KA-CHING-A-LING: Christmas Advertising Highlights 1949-2011, christmas, mylifeinconcert.com

(Xmas#4) KA-CHING-A-LING: Christmas Advertising Highlights 1949-2011

Season’s Greetings from Schlitz.  And Joan from Mad Men (Life, December 1960) .

This is a reposting of a blog entry that was originally published on OpenSalon.com on December 19, 2011. This is the fourth in a series of Christmas-themed posts.

Christmas is the season of peace, good cheer, and jollity … and maxing out your credit card; stressing over what to buy everyone in between bouts of insomnia as you try to recall if you bought Uncle Walt a similar pair of McGregor socks last year; rock’em sock’em parents giving each other a sharp right hook as they fight over the last (insert latest toy fad here) on the shelves while dodging pepper spray; abused, overworked sales staff squaring off against exhausted, overheated shoppers to discern who’s more fed up; mall patrons launching law suits following multi-car fender benders after a downpour of freezing rain has turned the parking lot into a fiesta of black ice …


Yes, there is no doubt about it, Clausfest is truly a special time of year.  And it’s also the time of year when advertisers have traditionally hammered their messages home harder than ever in a fight for those fe$tive buck$.

What follows are Christmas-related ads gleaned and scanned from my magazine collection, spanning a copy of Life  from November 1949 to 2011 edition of Vanity Fair (I’ve also included a few less seasonal-specific ads from this same clutch of publications as well as some of their Christmas-skewed features). There’s also a lot of celebrity sightings among these specimens, both real and imagined (the former would include a 5-year-old Candice Bergen). (Also see KA-CHING-A-LING II and Christmas Advertising: LIFE Magazine, Nov. 30, 1959).

Adverts often say much about a particular culture at a given point in time, with this cache of ads drawn from both general and topic-specific publications from Canada, the USA, the UK, and France. I have grouped the ads together but have split the entry into two foci: gift giving (which items have been singled out as “worthy” from then until now and how they have been flogged and positioned) and the many facets of Xmas entertaining (read: an avalanche of booze ads).

So, pull out the sleigh, ply the reindeer with high-carb energy drinks, and away we go …


A Wondrous Bevy of Consumer Delights

Out DecJan 95 Beverly Center BLOG

You could start your cash hemorrhaging at L.A.’s upscale Beverly Center. You know, I never trusted that Donner — a right bloody snitch. (Out, December/January 1995).

Life Nov 49 Jantzen Sweaters BLOG

Perhaps you and a vacant lovely would look stunningly innocuous in some Jantzen Nylo-Fleece sweaters. I’ll bet he carries that damn mistletoe everywhere during the season (Life, November 1949).

Life Nov 51 Borg Scale BLOG

Which of you ladies out there would be simply delighted to find a Borg Scale under your tree this Christmas? No? Well, the woman in the ad doesn’t look too convinced either. And that’s Madonna, right? (detail below).

Life Nov 51 Borg Scale Madonna Detail BLOG
(Life, November 1951)
CanMag Dec 69 Max Factor Master

I swear my sister had that perfume bottle with the black cat in it, back in the day (Canadian Magazine, December 1969). If these fine Max Factor perfumes — priced from $2.25 to a whopping $12.50! — aren’t going to do the trick, then cut to the chase and …

VanityFair Jan12 Cartier BLOG

… make it a Cartier Christmas … just don’t drop them in the snow like some putz obviously did here. The jewel resetting will cost a fortune (Vanity Fair, January 2012).

Life Nov 51 Hamilton Watch To Peggy BLOG

You really can’t go wrong with a watch. Here, Peggy not only gets a Hamilton, but also a charming note from, er, Jim who is a dead ringer for Dirk Bogarde. Check out his thoughtful prose in the detail below:

Life Nov 51 Hamilton Watch To Peggy DETAIL BLOG

She does all that and all she gets is a lousy watch?! I mean, 2,008 pairs of socks! Peggy: pity her. As for “finding my … rubbers, heaven knows how often!” … well, can you blame her for not wanting to breed any further with Jim the Doofus?  At least he has nice penmanship (Life, November 1951).

Life Nov 51 Helbrose Watches BLOG

Got time for a candy cane? (Life, November 1951)

Life Nov 59 Ritepoint Lighter BLOG

I wish that I could crystalize gift targets as succinctly as Lady Ritepoint (Life, November 1959).

CanMag Dec 69 sheaffer pens BLOG

Gone are the days when a mere “instrument of fine penmanship” impresses, although that three-piece Lady Sheaffer — “a feminine accessory few women own” — is excitement incarnate. I’ll bet even fewer women own a set today (Canadian Magazine, December 1969).

Out DecJan 96 CompanyQ Wreath BLOG

If ever there was an ad that radiated sportswear, this is it (Out, December/January 1996).


Kid’s Corner

Life Nov 51 Tiny Tears Doll BLOG

You better believe it’s “the gift she’ll never forget”: she’ll be investing in a lifetime of post-trauma therapy to help her deal with the horror of being given this soppy, creepy creature from His Redstuff (Life, November 1951).

