Go (Away) Solstice! That Gap Ad vs. Christmas Ads Past

The Gap`s “Holiday” ad this year is beginning to attract some attention, because the lyrics sung over the ad`s frenetic dancers state, at one point, “Go Christmas! Go Hanukkah! Go Kwanzaa! Go Solstice!”

The mention of the winter solstice is unusual for a mainstream retailer, but the ad`s desire to evoke a “holiday” comprised of several different festivals rather than evoking Christmas is depressingly familiar. The ad shows, once again, that the cultural imperative of downgrading Christmas has replaced the commercial imperative of selling.

Of course, it did not used to be this way. Retailers used to try to tap into the enormous good will generated by Christmas by airing ads that evoked Christmas, and no other holiday. One I remember from my youth was the Norelco ad that showed Santa riding an electric shaver–that ad was popular among kids far too young to buy the product being advertised.

There were even ads that were little more than visual Christmas cards, such as this Miller ad from 1977.

What caused this change is not a decline in the number of Americans who celebrate Christmas, which a poll from 2005 indicated was 96% of the population. What caused this change is the War Against Christmas, a War whose existence is denied by most of those waging it but that nonetheless is making retailers pay homage to “holidays”, such as the winter solstice, celebrated by virtually no one.