The Evolution of Thanksgiving Advertising

In attempting to write a blog post about the best thanksgiving ads of 2014 I quickly realized there are no ads worth talking about this year, or for that matter, the last few years. A quick Google search reveals every big brand out there is focusing all of their efforts on pushing their sales. It seems that Black Friday and Thanksgiving sales have taken over the Thanksgiving advertising space.

It was not always this way. Take a look at these ads from the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. There was a level of charming festivity to their calls to action. They have smiling people enjoying family time and eating turkey.

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By the late 80’s and 90’s, the print ads are still quite festive and cheerful. The main message seems to be “enjoy our product with your friends and family this holiday.”

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Fast forward again to 2010 and beyond and the holiday of Thanksgiving is all but an afterthought in advertisements. Black Friday and Doorbuster deals have taken over the holiday advertising sphere and it is evident in every large brand’s communication. Take a look at the holiday advertising from 2013 around Thanksgiving.

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No one is talking about family time, or cheer or anything about being thankful. It’s purely about the specials, and which store can be open earliest in the morning and offer the best deal on an iPad. The entire thing has spun out of control a bit with us trampling each other down to get the most savings possible.

Last year, 2013, brands took it up a notch in the United States as they were allowed to open their doors on the holiday Monday. The weekend sales records hit the 2 billion dollar mark as people flooded into big box stores across the United States to gobble up the endless deals.

As an advertiser, it saddens me that all creativity and brand voice is lost at this time of the year, not only are brands encouraging people to buy, buy, buy instead of hang out with their families, they are doing it in such an uninteresting way. If the brands are going to steal Thanksgiving at least make us laugh while you do it!

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