Life Nov 51 Flexible Flyer BLOG

I loved tobogganing as a boy, and this is one nifty ad for the classic sled. No “Rosebud” angst here (Life, November 1951).

Life Nov 59 MB Games BLOG

I don’t recall any of these games (except Chutes and Ladders, although it was Snakes and Ladders up here) so clearly they had a limited life span, although that Uncle Wiggly Game looks intellectually probing. And remember: always wear a tie when playing Racko (Life, November 1959).


Gifts on Wheels

Life Dec 55 Caddilac BLOG

Damn straight it would be “the Christmas they’ll never forget” if someone gave me a Cadillac, particularly if it’s the pictured model (Life, December 1955).

Life Dec 50 Plymouth Grandma BLOG

You can drive proudly to Grandma’s — via a Norman Rockwell ad — in the new family Plymouth. Scream loudly, Junior: Gran is upstairs trying to grind her sedative into a fine pulp before dissolving it into two shots of Bols advocaat in an attempt to deal with this lot. Hey, isn’t the middle child Patricia Krenwinkel, one of the Manson girls? Better make it a double, Granny (and hide the carving knife and forks) (Life, December 1950).

Life Nov 49 Mobile Winterproof BLOG

Before heading to Granny’s, though, make sure you top up the car with Mobil Oil (Life, November 1949).


For the Home

Life Nov 49 Speed Queen BLOG

I vaguely remember my parents still having a washing machine like this in the mid-60s.

I must say, though, the phrase “Speed Queen” had a whole other connotation in my day (Life, November 1949).

Life Nov 51 Clock Radio Family BLOG

How nice that they got one each of the Stepford Wives and Children for a clock radio ad. Or perhaps Leering Daddy spiked their OJ with a couple of Miltowns (Life, November 1951).

Life Nov 59 Zenith products BLOG

Whaddya mean, Zenith doesn’t have a solid state iPad equivalent? (Life, November 1959).

Life Nov 51 Magnavox BLOG

Here is famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen watching a razor sharp transmission of his puppet, Charlie McCarthy, on this luxurious Magnavox TV, with his wife and daughter. Yes folks, presenting Candice Bergen, age 5 (detail below).

Life Nov 51 Magnavox CB DETAIL BLOG

(Life, November 1951)

Life Nov 59 Motorola TV BLOG

If Magnavox isn’t your brand of choice, you can pump for a Motorola Television FM-AM Radio, Multi Play Changer — here, with a creepy clown on the TV’s “12 ½” BROADVIEW screen.”  It also features a record player that changes and “plays all three record types … 33 1/3, 45 or 78 r.pm.”  I also love how they use the different family portraits for the corresponding product demographic identification (Life, November 1959).

Life Nov 59 RCA Nipper Record Player BLOG

If you want a more basic model, there’s this one from RCA … although, frankly, what I really want is the Little Nipper figure (Life, November 1959).

Life Dec 60 ColHouse LPs Stacked with Inserts BLOG

Once you have all this high end stereo equipment, how about joining the Columbia House Record Club for something to play on them. I’ve spotlighted some of the more interesting selections, including Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which is probably one of the few titles here that still sells. Check out the blurb for The Brothers Four: “Folk favorites sung by today’s most exciting team ‘in sprightly fashion’”  (Life, December 1960).

Face Dec 84 HMV BLOG

I do declare … lose the socks with the shorts and loafers, bub, before heading into HMV (sadly no more here in Canada).  There’s Little Nipper again, albeit in a stylized fashion (The Face, December 1984).

NME Dec 1983 Boots BLOG

Let’s Dance, Kissing To Be Clever, Rio, Thriller, No Parlez … yep, it’s 1983 (… and Synchronicity too) (New Musical Express (NME), December 1983).

Q Jan 01 Woolworths BLOG

Meanwhile, almost 20 years later, titles have jumped from £3.99 albums to £12.99 CDs. As for available selections … Yes! to Moby, that first Coldplay album, and that great Blur compilation, but I’ll pass on that ghastly Santana disc (Q Magazine, January 2001).

Uncut Jan10 Beatles CDs BLOG

I’m still waiting for them to officially reissue their Christmas Flexidiscs, complete with Tiny Tim (Update Note: and they finally did in a box set this current xmas 2017) (Uncut, January 2010).

Vanity Fair Dec 96 Very Special Xmas BLOG

As someone who worked in record retail during the late 1980s and early 1990s, I probably heard this damn thing a few hundred times. It has its moments, but … (Vanity Fair, December 1996)

Out DecJan 98 RuPaul Ho Ho Ho BLOG

… I’ll take RuPaul’s Ho Ho Ho instead (and the tag line is brilliant) (Out, December/January 1998).

Uncut Jan02 Columbia Classic Videos BLOG

Talk about a fast transition … in 2002, these classic titles were “now available on DVD” …. and today DVDs are fading away. I’ll take Vertigo with a side order of The Wild One for starters and Taxi Driver for dessert (Uncut, January 2002).



