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A Research Report on Creating the Perfect Magazine Advertisement for Coca-Cola’s Christmas Ads

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A Research Report


Creating the Perfect Magazine Advertisement for

Coca-Cola’s Christmas Ads



Memorandum of Transmittal

      Coke had been a forerunner in the beverages industry. It has the world’s best advertisers and creative minds. In fact, in 1931, it had created one of the most influential advertisement- the Santa Claus image during Christmas. The advertisements were so popular, Santa Claus is often associated with Coke. Thus, in the company’s continued quest to look for fresh ideas from students, the management had decided to give fresh advertising students a shot at developing a new concept of Coke’s Christmas advertisement this year.

The team had came up with a preliminary research that covers the analysis on then improvements and ideas that may be helpful in crafting a new magazine advertisement for Coke’s Christmas presentation. As such, we seek the help of our advisor in determining the problem areas that might arise and the suggestions to improve the output of this research.

This report showed that Coke maintains its reputation as one of the most popular brands in the world. Still, it’s Christmas commercial with Santa Claus remains to be very effective. However, the evolving market has dictated some data that may no longer apply in the old Santa Claus commercials. For instance, children has lesser tendencies to believe in Santa Claus than it was two decades ago. Thus, the impetus of Coke’s commercials may entail minor shifts in its presentation and style in terms of its presentation and slogan making. 



This article explored the evolution of Coca-Cola’s magazines commercials specifically targeting Christmas. The Coca-Cola Company developing a Santa Claus that would be both realistic and symbolic was one of the most revolutionary and most popular advertisement ever made. 

The result of the advertisements on Coca-cola Christmas advertisements indicate that metaphors may aid adult and children's recall of advertised content. Nevertheless, we conclude that metaphors in advertisements have no advantage over literal equivalents in terms of recall. Thus, the Christmas magazine advertisements of Coke needs to be freshen up in terms of its slogan making and its presentation of Santa Claus.



Anyone who has looked at old ads of Coca Coala may have felt familiar with the experience of strangeness or historical distance. Conversely, someone may glance at these old Christmas ads of Coke and experience instead a shock of recognition, an awareness that the ads' appeals to the people, at their root, entirely familiar. Here, the initial sense of age proves superficial, and an underlying continuity emerges as the dominant impression.

When we look at ads over time, the examination can focus on content or style or both (Messaris 1997, p. 209). Whereas ad content consists of verbal statements of attribute possession and visual depictions of objects, people, and settings, ad style consists of the method or manner by which that content is expressed. The essence of the distinction is that the same content, such as a particular brand attribute, can be expressed in multiple ways. For example, an attribute can be claimed with lengthy body copy or a pithy headline; likewise, an object can be depicted close-up or from a distance, alone or as part of an assemblage.

Ad content, as described here, should not be confused with either information or brand information per se. Style can carry a great deal of information, as has been argued by semioticians, art theorists, and literary critics (Scott 1994). Moreover, consumers can use style to infer properties of brands. For example, consumers may consider that products appearing in ads that use a matter-of-fact, plain-spoken style and a simple font are inexpensive and everyday, whereas products appearing in ads that use an embellished, grandiloquent design are expensive and fashionable. Rather, the usefulness of the content/style distinction rests on the intrinsic separation between what is said about and shown with the brand versus how it is said or shown.

A rhetorical perspective emphasizes the importance and persuasive power of ad style. Thus, whereas a diachronic investigation focused on advertisements themselves could, in principle, examine either content or style, the present study focuses on changes in style. Previous research has tended to focus on changes in content (Messaris 1992) and left opportunities to identify stylistic choices not yet described or given theoretical interpretation. From a rhetorical perspective, an advertiser's style decision represents a choice from among a set of available persuasive tactics, and it is the potentially dynamic nature of this choice over time that is of interest. A diachronic study of this type has the potential to reveal important changes in how advertisers craft their appeals, given the constant underlying constraints and opportunities posed by having a two-dimensional surface on which to arrange pictures and words.

Ads in magazines were selected for examination in this study; throughout the time period, magazines were an important advertising medium, constituting 8.4% and 8.7% of all national ad spending in 1950 and 1999, respectively (McCann-Erickson WorldGroup 2000). In addition, the two-dimensional physical character of magazine ads did not fundamentally change during this time; ads throughout the period are generally the same size and rely primarily on photography (Pollay 1985). Another advantage of magazines is that, though most are national in scope, many titles are targeted toward specific audiences and can be examined on that basis.

