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The myth of Santa Claus is one told to children across the world, who drink up the story until reaching an age when they no longer believe he exists. The 1996 M&Ms campaign ‘Christmas Faint’ plays on this idea in a creative and amusing fashion.

The red M&M character is shocked to discover that Santa Claus exists, while Santa is equally stunned at the existence of red and green M&Ms. The short ad concludes with each character fainting in surprise.

The ad engages the audience on two key levels.

First, it plays into the nostalgia of leaving treats out for Santa as a child, an experience common to many in the West. Secondly, the ad introduces comedy as it suggests that the existence of Santa and the red and green M&Ms is equally unbelievable, with a slapstick element to the characters’ fainting.

The campaign has not undergone any particular innovation since its introduction.

Instead, other holiday advertisements have concentrated on different themes, such as in Australia where the red and yellow sweets audition for a part in the Christmas ad, or in the U.S. where the focus is on customizable sweets being handed out at a party.

Despite the lack of innovation, however, the memorability of the campaign has ensured its survival, and it is often rated as a favorite holiday ad.

Similarly to Hershey’s Holiday Bells, this campaign relies on its short length and readily accessible humor to ensure repeatability.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Nostalgia and humor are two of the most effective methods of engaging an audience in advertising — particularly when combined.

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