Monday, January 27, 2020

Norelco Christmas TV Ads

The Norelco Santa Ad Is A Classic Christmastime Memory

Norelco Christmas commercial
Santa's got a brand new... razor!
Once upon a time, the annual Rankin/Bass animated Christmas shows marked the beginning of the holiday season. Well, they still do for many, but they used to truly rule the three television networks around Thanksgiving and the beginning of December. And, during the commercial breaks of those classic shows that the whole family watched after dinner, guess who popped by to say hello?
Norelco Christmas commercial
Well, someone just buzzed into our holiday season...
Why, the Norelco Razor-riding Santa!
Norelco Christmas commercial
Why was Santa riding a... giant razor? Well, there's a story.
Norelco Christmas commercial
I realize this sounds kind of quaint today. However, in the 1970s, any animation was still a novelty, and seeing top-notch stop-motion animation on your new color television set was a cool thing. So, again, why was Santa riding a giant razor? Well, you might well ask, and I'm here to tell you!
Norelco Christmas commercial
A modern updating of the classic Norelco ad using 3D animation.
It was a brilliant marketing job begun by Norelco in 1961 and that ran for 24 consecutive years. Norelco was a company that, among many other things made electric razors. Norelco's job was to convince people that electric razors, which were still relatively new, were cool and better than the straight razors that most men (and women, but that's another story) still used. What better way to do this than to have Santa himself vouch for their usefulness - and right when women were buying their men gifts? And, that is why Santa rode Norelco razors every single holiday season throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Norelco Christmas commercial
To summarize, the Norelco Santa Christmas commercial is one of the most successful spots in advertising history. This Norelco commercial set the standard for all holiday spots. It was in the same league as the famous singing "I want to give the world a Coke" ads. Animation comes in all sorts of venues, not just films or television shows, and the Norelco Santa ad proved that quality animation could be outstandingly effective advertising.
Norelco Christmas commercial
Look, I know some of you are scratching your heads and thinking, a commercial? He's writing about a commercial? I want to avoid commercials! But let's just go with it, okay? These were classic spots. There are a lot of folks with great childhood memories of these Norelco Santa ads which are fused with the good times of the holiday spirit when families spent the season together and all watched the big TV together in the living room! And those were times when you had no laptop or smartphone to watch instead of that big TV set everyone else was watching! I know, right? How could that be? But people watched the shows together and actually enjoyed themselves. Hard to believe, I know, but there it is.
Norelco Christmas commercial
Highlights from the famous Norelco Christmas spot.
The Norelco Santa spot is one of the most ubiquitous but little-discussed instances of cutting edge animation. In fact, the Norelco ads, in a kind of odd reverse feedback loop, actually went a long way toward popularizing stop-motion animation. which had a spotty reputation due to some primitive 1950s and 1960s attempts that looked quite cheesy.
Norelco Christmas commercial
Let's step back a bit in case you are confused, Norelco is the American brand name for the electric shavers and other personal care productions of the Philips Domestic Appliances and Personal Care unit of the giant Dutch Philips company based in Eindhoven.
Norelco Christmas commercial
They adopted this name because, back in the 1940s, another company, Philco, objected that "Philips" sounded too much like their name. So, Philips came up with a new name that sounds suspiciously like it came from Northern Electric Company or some variation on that. The name problem went away many years ago (Philips bought Philco in 1981), but by then Philips had built Norelco into a valuable brand - largely because of the Santa TV ads. So, the name stayed Norelco. Since then, Philips has retained the Norelco trade name in the United States probably in no small measure because of the goodwill built up via the Norelco Santa Christmas commercial. And that, my friends, is a tale of how the tail sometimes wags the dog.
Norelco Santa Christmas commercials have been running since the 1960s, but only hit their stride in the 1970s. During that decade, the Norelco Santa was one of the most advanced pieces of animation anywhere, and not just in television commercials. They took a hiatus for a while but returned in 2011 in computer-generated form. Let's take a moment to appreciate the creative genius who somehow realized that electric razors have a vague resemblance to sleighs and then ran with that idea all the way to the bank.
My personal favorite out of all the ads is the 1971 edition, above, which has snowmen heads turning (including a female snow-person, in deference to who was almost certainly going to be the one buying the men their shavers) and an almost continuous Santa sleigh ride in the background. Later ads focused more on the actual products and less on Santa's sleigh ride - what nerve!
Norelco Print Ad
Back in the day, Lady Norelco was revolutionary. Women have to shave?
The Norelco Santa Christmas ad was the only animation that many people saw every day on television. In quality, the Norelco Santa Christmas ad rivaled the Rankin/Bass holiday specials and, as noted above, often aired during them (Rankin/Bass or some of the people who worked there may have had a hand in making the Norelco spots, too).
Woolworth's Christmas book
Lest you think that Norelco somehow invented commercializing Christmas...
In those days, animation on television was primitive, and it almost never was used in commercials, especially those targeted at grown-ups. Quality animation was not what you would expect to see during that commercial break when it was time to go into the kitchen and fix a quick sandwich. In an advertiser's dream scenario, people actually preferred the Norelco television spots to the actual programs themselves. Many people could not tell if the commercials were actually part of the program or not. That is heaven for advertisers!
Santa Norelco razor
The Norelco ads became increasingly elaborate, with superior animation.
The accompanying Norelco Santa Christmas Commercial jingle to some versions - and it sure was a jingle in different senses of the word! - went: "Floating heads, floating head, floating all the way/Norelco is the shaving gift to give on Christmas day." Apparently, the voice-over was by Peter Thomas (or maybe Art Linkletter, they sounded quite similar).
The Norelco Santa Christmas commercials would end with the deliberate mis-spelling of "Norelco" to “Noëlco,” accompanied by the tag line, "Even our name says Merry Christmas." People "got" corny jokes like that in those days.
Norelco Christmas commercial
Political correctness eventually put a stop to that version of the Norelco Santa Christmas, oh wait, "Seasonal" ad. Those were more innocent and less culturally sensitive times.
Norelco Christmas commercial
Santa taking off on his Norelco razor.
Unbelievably, the Norelco Santa Christmas commercials are still shown in some places today. They do not have the same high profile as once they did but rest assured that Phillips still gets mileage out of its razor-driving Santa. They now incorporate modern technology such as CGI and 3D, but they retain the same old quaint holiday spirit.
Norelco Print Ad
Print advertising tied in with the tv spots in a subtle fashion.
The latest Norelco Santa ad rolled out in 2011. It is called "Santa's New Ride" and fuses stop motion animation with CGI. The stop motion elements for this recent Norelco Santa ad were created by BixPix, while the blend of CGI and the stop motion footage was handled by re-think studios.
Norelco Christmas commercial
It really doesn't look as though Santa uses that electric razor too often...
You may never see that ad, but it is proof that the Norelco Santa ad campaign not only survives but continues to push the boundaries of animation technology.
Norelco Christmas commercial
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this visit down Norelco, uh, Noëlco Lane.
Norelco Christmas commercial


1 comment:

  1. I remember the Norelco ads, and I remember the jingle "floating heads, floating heads", but I have not been able to find copy of the recording.