Of course, a subscription to a loved one’s favourite magazine always makes for a great seasonal gift that keeps on giving year round — just like a social disease only decidedly more pleasant. Why there’s …

Macleans Dec 62 Sub Ad BLOG

… Maclean’s in Canada. See that olive green in the order form below? Cublet and I have noticed that variants on this particular shade always popping up in mid-century colour films and television as a visual code for luxury. You never see it anymore (December 1965).

Macleans Dec 62 Sub Ad Form BLOG

Macleans Nov 03 Subsc BLOG

Almost 40 years later, Gordon Sinclair is gone and Santa is in.  The subscription price has also gone up a few pennies (November 2003).

Uncut Dec05 Lennon Subscription BLOG

John Lennon aptly demonstrates the advantages of subscriptions-as-gifts for the mail-bound gift giver (Uncut, December 2005).

   NME Dec 1983 Santa Cover BLOG

Of course magazines often tie the season in with year-end editions and themes, a few examples being this great Jazz Santa graphic for an NME cover (and whatever happened to Marilyn?) … (December 1983)

Life Dec 50 Xmas Tree Craft BLOG

… Life’s cut-out decorative cardboard crafts that can be made in an hour (as if today’s urchins have that kind of time to spare) …. (December 1950)

Flexipop Dec 1981 Motorhead BLOG

… or this tuly “ace,” festive Motorhead calendar for 1982, courtesy of the fine folks at Flexipop (December 1981).


Part Two focuses on seasonal entertaining.  Be it having a drunken shindig in advance of Santapalooza or having the whole family over on the 25th for turkey and all the fixins (and a drunken shindig), here are 62 years worth of tips that tell you what you need to know about being prepared, what to serve (and which consumables make great gifts), and how to capture it all for posterity.

So, take a deep breath, get out your checklist and let the preparations begin …


The Invitation Process

To begin, invitees must first be contacted.  You can notify the expected guests in a variety of ways.

Life Nov 51 Gibson Xmas Cards BLOG

Perhaps you could do so via a lovely Gibson Christmas Card (Life, November 1951) …

TorontoLife Nov 2006 HP Photos BLOG

…. or you could be creative and make/print them yourself at home.  Note: pictures from last year of Grandma heaving under the Christmas Tree after one too many Brandy Alexanders probably wouldn’t make for the most appropriate festive image (Toronto Life, November 1996).

 Q Jan 98 UK Post BLOG

Whether you make or buy your cards or invitations, you’ll still need to mail them out.  Here, Pete is blackmailing/stalking poor Louise into responding.  Run Louise, run: the 26p isn’t worth it (Q, January 1998).

CanMag Dec 69 CanadaPost BLOG

Also be sure to sure to get everything in the mail on time to avoid that “Christmas Blush” (whoa, that’s cloying).  Hey Santa: this is what the elves are for (Canadian Magazine, December 1969).

Life Nov 59 Bell Red Phone BLOG

Perhaps you could simply call and ask your guests to your gathering.  If you do so, ensure that the colours of your lipstick, nail polish, and top match that of your phone and Christmas cookies.  Also ensure that the phone accomplishes the unrealistic feat of floating in space, ahead of the cookie jar (Life, November 1959).


Remember to Decorate and Be Prepared for Guests!

Life Nov 59 Holiday Sprinkles BLOG

You’ll need to have your place suitably seasonably decorated.  What could possibly say Merry Christmas more than spraying tons of possibly toxic, flammable Holiday Sprinkles over seemingly everything (Life, November 1959).

Life Nov 59 Samsonite port BLOG

You’ll probably need some additional seating, and this Samsonite portable furniture should do the trick.  Somehow, those dresses don’t seem Samsonite-table appropriate (Life, November 1959).

 CanMag Dec 69 Kleenex Holiday Colours BLOG

Don’t forget the purty kleenex in the bathroom and, as one of my redneck nabes calls them, “asswipes.” Perhaps “you’ll have the most radiant bathroom in town” may not have been the best choice of words.  BTW, is that a Barbra Streisand doll? (Canadian Magazine, December 1969).



You’ll of course need refreshments for your guests, and it’s a safe bet that having some brewskis on hand is a good thing.

 Life Beer BLOG

This ad, that I procured as a stand alone page and isn’t necessarily seasonally-targeted, coronates Beer as “America’s Beverage of Moderation.”  I don’t know when I’ll get that chance, but I hope to one day use that tagline in a conversational sentence.  Can I also say how much I’ve always loved the sound of the word “beverage.” (Life, date unknown).

Life Dec 50 Schlitz Cant Wait BLOG

And then there are the less moderate.  You know how the song goes, “What made Milwaukee Famous …”  BTW, the woman in the ad is a dead ringer for an old time actress but I can’t put my finger on who.  Any ideas, dear readers? UPDATE: And in 2023 I finally figured out who she reminds me of: June Lockhart! (see below) (Life, December 1950).

