Santa Gets Serious

Coca-cola's merry Santa Claus is how most of us imagine Father Christmas

Coca-cola's merry Santa Claus is how most of us imagine Father Christmas

It’s no surprise that at this time of year brands from all kinds of industries will commandeer the picture-perfect image of a rosy-cheeked Santa Claus to bring a vague ‘festive’ cheer to their campaign, and encourage emotional buying.

While it is somewhat formulaic, in our stressful lives seeing something charming and traditional can be very effective, and I’ve noticed several brands tapping into this ‘nostalgia’ for a mythical perfect Christmas.

However, one brand using Santa as their campaign lead have done completely the opposite – rather than seeing a content and happy Father Christmas, we see a desperate and sad looking Santa in their 2013 campaign.

Greenpeace’s Santa: an altogether more serious character

Greenpeace’s Santa: an altogether more serious character


His home is melting.

If the team behind this campaign are right, then it appears we have more care for a fictional character like Santa than we do for the state of our planet.

Greenpeace have created a microsite which features a video appeal from Santa himself (below). During it a dishevelled and desperate Santa (Jim Carter) is frustrated that World Leaders have ignored his pleas to save the North Pole and threatens that Christmas may have to be cancelled.

Alongside the website and video, there are tube panels and outdoor ads featuring the headline “The North Pole is melting. You’d better believe it”.


The ad clearly has people divided, on the day I viewed the Youtube video there were almost as many ‘dislike’ votes as ‘likes’ and fierce debate in the comments.

My view

I’ve been considering for a few days whether I think the campaign is successful for Greenpeace, and in my opinion, the video portrayal of Santa is a little extreme – sometimes less is more. I have seen comments that suggest the video is an attack on the traditional Santa Claus that children know and love, but I have to disagree. This video is not for children (it’s even marked 12A): it’s a provocative way to get adults to consider a problem that’s far from home in a way that will resonate with them at this time of year.

The tube adverts are a clever, attention-grabbing way to highlight the issue. I think they work well to educate people about this environmental risk, but I’m not sure the emotive connection will work on people to make them donate, after all, Santa is fictional.

YouTube: viewers are split

YouTube: viewers are split


As a piece of advertising, I admire what Greenpeace have done, they have created a piece of disruptive advertising that commands attention and has sparked numerous conversations online, and no doubt offline too.

Cara Bendon