With Thanksgiving and Black Friday behind us, we slide head-first into the holiday season. There are few advertising campaigns as recognizable as the Coca-Cola polar bear spots. The cute, animated polar bears slipping and sliding in the Artic stole hearts (and sold Cokes) for decades.
And for the first time since 2013, Coca-Cola is bringing back the polar bears on select Coca-Cola packages, including Coke, Coke Zero, Diet Coke, and Coke Life. While the polar bears will grace packages of the the soda, they don’t make an appearance in this year’s holiday TV campaign, called “A Coke for Christmas.” The spot features a teenager as he surprises people in his community with bottles of Coke, saving his last bottle for St. Nick.
Coca-Cola first featured the cuddly bears in a print ad in France in 1922 and used sporadically over the next few decades. It wasn’t until 1993 that the bears made their TV debut in 1993 in the “Always Coca-Cola” campaign. The campaign had 27 spots, which ran globally, appealing to different audiences. In the 30-second holiday spot, polar bears sit down to enjoy the northern lights, much like humans would sit and watch movies in a theater, enjoying a bottle of ice cold Coca-Cola.
The polar bears were a brainchild of Ken Stewart while working at the Creative Artists Agency. He got the idea for the “Northern Lights” spot from his dog, a labrador retriever, which reminded him of a polar bear. Stewart worked with LA-based animation studio Rhythm & Hues to animate the bears using state-of-the-art technology. The whole creative process took 12 weeks to create each spot.
The bears proved to be a hit with audiences and Coca-Cola utilized them in ads regularly until 2013. In 1994, Coca-Cola debuted an ice-luging polar bear in honor of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Polar bear cubs were introduced in a holiday ad in 1997, where the entire furry family goes out to select the Christmas tree, then drags it home.