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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 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 forming 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.

Table of Contents

Intro150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns
Chapter 1 The Genesis of Holiday Window Displays
Chapter 2 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Spectacle to the Season
Chapter 3 How Coca-Cola Invented The Father of Christmas (Or did they?)
Chapter 4 Budweiser Celebrates the End to Prohibition
Chapter 5 Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Chapter 6 Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife
Chapter 7 Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised
Chapter 8 NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World
Chapter 9 Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation
Chapter 10 Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan
Chapter 11 Folgers Advertises the Intangible
Chapter 12 Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy an Ad Agency
Chapter 13 Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears Humanize Global Warming
Chapter 14 Coca-Cola’s Christmas Fleet Brings Truckloads of Cheer
Chapter 15 M&M’s Stumble Upon Santa –– No One is Left Standing
Chapter 16 Starbucks Red Cups Spark Consumer Salivating (and Controversy)
Chapter 17 Target Keeps it Simple with Their Black Friday Catalog Focuses on Price
Chapter 18 Pampers Silent Night Raises $40 Million for Charity
Chapter 19 Give a Garmin Hits on Travel, Humor and Holiday Stress
Chapter 20 John Lewis Focuses on Storytelling Over Brand
Chapter 21 Macy’s Believe Campaign Raises $10 Million, Involves Schools
Chapter 22 American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local
Chapter 23 Apple Misunderstood Campaign Makes Technology and Family a Priority
Chapter 24 REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition