the man who gave us Santa

Mat Kramer writes:

If you’re like me, Christmas only begins when you see the Coca-Cola trucks ('holidays are coming') advert on TV.  That’s when you knew you could start getting excited.  It’s the subject of many a thrilled status update. 

I’ve always loved that image on the back of the truck.  It epitomises everything I think Santa should be.  Big white beard, fat, red suit, rosy cheeks.   Some of you may or may not know that we can thank The Coca-Cola Company for our modern day image of the big guy and credit one man, Haddon Sundblom. 


Before Sundblom's 1930s depictions of the man, Santa was tall, thin and even green.  Sundblom set to work, drawing on the work of the real inventor of modern Christmas, poet Clement Clark Moore, whose 1822 poem A Visit From St. Nicholas – better known today as ‘The Night Before Christmas’ – described Santa as follows:

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow

Soon, arguably the most famous advertising icon in history was born, as Sundblom spent the next 35 years painting the Father Christmas Coca-Cola still uses today.

After his services were no longer required at Coca-Cola, Sundblom took his association with the Santa character to Playboy. Below is his 1972 commission, one of only a few painted covers that the magazine ever published. He died four years later.


This week the 'Inspire Wall' in W+K's offices pays homage to Sundblom on Santa’s 80th Anniversary.  Courtesy of our very own Mat Kramer.

You can read more about Haddon here:

Here is a picture of our aforementioned 'Inspire Wall'.


behind the scenes at Coke / Maroon 5 24hr recording session

Coca-Cola Campaign 1 April

Wieden + Kennedy Global Interactive CD Iain Tait writing in Campaign on the recent Coca-Cola / Maroon 5 project, a collaboration between WK Portland, London, and a number of partner agencies.

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Never work with children and animals – or rock stars trying to write a new track from scratch in 24 hours.  That’s my new life rule.

At least, that’s what I’d have said on Wednesday night, at the end of a 40-hour stretch – a week’s worth of work compressed into a single sitting on one of the most complex, multi-agency, multi-region projects I’ve ever had the pleasure to be involved with.

With the benefit of hindsight, and a half-decent amount of sleep, I’m looking back at what was achieved.  And I feel pretty good about it.  I wouldn’t choose to do it again next week, but I think Coca-Cola, the US rock band Maroon 5 and a bunch of agencies managed to do something pretty special.

It’s obvious why Coca-Cola aligns with music.  Anywhere that teenagers come together to enjoy themselves is a natural spot for the brand to be present.  Music is one of the most powerful of those places, and in 2011 it would be silly to do anything for teens that didn’t have interactivity at its heart.

But Coca-Cola’s involvement in music isn’t a new thing.  In the late 1800s, it used to print brand sheet music so families could gather around a piano and sing.  In the 60s, it asked artists to write tracks on the theme of ‘things get better with Coke’.  Contributors read like a who’s who of music: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, The Bee Gees and more.

When Wieden + Kennedy got involved with the project, the idea of the 24-hour session with Maroon 5 was already in play.  Our challenge was to create an engaging and captivating experience for teenagers, and make it happen.

Our goal was to help Maroon 5 write a track in 24 hours, to give music fans around the world access to the creative process and provide a platform for teens to interact with the band.  It was also to create a tool to enable the band to harness the inspiration and energy of the crowd and execute the whole thing in a way that would work globally.

Did we succeed?  Well, the band wrote a great track from scratch in 24 hours.  We streamed the whole thing in a real-time and authentic way, and we managed to put social interaction into the studio in a way that was visually interesting and worked with the brand’s creative process.  And the live-stream reached 139 countries in 24 hours.

The initial creative concept was that we’d turn the studio into an interface to make fans feel like they were part of the space, and something the band could respond to without having to break out of their creative flow.

We took this challenge to Nexus Interactive Arts/Hellicar and Lewis, and worked with them to create a huge projection-mapped sculpture in the middle of the studio.  We constructed a system which meant we could harness content from social media – and project it in a way that both the band and the event MC, Kim, could interact with using gestures.

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The band’s immediate responses on being introduced to the sculpture were ‘I feel like Tom Cruise in Minority Report’ and ‘This is cool, we should have one on tour.’

The interactive system allowed people to influence the event in different ways, from capturing inspirational Twitter messages and curating the best ones into the space, though to setting up choices that users could vote for using hashtags.  For example, we asked users to Tweet with #james, #jessie or #adam to let us know which guitarist’s performance was best.

The biggest challenge for all parties was the unpredictability of a 24-hour session.  In order for it to be a true reflection of the creative process, we had to be reactive to what was happening – or sometimes not happening – in the space.  It is a testament to Coca-Cola’s bravery and its willingness to take risks that it even entertained such an undertaking – and that’s before you’ve factored in the unpredictability of social media.

There was a point, in the event, very early on, where the team realised that we had to stop trying to ‘direct’ the event in a traditional sense.  At various moments, I resigned myself to the fact that the process was similar to making a nature documentary.  There was no way we could force the whale to jump, but everyone was holding their breath hoping it would.  Thankfully it did.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing for me was how many people were hooked on the slow (and often repetitive) late-night stream – tens of thousands of people around the globe, fascinated by a glimpse into a world where they were part of the real-time evolution of a new piece of music.  At a time when everything is sped up and compressed into bite-sized YouTube-able chunks, it felt like this 24-hour experiment was exotic, different and important.

Iain Tait, Global Interactive Creative Director – Wieden + Kennedy

And now you can download the song created in the 24 hour session for free. Visit here to download your copy of Is Anybody Out There by Maroon 5 featuring PJ Morton.

