent of Coca-Cola’s Santa Claus campaign. Each brand shares easily recognizable characteristics with the Christmas feature with which it is being associated — whether it’s color or shape — and thereby forms an association in the viewer’s mind.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Sometimes the simplest ideas can be the best — produce a short, whimsical but memorable campaign that can be appreciated by anybody.