Method of Research

This article explores the evolution of Coca-Cola’s magazines commercials specifically targeting Christmas. This evaluation shall be the basis of our proposed magazine commercial that shall improve, freshen and innovate the previous magazine advertisements of Coke. Moreover, we presented a creative, catchy and substantial content of a magazine advertisement that develops and enhances the corporate image Coke had established over the years.

This article shall use the method of historical analysis in magazine advertisements proposed by Smith and Lux (1993). Our focus is on the ways the rhetorical strategies used in Coca-Cola magazine ads during Christmas season that evolved over the last decade. Generally speaking, rhetoric pertains to the method or manner by which persuasion is attempted (Ong 1982). Rhetorical strategy also comprises specific stylistic devices (e.g., metaphor, rhyme) that may be used to attract the attention of consumers, provide pleasure, and evoke elaboration of the message (McQuarrie and Mick 1996). A focus on rhetorical strategy guides our inquiry into aspects of advertising that have changed versus those that have remained constant over the time period of the study.

A primary motivation for undertaking an examination of ads from decades past is to gain the kind of perspective that only comes from distance. That is, we are unlikely to grasp the distinctive characteristics of contemporary advertising unless we have something against which to compare it. Ads from many years ago offer a unique perspective on the ads produced today and may suggest new avenues for creating magazine brands that may appeal to a wider audience (Pollay 1987). Consequently, identifying changes in ads can potentially illuminate ways in which consumer response to advertisements has changed (McQuarrie and Phillips, 2002). In summary, the goal of this paper is to gain a more complete understanding of the range of possibilities for persuasion by examining changes over time in the rhetorical strategies used by advertisers. 


The Coca-Cola Company developing a Santa Claus that would be both realistic and symbolic was one of the most revolutionary and most popular advertisement ever made.  In 1931 the first of the now-famous Sundblom portraits of Santa Claus appeared on posters and in magazines advertising Coca-Cola.

Not surprisingly, Coca-Cola's influence on Santa Claus has been less of a creative leap than a homogenizing force. Before Sundbloom's paintings graced millions of U.S. billboards (during the 1940s, Sundbloom created over half of Coca-Cola's billboard art), there had still been some variation in Santa Claus' image. Many illustrators and artists, for example, preferred using the traditional Christmas colors of red and green, or even brown furs, when drawing jolly, old St. Nick. But by the time Coca-Cola was finished carpet-bombing the planet with its vision of Santa Claus, there was no doubt what Santa Claus looked like: He looked like Haddon Sundbloom, who used himself as a model for many of his later Coca-Cola paintings. 

Analysis of Results

Two decades ago, Soldow and Principe (1981) put forward the following interesting hypothesis: When an absorbing article in a magazine is read, it is unlikely that ads separating parts of that article will be noticed when the reader flips through the pages to find various points of continuation of the article. On the other hand, when a magazine is casually glanced through--e.g., in a waiting room--advertising that separates editorial parts is much more likely to be attended to.

The coca-cola Christmas magazine advertisements primarily targets  is a concrete manifestation of metaphors in magazine advertisements in terms of its style and creativity in presenting the content of the ads. Metaphors abound in advertisements aimed at children and youth

The result of the advertisements on Coca-cola Christmas advertisements indicate that metaphors may aid adult and children's recall of advertised content. Nevertheless, we conclude that metaphors in advertisements have no advantage over literal equivalents in terms of recall. Perhaps before a metaphor can serve to enhance the memorability of an ad, the consumer must make an association between the metaphor and the advertised product. In other words, the metaphor must become a representational act connected to the advertised product.

Another speculation is that an association is formed through repetition; that is, through repeated exposure a metaphor becomes associated with a particular product. The implication for advertisers is that they must be selective in choosing a metaphor and then continue to use the metaphor throughout an advertising campaign. The advertising of Coke is a good example of how multiple exposures to metaphors might increase the likelihood that the consumer will make a link between the metaphor and the product; the rainbow is featured in both the advertisement and the packaging of the product.