June Lockhart, mylifeinconcert.com

Out DecJan 96 Miller Cat BLOG

Apparently Miller is the beer of choice for those with ADD.  Meowy Claws looks decidedly non-plussed with the drunkenly accessorised Christmas finery (Out, December/January 1996).


Booze, Glorious Booze!

If there is one thing I learned from undertaking this exercise, it’s that Christmas may truly trump the summertime when it comes to promoting potent potables.  I actually had to whittle this section down to something manageable.  However, I’m still pretty blown away that I came across no gin ads in any of the issues.  For shame.

Let’s get started with a round of “You Touch It, You Drink It” with ….



Macleans Dec 65 Smirnoff Don't Be A Scrooge BLOG

The 1960s meet the 1840s (Macleans, December 1965).

Out Dec98 smirnoff better to give BLOG

I’ve tried this mantra myself when wrapping up booze as gifts, and sometimes it even works (Out, December 1998).

VanityFair Jan 96 Stolichnaya BLOG

I love this illustration, although while the illustrator nailed Omar Sharif, his Julie Christie is less successful (Vanity Fair, January 1996).

Details Dec 91 Absolute Season BLOG

I could have done a post of just Absolut ads through the years.  However, since it is my vodka of choice, I’ll include these three favourites (Details, December 1991) …

Details Dec 94 Absolut Stirring BLOG

… (Details, December 1994) …

Out DecJan 96 Absolut Tradition Trainset BLOG

 … and wouldn’t I love that train set (Out, December/January 1996).


The Dark Stuff

Life Dec 60 BW Dogs BLOG

You can have Lassie as long as the iconic Black & White terriers are all mine (Life, December 1960).

Macleans Nov 65 Seagrams VO curling BLOG

This gets my vote as the “Most Canadian” Whisky ad of the ’60s.  It makes me want to go curling … and I don’t even like curling (Macleans, November 1965).

Out DecJan 95 GlenLivet BLOG

Makes you think, doesn’t it?  (Makes me think about wanting to go upstairs and pour a shot of Glenlivet over ice) (Out, December/January 1995).

Vanity Fair Dec 96 Chivas Regal BLOG

Ladies and Gentlemen: the most disconsolate snowman in history (Vanity Fair, December 1996).

Rolling Stone Jan 2010 Jack Daniels BLOG

Especially the “give generously” part (Rolling Stone, January 2010).

Out DecJan 95 remy chgecking BLOG

This ad for Remy Martin is interesting because, take away the bottom paragraph text, it could have run at almost any time from the 1960s onwards.  Whereas most ads date themselves via images, fonts, or messaging, this has a timelessness to it (Out, December/January 1995).


Break Out the Egg Nog and …

Out DecJan 98 Bacardi BLOG

… (Out, December/January 1998) …


… And a Liqueur for After …

 Details Dec 94 Grand Marnier Suite BLOG

Yellow Submarine had the Apple Bonkers.  Is this the Grand Marnier equivalent? (Details, December 1994).


Soft Drinks

Not everyone wants to pony up to the bar, plus there has to be designated drivers (and we’ll need mix, too).

Life Dec 60 Pepsi BLOG

I love the graphics in this one, and also the promotion of the “new, convenient 12-ounce can” (Life, December 1960).

Life Dec 60 Coke Santa BLOG

It looks like Santa learned his lesson from that Canada Post ad up near the top.  And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that there’s more than Coke in Santa’s glass (Life, December 1960).

Macleans Dec 65 Coke Holiday Ideas BLOG

Low-budget crafts are all yours in cartons of Coke (Macleans, December 1965).



Life Dec 50 Chesterfields Crosby Como BLOG

Wowie Zowie, this is a particular favourite.  What a foursome.  I was wondering “Where’s Frank?,” until I remembered that Sinatra’s career was pretty much in the toilet at this point (Life, December 1950).

Life Dec 55 PhilipMorris BLOG

There’s nothing I love more than opening up a Xmas present and having it reek of cigarette smoke (Life, December 1955).


 Food, Glorious Food

CanMag Dec 69 Benoit Turkey Master

Those of us north of the border and of a certain age will undoubtably remember foodie sensation Mme. Benoit.  It looks like Santa’s goose is cooked, as it were (Canadian Magazine, December 1969).

Life Nov 51 Accent Spice Cooking BLOG

I don’t recall this “third shaker” at all but am damn impressed how mom balances that big turkey while wearing those high heels (Life, November 1951).

Life Dec 55 Jello Santa TRUE VERSION BLOG

Ah, bless (Life, December 1955).



A good cup of coffee is often been needed to help wind down a night of drunken debauchery or to help perk up the de-perked.

 Life Dec 55 Coffee Safety BLOG

Speaking of designated drivers … a visually terrific ad that communicates its message well (Life, December 1955).

Life Nov 51 Silex Santa Master

When all these ads are lined up, it does appear that Santa is quite the player.  “Good coffee!  I want it! And that’s why I’m here!”  Sure, der Redstuff with the leering gaze.  Many would believe you.  I am not among them (Life, November 1951).

