Top 5 Holiday Ads of 2021

Chris Noth in ‘And Just Like That’ CRAIG BLANKENHORN/HBO

It’s a McKinley tradition to review holiday ads each year and share the best of the best with you. This is a time of year when marketers can really flex their creative muscles. And there are always takeaways and noteworthy patterns within the best ads that speak to the temperature of the overall mood of consumers. This year we found five that are worth taking the time to watch. You may want to grab tissues.

Top 5 Holiday Ads of 2021


One of the most timely spots produced this holiday season is Amazon’s “Kindness, the greatest gift,” with the tagline: “​​It’s the small acts of kindness that have the biggest impact.” A young woman must navigate mental health struggles during the pandemic. A thoughtful neighbor gives a gift that helps (purchased on Amazon, of course). 

It’s smart marketing for a number of reasons. First, the service itself is woven into the ad in a natural way. This ad was clearly created and produced in 2021 after the United States had access to COVID vaccines and was struggling to get back some sense of “normal.” And it should resonate with multiple generations as it shows how easy it is for an older person to buy on Amazon while also showing the connection of a younger person receiving the gift. 

John Lewis

The British department store John Lewis is famous for excellent holiday ads. A past favorite is the one featuring Elton John and his piano. This year’s entry did not disappoint. Conjuring up images of “Stranger Things
and “ET,” a young boy meets an alien whose ship is broken down in the woods. They forge a friendship.

It’s an excellent reminder of how much story can be packed into just two minutes even without dialogue. With excellent creative and a compelling story, all you need is two minutes to connect with your audience.


In this 30-second spot, Etsy puts the cross-generational gift-giving in the capable hands of a little boy. The ad reminds the viewer that if you want something specific, non-commercial, and even handmade, Etsy should be your first stop. It also celebrates diversity and inclusion and the love of family.


Perhaps the most creative holiday ad of 2021 comes courtesy of Coca-Cola. A little boy living in an apartment building is concerned that he has no chimney for Santa to use to drop off Christmas gifts. So he works on building one out of boxes and soon the whole building and neighborhood pitch in. It’s a great ad that helps adults enter into the wonder of Christmas for children and serves as a reminder that ultimately the holiday season is about community and connectedness. It’s also really beautiful to watch.


Spoiler Warning: This ad is a direct response to something that happens in the first episode of the HBO Max show “And Just Like That.” In the episode, Big suffers a heart attack and dies after a workout on his Peloton. After the episode aired, the stock for the company dropped significantly. In just two days Ryan Reynolds and his marketing agency, Maximum Effort, created a now viral commercial featuring Noth and the Peleton instructor featured in the episode (even including music from the pivotal scene). ​​The ad ends with Reynolds quickly citing the benefits of cycling and ending with “he’s alive.” According to the Hollywood Reporter the ad cost around $80,000 to produce and resulted in a $900 million market cap restoration for Peloton. About the ad, Reynolds said: “We try to do these things in a way where everyone wins — Peloton, Chris and the show itself.” Indeed, everyone did win.

In this year’s lot both humorous and celebrity-driven ads were noticeably absent, save for the lightning fast Peloton ad that was created in just two days. All the ad campaigns feature BIPOC actors and focus on the tender moments of the holidays, speak to mental health, and celebrate being able to reconnect with loved ones after not getting to celebrate together during the time of COVID before Americans had access to vaccines.  Perhaps next year will be cheerier, but this year is full of heart.

If you want to see more of our favorite holiday ads you can check out past roundups here, here, here, and here.

by McKinley Marketing Partners