Santa’s got a brand-new bag – and a smartphone, too – in a seasonal collection of photos for Coke’s global “Taste the Feeling” campaign.
St. Nick shows off his playful side by snapping selfies, temporarily trading in his sleigh for a vintage car, and even letting a furry friend tag along for a jolly joyride – all with an ice-cold Coca-Cola in hand, of course.
The brand brings a touch of holiday cheer to the campaign’s Norman Rockwell-meets-Instagram aesthetic with a look that feels both familiar and fresh, Coca-Cola Design VP James Sommerville explains. The images – shot this summer in Brooklyn, Manhattan and upstate New York by Guy Aroch and Anna Palma – complement Coke’s 2016 holiday TV commercial by celebrating the unsung heroes who go the extra mile to make the season special for those around them.
“We wanted to capture and respect the everyday people who work hard over the holidays to make the season special for their families,” Sommerville said. “So you’ll see instances where family members are working… Mom is wrapping gifts or preparing a meal, Dad is carrying the tree home or putting up the lights, and the kids are helping decorate the tree. And this is hard, thirst-quenching work, so Coca-Cola has a central role to play.”
We asked the campaign’s co-art directors, Sommerville and Coca-Cola Design Director Raphael Abreu, to share their thoughts on the photography, which can be seen in Coca-Cola outdoor, in-store and digital/social media advertising in 120 countries. Here's what they had to say:
“We are celebrating those who work hard to make Christmas special to others,” Abreu said. “Santa is definitely one of these important Christmas workers, and Coke plays the role of the perfect delicious and refreshing reward.”
“Since launching ‘Taste the Feeling’ in January, the campaign has embedded a distinctive visual style that we have also delivered in this seasonal campaign,” Sommerville said. “The colors and warmth of the holiday season allowed us to amplify the contrast between the outside cold and the inside warmth. Our approach works well in this holiday context to deliver strong but spontaneously captured storytelling.”
“In an effort to present Santa in a modern and interesting way, we brought in a small red car for him to sit in. Not a sleigh! Because we felt it would be cool for Santa to have a second vehicle... still red, of course. The size of Santa in a small car made the moment even funnier on set, and the final images you can feel the energy of fun people were having."
“A passer-by in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a very friendly dog was watching us shoot,” Sommerville recalled. “She showed lots of interest, then asked if her dog could be in the photo. So the dog jumped in the car with Santa. This was a very spontaneous and unplanned moment showing Santa with his dog in the car... like they were taking a road trip on his day off.”
“One thing about this work that was very special to me was the fact that we were touching and re-creating Santa… which is huge,” Abreu said. “Not only a big brand icon, but a global cultural icon. During the photoshoot, there was a moment where everyone went completely silent. We all knew we were a part of a new chapter in the long story of this iconic character.”
During the campaign ideation process, Coca-Cola Design worked with a London-based artist named Darren Baker to revisit the iconic rendering of Santa Claus first created in 1931 by Haddon Sundblom for Coca-Cola print ads. “This is a test image with the goal of appealing to everyone through the heritage of this unique painted style,” Sommerville explains, “but in a modern, ‘Taste the Feeling’ context.”
“The project was shot in the summer, so we brought in snow machines to create wintery scenes,” Sommerville said. “While spraying snow and having Santa on set, it’s amazing how excited people got, from the crew to passers-by. Of course, it's because Santa Clause is the real deal, but also seeing him in summertime was a magical surprise for people who were capturing shots on their smartphones. No doubt he was on someone’s Facebook later that day. We love that!”
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