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Sparking Convo: The Cycle of Holiday Advertising

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Now that we’re entering the 4th quarter of 2012, those of us that look forward to the holidays start thinking about the upcoming festivities that we may participate in. One of my favorite holidays of the year is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving brings back memories of seeing friends, family, and feasting on delicious food, often cooked with love. Being in advertising, one can’t help but think about holiday advertising, and the perceptions created by it, in regards to Thanksgiving. Advertising for just about all mainstream holidays often follows a similar path. First, there’s the build-up in pre-holiday advertising, advertising on the actual holiday and post-holiday advertising.


With Thanksgiving, much of what we see in advertising is conjured up images of what the holiday means, how one should experience the holiday, or just straight up calls to action to catch a holiday sale. As of late, I’ve been noticing that these advertisements seem to appear earlier and earlier, as each advertiser tries to get a leg up on the competition, and the consumer. I don’t know how it affects the average consumer, however I often find myself saying something like “Awww man. It’s only August! Really?!” The onslaught of advertising continues as the holiday approaches, we are bombarded with ads for weekend sales with exclusive “member only preview” days before it starts (but obviously open to everyone), turkeys and pumpkins adorning supermarket circulars and idealized “slice of life” ads on television with the perfect Thanksgiving scenes.

Thanksgiving Day advertisements push food products, football games and Black Friday deals. Advertisers go into overdrive, leading consumers into the next buying frenzy that is Christmas shopping, which starts the next day. As we chew on Turkey and stuffing, anyone planning to buy presents for their loved ones can’t help but feel the urge to rush off to their favorite department store to get on line for Black Friday deals advertised on television. I remember last year, my older brother and cousin eagerly rushed off at 10pm to go to Wal-Mart to participate in the Black Friday sales, and they weren’t disappointed. They came back shortly after 1am with Blu-Ray players and Xbox games under their arms. Mission Accomplished!

Post-Thanksgiving advertisements often see a transition directly to Christmas advertising, or, more recently, ads on what we could do after we’ve scarfed down all that holiday food. What better way to burn off those calories hustling around the local mall on Black Friday for amazing “door buster” deals? Black Friday advertising totally overshadows the Thanksgiving ads, as if they never existed, and the spectacle of Black Friday and holiday shopping in general then overtakes the following weekend. Let’s also not forget the recently instituted “Cyber Monday” that has become another sales landmark since the early 2000’s.

I have heard that the holidays are often the most stressful time of the year for many Americans. I wonder sometimes how holiday advertising might affect people’s perceptions of what their holiday(s) should be like, and what will be expected of them. Do we all dream of perfect Thanksgiving scenes with the family around the table smiling around a huge turkey? Do we get depressed when we are alone with nobody to spend the holiday time with? Do we dread seeing parents and other relatives during the holiday? Do we even remember the core values of the holiday? Though none of the commercials we see on TV, Print, Radio, Online, etc. deal with these aspects of the holidays, whatever our collective reality is, I hope that people can clear all the messages coming in from all sides and remember that Thanksgiving, and thus any holiday, is for remembering and honoring what is most important in life. As long as you do that, in my book, you can go out and buy all the stuff your little heart desires.


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