Vanity Fair Dec 06 Starbucks BLOG

Grandma’s certainly playing hard to get with that squash recipe.  Time to dangle a Brandy Alexander in front of her to get her talking.  And would someone alert them that the cat is looking to be let in (Vanity Fair, December 2006).

Life Dec 50 Coffee Sing Pretty BLOG

This one just begs for a caption contest: “Sing pretty Joe — they’re ______”  The detail below appears to confirm that Joe and the gang did indeed meet the required “pretty” benchmark (Life, December 1950).

Life Dec 50 Coffee Sing Pretty DETAIL BLOG


Home Movies & Photos: Reliving the Christmas Magic

Why of course you’ll want to capture every, single, solitary moment of Christmas magic to relive again and again and again and again.  Who wouldn’t want that visual reminder of Grandma’s post-Brandy Alexander heaving or cantankerous Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Lance’s tuneless, non-harmonized  caterwauling of “Mele Kalikimaka” as the family plants uncomfortable smiles on their faces.  Here are some of the ways to make those key moments forever immortal in your family history.

CanMag Dec 69 Kodak Products BLOG

I’m wondering if my parents may have seen this ad at the time as my dad had that very movie camera (and I now have it for creative projects) and photo camera too.  We had a slide projector as well, but I don’t recall it being the model featured here.  Luckily, I don’t remember my mother having that yellow jumpsuit either (Canadian Magazine, December 1969).

Macleans Dec 65 Kodak BLOG

I like the emphasis on “every happy moment” (see Myrtle and Lance, etc.) (Macleans, December 1965) .

Life Nov 51 Kodak Film Yrself BLOG

The thing about cameras is that they’re not only for Christmas, but for year round and the whole family.  Why, with a camera in her hands, l’il Susan here could be a budding Lina Wertmüller for all we know (Life, November 1951).


Spending Time With Those Subscriptions Once the Celebrations Are Over

With your targeted gathering done, perhaps you could spend some downtime reading through some of those subscriptions that were suggested in earlier, and read up on some of their inevitable holiday features on topics such as …

Q Jan 99 Spctor BLOG

Q’s look back on the making of the Phil Spector Christmas Album (you’ll get no argument from me regarding it being the “Greatest Christmas Album Ever!” claim) (Q, January 1999) …

Q Jan 05 RnR Xmas BLOG

 … “20 Things You Need to Know about Rock & Roll Christmas,” with a festive Marilyn Manson (Q, January 2005) …

RockFolk Jan 06 Keith BLOG

… interviews with Keith Richards featuring a clever integration of his name (Rock & Folk, Janvier 2009) …

RockFolk Jan 06 Elvis Santa BLOG

… or simply a fetching picture of Santa and Elvis (Rock & Folk, Janvier 2009).


Finally, here’s this: The late, great Bea Arthur as Mrs. Claus in one of her many commercials for Shopper’s Drug Mart here in Canada, back in the 1980s.  

… And for those of you who aren’t Christmas lovers, directly below is a ditty for the decidedly less festive and, for my money, the best anti-Christmas tune ever: “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)” by Miles Davis with Bob Dorough on vocals, from 1962.

I’d like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Swell Solstice, or whatever it is you choose to celebrate: just be sure to have a good one.

Other Christmas-Themed Entries:

Xmas #1: December 1986: My 3 Xmas Weekends From Hell Snuggle in for a heartwarming seasonal tale of being a store manager and having to endure armed robberies, flouncing Christian employees, slap-happy Santa helpers, and looting mall rats. Merry Christmas to one and all!

Xmas #2: Twisted Seasonal Sounds: A John Waters Christmas The Pope of Filth curates what is probably the most “unique” collection of seasonal tunes on the market, filled with redneck children singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, ornery’n’tourette-inflected C&W, Theremin-driven toe tappers, and other joyfully questionable sonic Christmas delights.

Xmas #3: Ludicrous Seasonal TV: Star Wars Holiday Special George Lucas once said of this special “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.” Read here and find out why.

Xmas #4: KA-CHING-A-LING: Xmas Advertising Highlights 1949-2011 A collection of seasonal ads from my magazine archives, taken from a variety of international publications spanning 60 years. Which items were singled out as worthy Christmas lucre from then until now, and how were these retail treasures flogged and positioned? And what do you need and need to know about seasonal entertaining: the booze, the turkey and fixins, the cards, the decorations, and so on, as well as how to capture it all for posterity.

Xmas #5: Christmas Advertising: LIFE Magazine, November 30, 1959 This entry zeros in on the Christmas-related ads featured in a single issue of LIFE from November 30, 1959. What was being proffered up as gifts and seasonal accoutrements during those final weeks of the 1950s, and how were they being depicted and sold? These specimens bark out the rigidity and restrictions of the day as the epoch of the 1960s was about to commence.

Xmas #6: I Believe In Father Christmas, or: Brown Shoes Don’t Make It We all find out the truth about Santa Claus at some point.  Here is my story of crestfallen discovery and it involves … my dad’s shoes.

