Xtravagantmas: Cars

Posted December 4, 2013, under Inspired Ideas

For children, Christmas is a wondrous, magical time, a feast to all the senses — and most especially: an excellent source of new toys. But once you ascend to adulthood, the ugly truth emerges: someone has to pay for the tree and the decorations and the rich food – and most especially, the toys. That someone is you.

You can’t even relax in front of the TV, because the holiday season is when every company in existence wants you to believe that Christmas will be ruined for your loved ones forever if you don’t buy them extravagant gifts. Considering those loved ones are being exposed to the same advertising, those commercials take on a prophetic tone.

Gifts That Keep Giving (Bills)

Of all purveyors of vehicular product, Lexus stands out for aggressive holiday marketing. Since 1998, their annual “December to Remember” campaign has featured their latest models adorned with comically large red bows.

lexus ad

As a luxury brand, Lexus is obviously aiming at a well-to-do demographic — but the nation’s teenagers and high-maintenance significant others only see people getting cars on Christmas morning.

Our research shows this recurring campaign has had mixed results, with dramatic peaks and valleys year to year. Apparently people have bought cars for their honeys, because what could possibly go wrong with the gift of a long-term major financial obligation slash status symbol?


This is the reaction you were expecting…


…but this one seems far more likely.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Thing is, they may have history on their side. Turns out Lexus isn’t the first company to suggest putting a large, impractical ribbon on a brand-new luxury vehicle. Or more to the point, to use red as a “buy” color.

Red is a powerful color, though it means different things in different countries – red in China is lucky, but in India symbolizes mourning. In the Western world, it signals importance, love, passion, and urgency. 

Consider this 1928 Buick ad. Promising to make Christmas last for thousands of miles, the words “The Gift” practically leap from the page.

Thousands of miles…and 60 monthly payments.

We figure trends took longer to become trends in the pre-Internet age, because the next relevant ad we found was from the 1940s.

Get more of everything! It’s the American way!

Then along came Nash/Kelvinator’s Airflyte in 1951, which did for giant red bows what it failed to do for proper spelling of product names.


It’s possible that another association the color has — to Communism — made red less popular during the McCarthy era, but they couldn’t give up trying to market a major financial commitment as an ideal Christmas gift.

And of course the trend continues to this day, with every major manufacturer rolling out holiday themed advertisements often featuring red vehicles or backgrounds.