BOOTLEG FILES 666: “The Norelco Santa Commercials” (long-running television advertising campaign).
LAST SEEN: On YouTube.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: No perceived home entertainment market for old TV commercials.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely.
Every Christmas season, certain programming is dusted off for an annual television broadcast. But for those of us who admit to being a certain age, there is one holiday favorite that always made the December television line-up worthwhile. No, it wasn’t a movie or a standalone special. Instead, it was a simple but effective 30-second commercial for a company specializing in electric razors.
Beginning in 1961 and running three decades, the good people at Norelco sent forth their Christmas cheer and their line-up of products for potential gift purchases via a clever commercial featuring Santa Claus. But these commercials didn’t include reindeer, nor did it feature a toy-burdened sled. Instead, Santa’s vehicle was an oversized top of a Norelco electric razor that doubled as a sled. The fact that the considerably hirsute Santa probably never owned a razor was beside the point – he was in the business of giving and not receiving.
The commercials would inevitably begin with a syrupy instrumental of “Jingle Bells” while a stop-motion animated Santa traveled down a snowy slope while positioned upright in his Norelco razor sled. Some commercials found the razor-sled flying into the air, thus allowing the viewer to see the three circles that in the razor head that housed the Norelco blades.
Santa said nothing in these commercials outside of a faint “Ho Ho Ho” that could barely be heard over the music, but a friendly-voiced male narrator offered a running commentary on what Santa was going to bring for the holiday. As Santa would arrive in an old-fashioned town square bedecked in holiday decorations, the narrator helpfully provided a quick rundown of the various Norelco-manufactured goodies that some lucky person would be receiving on December 25. Norelco focused primarily on its men’s and women’s razors, but as time passed a wider selection of treats were offered for consideration: Norelco-brand coffee makers, shoe polishers, travel irons and blood pressure monitors were highlighted as the must-haves for that year’s Christmas gift-giving.
At the end of the commercial, Santa would ride his sled into the horizon while the narrator enjoyed a cornball bit of humor by insisting that Norelco could be known as “Noelco” because of its value to the holiday season.
Why did this commercial win the hearts of so many people of an earlier generation? For starters, this was the rare television commercial that used stop-motion animation. Via this format, there was a sense of depth that could not be duplicated in cel animation. The winter wonderland that accommodates Santa’s unlikely ride was brilliantly conceived, and Santa’s physical jollity was given a dimension that could not be achieved in standard ink-and-paint animation.
The commercials were also laced with a touch of dry wit. One offering from the early 1970s finds Santa riding in his Norelco sleigh past a community of male and female snowpeople who were taking unlikely advantage of Norelco hairdryers and sunlamps. Into the 1980s, another commercial found live-action Christmas Day gift recipients interrupting their celebrations to look out their windows in wonder as the stop-motion Santa traveled via his Norelco razor sleight past their annual holiday festivities.
Norelco would often arrange for its Santa commercials to air during the classic stop-motion animated Rankin-Bass television specials in December, and reportedly many people assumed that these advertisements were part of the main feature. Over the years, the quality of the animation became more sophisticated – but while these later efforts were more polished, the lacked the analog goofy charm of the original offerings.
In 2011, the campaign was revived to sell the SensoTouch rechargeable 3D razor. Using a theme of “out with the old and in with the new,” Santa jettisoned his old-school razor sled and went zooming about through the sky on this fancy new razor. The CGI animation used in the commercial attempted to duplicate the visual style old advertisements, but the presentation of Santa zooming about like an oversized and overaged Anakin Skywalker on a souped-up flying machine was not quite in keeping with the spirit of the classic campaign.
A number of the Norelco commercials with Santa can be found dotted around YouTube – there is no home entertainment market for old-time commercial campaigns, so this is the only place to revisit the charm of this vintage marketing. If you have a few free minutes this holiday season, check out the happy Santa and his unlikely pitchman life for Norelco’s products.
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