Xmas #7:  VariousArtists’ 12 Days of Christmas Viewing A dozen alternative xmas-y eyeball suggestions that you may wish to consider, even if a few of them take liberties with the concept of being Christmas-related (and two look forward to New Year’s Eve).

Xmas #8:  VA-Tel presents 20 OUTTASIGHT XMAS SENSATIONS! Here’s some fun’n’hip shakin’ musical accompaniment for the annual Santafest.  This splendiferous list mostly avoids the obvious or overly solemn, and should get the gang groovin’ at your seasonal shindig while helping to mask the sound of partygoers vomiting in the bathroom after too many Baileys … or drive everyone swiftly out the door, depending on the circles you run in.  (A playlist of this terrific 20 can be found over on my YouTube channel, VATV).  Featuring the Ramones, Jingle Cats, Judy Garland, Wild Man Fischer, Sharon Jones, RuPaul and many more.

Xmas #9: KA-CHING-A-LING II: More Christmas Advertising Highlights 1956-2003 Another instalment of Christmas-themed ads from throughout the decades featuring entries from LIFE, People, Playboy, The Advocate, Esquire, Canadian Magazine, New York Rocker, Macleans, and more.

Text © 2011/12/17 VariousArtists

Comments From the Original OpenSalon.com Two-Part Post:

Original Comments for Part One:
I would give ANYTHING for the Motorhead calendar and I LOVE the cardboard Xmas tree.
VA, your wonderful post brought back many memories for me! I still have several of those ’50s and ’60s Flexible Flyers here and if someone gave me that vintage Cadillac I’d be like you–that’s one Christmas that would never be forgotten! Another thing that comes out of many of the ads is how many illustrators were kept employed creating the artwork. As you know, photography took over in a big way later on–I’d say sometime in the ’60s is when I noticed so many ads with photos instead of illustrations. The ads also are fun to study as they not only show changing fashions but also shifts in society. The ads shown appear to be consisting entirely of people from the white race. Thanks for a great photo essay and I look forward to the future installments, plus I will look at your previous posts of magazine-related subjects!
Fascinating. Loved the Beverly Center ad especially for the subliminal message. The Bergen family one was priceless.
you don’t have to be a plastic babydoll to shed a tear of joy for this wonderful post
a surefire hit for the stocking or under the tree
thank you

VA, I have to dig deeper into your post – I was already laughing at Jim & Peggy – goddamn Jim makes us the rest of us look like insensitive boors and failures as husbands.

The fact is I’m also captivated by the retropictures….very very pretty indeed…that worries me – I must be susceptible to evil advertising mind control.

Plus, I want my goddamn Motorhead christmas calendar right frickin’ NOW! (my umlaut button doesn’t work). Good luck, Santa, trying to steer Lemmy – you’re getting into a wreck for sure…

MZ: So, are those hints for Xmas gifts you want from me this year?

Designanator: It’s interesting that you bring up ad illustrations vs ad photography, as an illustration also has the advantage of depicting stylized perfection. Of course anything can be done with a photo today but a few decades back there were less tweaking options for photography whereas the illustration could create the flawlessly engineered signifier to embody whatever message was trying to be put across. Mad Men also comes to mind, with Sal complaining about how illustrators are phased out in favour of photography.

One of my big fascinations with advertising is that, as you point out, they demarcate shifts in society. Indeed, particularly with the early ads, they are all about having as white a Christmas as possible. I noticed that many of the more contemporary ads in both this entry and Part Two coming up tend towards highlighting graphics rather than people, and I am now wondering if that is part of the reason why: to make the message more applicable to wider demographic pool.

Glad you enjoyed and do come back for Part Two on Thursday.

Boanerges1: I didn’t immediately put 2 and 2 together re: that ad with the Bergens. It was when I was piecing the scans together in PhotoShop that it hit me that the little girl must have been Candice. I checked her birthdate, and, voila! There’s a great cigarette ad coming up in Part Two featuring Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Bob Hope, & Arthur Godfrey.

Damon: I’m glad one doesn’t have to be a babydoll — that Tiny Tears is one unsettling toy. Thanks for stopping by.

Chiller: Yeah, that Jim is something alright: a complete tool. Indeed the retropics are “pretty pretty” (I borrowed that phrase from John Waters’ “Female Trouble”). Years ago I took an advertising course that was given by a former ad exec, and I relayed to her that I would often remember certain ads on TV or in magazines that I appreciated visually but often forgot which product it was flogging. She chuckled and told me, “advertisers hate you.”

Motorhead are coming up down the line in my concert/memoir series. Umlauts will be included. I may have a few one-degree-of-separation stories about Lemmy, but won’t spill them here.

Bathroom scales for Christmas!?! Well, several years ago a local retailer was running Xmas ads for a nifty style of wrench. So the sexism is toned down (reversed even?) but the obliviousness remains.

And that sweater guy, creepy. Probably doing time for something sordid nowadays.

Nice note from Jim. At least it acknowledges the gender split and the unheralded work. And as an ancillary benefit it likely serves to keep her in her place for another year.