In support of that conjecture, some evidence indicates that product symbols aid young children's memory of advertisements, especially with multiple exposures to the magazine advertisements. Perhaps people several exposures to an advertisement before the metaphor becomes associated with a particular product. In short, a metaphor may enhance memory for advertised copy provided that the metaphor functions as a symbol for the product, and multiple exposures to the advertisement might be necessary before the metaphor can serve as a representation of a specific product.



Publicity--throwing a spotlight on the advertised brand-is an inescapable function of effective brand advertising. As such, we review three aspects:

1. How advertisements publicize the brand

2. How creative publicity functions through bringing out or refreshing memory traces for the brand

3. How advertising acts as publicity, not as persuasion

Some advertisements like that of Coca-Cola announce something new, e.g., a price-cut or a new brand. The most heavily advertised brands like Coke or Nike are known to billions and have been for years, yet they still advertise. Awareness may, however, be subconscious--not knowing explicitly that one is aware--especially with an item of no particular relevance to the recipient. The information may even be left unprocessed in the mind, although repeated exposures can lead to more conscious noting.

Publicity often does not seem to be trying to persuade consumers to change what they feel about the brand. It mostly only seeks to have consumers feel, think, and remember something about the brand at all. Some people, therefore, speak pejoratively of "mere publicity.”

Most advertisements do not seem to feature or imply strong selling propositions but "mere talking-points" (visual or verbal), i.e., creative and impactful ways of referring to the brand to help bring it before the public again. The following examples illustrate this, even for what may appear to be a "Hard Sell" approach.

1. Proclaiming the brand. Many advertisements (including billboards, T-shirts, and sponsorship) just feature the brand's name or current slogan distinctively:

"Coke Is It"

It has been suggested that the banner "Coke Is It" tells the consumer that Coke is popular, with-it, and the genuine article. But "Bloggo Is It" would not say all this for Bloggo. "Coke Is It" therefore does not attach "popular, with-it, and original" to Coca-Cola. Instead, it lets consumers attach or re-attach any such prior associations of their own to the brand, once the advertisement has reminded them of Coca-Cola again (which is what the advertising can do). The small print in an advertisement is rarely read (or read again). But its mere presence can add tone and gravitas (or clutter) to the "Here I Am."



McCann-Erickson WorldGroup (2000) "Advertising Spending Reports," http//, (May 3, 1999 and June 2, 2000).

Mcquarrie, E. and Phillips, B. (2002) The development, change and transformation of rhetorical style in magazine advertisements 1954-1999. Journal of Advertising, Vol. 31.

McQuarrie, Edward F. and David G. Mick (1996), "Figures of Rhetoric in Advertising Language," Journal of Consumer Research, 22 (March), 424-438.

Messaris, Paul (1992), "Visual Manipulation: Visual Means of Affecting Responses to Images," Communication, 13, 181-195.

Messaris, Paul (1997), Visual Persuasion: The Role of Images in Advertising, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Ong, Walter J. (1982), Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, New York: Methuen & Co., Ltd.

Pollay, Richard W. (1985), "The Subsidizing Sizzle: A Descriptive History of Print Advertising, 1900-1980," Journal of Marketing, 48 (Summer), 24-37.

Pollay, Richard W. (1987), "Insights into Consumer Behavior from Historical Studies of Advertising," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 14, Melanie Wallendorf and Paul Anderson, eds., Provo, UT: Advances in Consumer Research, 447-450.

Scott, Linda M. (1994), "Images in Advertising: The Need for a Theory of Visual Rhetoric," Journal of Consumer Research, 21 (September), 252-273.

Smith, Ruth Ann and David S. Lux (1993), "Historical Method in Consumer Research: Developing Causal Explanations of Change," Journal of Consumer Research, 19 (March), 595-610.

Soldow, Gary F. and Victor Principe (1981), "Response to Commercials as a Function of Program Context," Journal of Advertising Research, 21 (April), 59-65.




Gancgadharan, SP. Have a Santa and a smile: The image of the red-suited Santa that saturates our culture every December comes from none other than Coca-Cola. Available at Retrieved November 25, 2003.


These are among the first Coca Cola magazine advertisements on Christmas.






This is a sample photo of Santa Claus in Coca-cola’s magazine advertisement.

Coca-Cola's Santa Claus Coca-Cola's Santa Claus Coca-Cola's Santa Claus
















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