Coca-Cola has officially kicked off their Holiday campaign for 2023 with the release of this year’s Christmas ad.
Complex UK was invited to cross the Arctic Circle into Santa Claus’ Village and view the advert for the first time, during a three-day trip to Rovaniemi, Lapland. This year, Coca-Cola has all but strengthened their longstanding affiliation with the image of Santa Claus following its initial use in Christmas adverts dating back to the 1920s. Each year is even more iconic than the last, from the comeback of the Polar Bears in their 2018 Christmas Rules ad to one of the first introductions of the Coca-Cola Christmas truck in the ‘90s.
For the 2023 edition, the soft drinks brand has handpicked British singer-songwriter Celeste to sing an adaptation of the 1974 song “I Could Be Santa Claus” from the Rankin/Bass Productions television special, The Year Without A Santa Claus.
“When you start hearing Celeste sing the song, you feel that you’re being elevated, which is one of the core essences of Coke,” says Islam ElDessouky, Coca-Cola’s Global Head of Creative Strategy & Content. “We always like to uplift people and refresh, and we wanted a voice that will give us warmth and this inner feeling that comes really from the heart.”
As the ad rolls on, viewers see the unravelling of a city where hundreds of Santas walk the street, helping and supporting each other along the way. After witnessing the portrayal of a world with ample amounts of kindness and generosity, we begin to understand the true message behind the film: that we all need a bit of encouragement to activate our inner Santa.
“I think the beauty of Coke as well is that we do more than we say, so I think when we decided to go that way, we felt that it’s very much inherent in the brand values and the brand culture,” Islam states. “We’re trying to inspire and remind people to bring the inner Santa in you and that we need kindness. I think it’s a timeless message; we’re just using Christmas as an opportunity to let people know that.”
The ad marks the first part of a longer-lasting campaign, which also includes two Christmas short films—one of which stars Hollywood A-lister Octavia Spencer—an extension of the brand’s AI platform, Create Real Magic, and a digital Find Your Inner Santa quiz.
“There’s a moment in the two short films where you really see the spark of an act of kindness that makes an inner Santa come out and the story changes beautifully,” Islam adds. “Similar to Celeste, similar to anybody who touched this project, the main brief was that we inherently believe that we want to give kindness, generosity, and goodwill. By the way, when Octavia Spencer mentioned ‘the world needs more Santas’, that was not scripted. That was her because she believed in this story, this narrative, and she joined in.”
You can watch the official Christmas ad at the top.