Then there’s the triple threat lighter. It goes the Mackenzie brothers one better, as all they could come up with was a pack of smokes.

Tiny Tars? Now there’s an Xmas gift that’s sure to brighten anyone’s day. No matter how bad things look to you, it’s got to be way better than what that caterwauling doll must face.

And a Caddy for Xmas? Truly, what more could life have to offer? Certainly not that Plymouth that the family below had to pile into. Junior is already trying on Primal Scream for size.

My mother signed up for one of those Columbia record deals. That’s where I got my taste for Broadway classics like My fair Lady, Oliver and my fave, Camelot. There was another that’s sadly gone astray. Julie Andrews singing old music hall standards like Don’t Go In The Lion’s Cage Tonight Mother Darling, Who Threw The Overalls In Mrs Murphy’s Chowder and Burlington Bertie From Bow. A true treasure.

And where in hell did they get Lennon shilling? I’m sure that by the time it came out he realized that he didn’t need those few extra quid that badly.

Great collection Various and nicely put together. You’re absolutely right that the ads of the day reveal a great deal of the culture, even if it’s only the culture that the powers that be are trying to shape everyone into.

Abra: The ad for the Borg scale … I couldn’t/can’t believe it. I had to keep going back and looking at it to confirm it actually existed. Also, I’m married to a Star Trek fan, so Borg has added humour for us. As for Jim and his list, he, like many Jim’s of his day, probably took it to be as natural as Wednesday following Tuesday.

LOL, re: the McKenzie Brothers. We just had some friends over for a pre-Xmas dinner last night and I had an iPod shuffle playlist of different Xmas music on … when Bob & Doug’s 12 Days of Christmas started, our guests demanded it be turned up for its duration.

The Julie Andrews album sounds fun. Was that during the same era when she was making “Thoroughly Modern Millie”?

As for Lennon, that ad is for the great UK music/media magazine Uncut, so it’s an archival photo used a few years back. It’s a great shot, and I’ve never seen it elsewhere.

Finally: If anyone out there wants to treat me to that Caddy in the ad for Xmas, simply drop me a line and I’ll give you delivery details …

Various, that Mackenzie Bros 12 days is priceless. I put it in a blog last year. “Then there’s a couple of Saturdays and Sundays…and the two mystery days.”

The Julie Andrews album came out in 1962, a few years before TMM. Here’s a link that tells you a bit more.


It’s really worth hunting down. Almost a half a century later, and at lest 40 years since I last heard it, I can remember every cut.

This material girl covets Candice Bergen’s yellow mary janes. Fantastic collection and commentary–a real seasonal treat! Is there ribbon candy to go with it? (r)

Abra: I read up on the album via the link and assume you are referring to “Heartrending Ballads & Raucous Ditties.” The title that grabbed my interest has to be “She Is More to Be Pitied Than Censured.” I’m trying to imagine how that one scans to a melody.

dirndl: And get a load of Candice’s ankle socks! Funnily enough, now that you mention it, I realize I don’t have any ads in either part for chocolates or candy.

Q : So, are those hints for Xmas gifts you want from me this year?
A: Yes. They are.
Nicely done. Great Columbia records ad!
Thanks Kevin. I spent a chunk of time pouring over all the titles on that one. I remember seeing ads for those clubs all the time when I was a kid.

“a vacant lovely “? Was that really used in advertisment then? There are many other gems in this post. I enjoyed it thoroughly.


This really brought back some memories. Woolworth’s! Wow, that used to be where CVS stands now on Lexington and 42nd Street. Korvettes, Alexanders, B. Altmans, Gimbels–all gone. Great ads and commentary. I am looking forward to Part 2. Rated.

Fusun: No, “vacant lovely” is my description, but boy do I ever wish it *had* been used. Glad you enjoyed thoroughly.

EricaK: There were so many ghosts going through these ads … Hope you got to see Part 2.

Original Comments for Part Two:

Ok, first, the vodka: that 60’s Smirnoff ad is most sexy. Now for the Santa’s sleigh ride with the giant vodka bottle, I’d like you to photoshop Lemmy with his reindeer ears into it…..

More comments to follow…

I enjoy browsing old print ads from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Annie Sprinkle, huh? Someone’s been diving into back issues of NatLamp’s Photo Funnies….

Anyway, thanks for another trip down memory lane.


Another great trip through the annals of Xmas advertising Various. Remarkable how well-dressed everyone was at home. By those standards June Cleaver really wasn’t much of an exaggeration.

No shame in actually writing in the 00 before the 26p. Just another excuse to shun that creep.

And you won’t have to be vacuuming those Xmas spinkles six months from now. They just kind of melt like the snow.

I remember colored toilet paper as a yute. Didn’t it eventually get banned for being majorly polluting?

The mystery actress could be Marjorie Reynolds, best known for Holiday Inn.

Haunted by remorse if you don’t buy Smirnoff’s? That’s as subtle as how Michelin uses the “Buy our product or your kids will die” trope.

That guy getting the volume discount on Frangelico did remind me of an Arghentine guy I worked with. I was heading back to the U.S. a few weeks before him so he asked me to call SIX different women to let them know he’d soon be arriving. I told him that was too many and that I’d call two and ask each of them to call two others. He withdrew his request.

That sure ain’t DIET coke in Santa’s glass.

Cigarettes for Xmas? So that’s where the Mackenzie Bros got their idea, though they couldn’t afford cartons. And you’re right about Frank. His godfather had yet to make the decapitated horse delivery.

Ahh, MSG. It really brought out the latent MSG in everything.

I have a Christmas CD that I bought in the UK in the late 80s. Don’t have it at hand so I’ll PM you the details. But I included two of its cuts in a blog last year.



ChillerPop: It is a sexy ad, although she’s got her work cut out for her with Scrooge. The photoshop idea sounds hilarious. As it is, I’ve barely had enough time to post this stuff up, although that great mash-up image may be yet to come.

Littlewille: Me too!

Boanerges1: Actually, I’d forgotten about those! Glad you enjoyed the trip down memory lane … hopefully you rode down it on your motorcycle.

Abra: I just knew there would be someone from your work past who would fit the bill – and that was a great reaction strategy, lol. I wasn’t aware of Marjorie Reynolds, but I just looked her up and you’re right! I checked the carols and I’ve heard both, and especially love the Bob & Doug one. As for more straight up seasonal songs, I believe you’re a fellow Kate Bush fan so here’s hoping we both get to hear “December Will Be Magic” at least once or twice in the next few days. I’ve got a long drive tomorrow so we’ll be hauling out the holiday favourites on my iPod playlist – classic, contemporary, and sometimes ridiculous – for the ride down.

VA, thanks for another wonderful stroll back in time! A bit more photography is apparent in several of the ads as contrasted with far more illustrations in the last post. The Absolut series has had a good run over the years and I was not subscribing to enough magazines that carried the ads to collect them, unfortunately. Honorary Mention going out to your scanner for faithfully scanning the ads in such a crisp manner, too!

Great Post, VA.

Must’ve taken hours to put this one together. I vividly recall your previous Weekend from Hell too. I’m bogged a bit down these days with obligations (mostly good ) but not much time to read. Some great advertising here mirroring the times. The Pepsi one really shows “Joan” from MM. I think I even remember the coloured toilet paper. And the beer one? Amr’s Beverage of Moderation? Since when … :). I’ll be back here a few times. Thanks for your work.

Shlitz for Christmas, now that sounds like a blue Christmas! Great collection of ads!!
Another great collection, and good spot with that floating red wall phone! Five years ago I could have nailed that mystery actress, but too many brain cells are going down the drain. Definitely a B actress. Dorothy Malone? And yes, love the coffee ad with the cars going around the saucer. You have a sense of good taste mingling comfortably with the kitsch. Tricky balance; not everyone can do it 🙂 Cheers, V.A.!
Very fun post. I actually remember some of those ads….

designanator: Glad you enjoyed, and I’ll pass your kind words along to the exhausted printer that is sitting next to me (and Paint Shop Pro, too, for helping me piece the larger ads together, with varying degrees of seamless success).

Scarlett: I was thinking that too, re: the Pepsi ad, how it reminds me of that red dress that Roger loves so much. This indeed has been in the works for a while, and as I have bumped into holiday madness, I began to rue the day when I started this as I’ve tried to paste these two up in spare moments amid drama, good and otherwise. Hope the obligations continue to be good for you … we hit the road tomorrow for London, and I’m so looking forward to spending time with family and friends, and lots of yummy treats and libations.

Kevin: It’s not so bad if you’ve had enough of them!

dirndl: Dorothy Malone also fits the bill (see Abra’s suggestion of Marjorie Reynolds) but it’s still not quite who I was thinking of. Her face almost reminds me of a young Zasu Pitts but with blonde hair … but that’s still not it. I’m thinking more of a starlet than a character actress, and I suspect you’re right that it’s one of the Queen B’s. And I take the good/kitsch balance as a big compliment. Cheers to you too!

Jane Yukon Cornelius Smithie: I could pour through vintage ads all day too. And how nice to hear from a character from one of my favourite Xmas specials 😉

Sheila: That is too cool that you remember some of the ads. Glad you had fun viewing them.

OMG this is Editors Pick material. How very delightful and so nostalgic.I love them all but the absolute mouse hole made me chuckle the most. Best to you and yours over the Holiday Season.
Great collection.. Whatever happened to coloured toilet paper?
Happy Christmas!
Well done!!

Algis: Let’s be happy it’s just an “ad” mouse and not a real one.

Linda: When did colour toilet paper “leave the building” as it were? Coming across that ad made me wonder when that trend ended … I can’t really recall. Thanks Linda and a very merry xmas to you!

Man, do I love those old ads! This was a trippy walk down memory lane. Good times…
Thanks, lots of love and time went into making this!

lschmoopie: Glad you enjoyed. It was quite a trip going through big chunks of my magazine collection.

dianaani: Well, I can really get lost going through old ads and mags.

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