For the first 100,000 downloads, Coca-Cola will make a donation on your behalf to The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation's Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) to provide access to clean water to thousands of people in Africa. By downloading this song, you will help RAIN achieve the goal of providing at least 2 million Africans with clean water by 2015. To find out more about RAIN, please visit

help inspire a new song for Coca-Cola #withMaroon5

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From 17.00 GMT today, Coke and Maroon 5 are going into the studio to write and record a completely original track in just 24 hours. Lyrics, beats, triumphant flourishes and shredding fretwork can and will be inspired by you, the fan, through social media. At the end of 24 hours, you'll have helped create a new Maroon 5 track to share with the world.

You can join in and follow the event here.

This video features a demonstration of how those submissions will be projected onto the 3D interactive wall and how the band will be able to interact with the content during the 24 hours.

Some more info from the official press relase:

The 24hr Session is part of “Coca-Cola Music”, an innovative new music program from Coca-Cola that will give teens the inside track on the creation of music and the opportunity to view the industry’s leading artists at work.

Streamed live at, and produced by Wieden + Kennedy, the “Coca-Cola Music” 24hr Session will harness the real-time speed, global impact and social power of the web, to create a unique and truly ground- breaking experience for the band and their fans.

“Coke challenged us to come up with a way to enable people everywhere to take part in the 24hr Session. We were really excited about taking an opportunity to fuse together social media and the recording studio. Crashing together the everyday social world of teenagers, and the exclusive and inaccessible world of the recording studio,” said Iain Tait, Global Interactive Creative Director at Wieden + Kennedy. “We’re hoping to create something that feels part video game, part pop video and part reality TV show.”

The studio will be fitted out with cutting edge technology to allow the band to communicate with fans from across the world. The interactions will be centered on a movement based projection system that will stream the thoughts, inspiration and comments of fans onto the studio walls and direct to the band. Rather than gathering around a computer to access suggestions, and questions from fans, a specially-constructed surface in the studio will be the canvas that will enable the band to interact directly with fans.

This unique interactive and real time visual spectacle will be the work of the Nexus Interactive Arts directing duo, Hellicar&Lewis and a world-class team of interactive designers. The use of technology and innovative experiential design will blend the analogue and the digital to create a unrivalled and unforgettable experience>

“This is the most ambitious and experimental effort in music Coca-Cola has ever undertaken. For the 24hr Session, we are deploying and developing new and emerging technologies to allow as many people as possible to be part of the event and gain insight into the creative process that goes into making great music” commented Joe Belliotti, Director of Global Entertainment Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company.
Throughout the 24 hours fans will be asked to send in words, pictures and comments to inspire the creation of the song and will even have a chance to ask questions of the band and help with critical decisions by voting for different options put to them by the band.

Adam Levine of Maroon 5 comments, "The band all remembers when we were younger and making music in our bedrooms, trying to imitate our heroes. To be part of something global like this that gives an insight into what happens behind closed doors is really exciting. We're looking forward to being part of the “Coca-Cola Music” 24hr session and welcoming the world into our creative process."

Activating the brand’s extensive global fan network, the 24hr session will be promoted to over 20million consumers via the Coca-Cola Facebook page. The @CocaCola Twitter account will be used to keep fans informed about what is happening in the studio, invite inspiration and post updates and questions from the band. Also helping to spread the word and encourage participation, bloggers from nearly 20 countries will be onsite to keep their followers informed and involved in the process.

new work from W+K: Chrysler, Coke, Old Spice, Nike

Some awesome new work out of the Wieden + Kennedy mothership in Portland over the last few days. First up: a new Chrysler spot featuring Eminem that premiered in the Superbowl yesterday.

Some awesome new work out of the Wieden + Kennedy mothership in Portland over the last few days. First up: a new Chrysler spot featuring Eminem that premiered in the Superbowl yesterday.

Some awesome new work out of the Wieden + Kennedy mothership in Portland over the last few days. First up: a new Chrysler spot featuring Eminem that premiered in the Superbowl yesterday.

In many ways, this spot is a kind of love letter to the city of Detroit—an acknowledgment that the city has experienced tough times, and that it is primed for a comeback. The script, while recognizing the difficulties the city has been through, reflects pride in what Detroit is capable of and emphasizes the greatness this city has in its DNA. Visually, the spot is set up like a driving tour of the city, highlighting its landmarks and its people. W+K felt Eminem was the perfect person to lead us on this tour because he (like Chrysler) is a Detroit native who has experienced huge success, suffered setbacks and returned stronger than ever. The lyrics to “Lose Yourself” are about that very story. So the pairing of Chrysler and Eminem seemed natural.

Advertising Age said: 'Sure, U.S. automakers have previously tried to convince us that "We are all Detroit" before, but not with creative this captivating. And after a few years of a battered economy, most Americans are more inclined to identify with Detroit than with, say, New York or Sin City, both of which are name-checked here. As the spot says, "We're certainly no one's Emerald City." What starts out as a down-on-our-luck tribute to a broken city morphs into a defiant, we're-back rallying cry faced by none other than Eminem, another broken thing out of Detroit who happens to be staging a massive comeback. Tea partiers and labor unions alike will cheer this one, including the tagline: "Imported from Detroit."'

Two new Coke spots also broke in the Superbowl: 

Also this week, Old Spice and Wieden+Kennedy announced 16-year-old Chris Gatewood is the official Old Spice Super Fan, controlling the release of the next Old Spice ad.

And Old Spice's Super Fan released the new :30 spot titled "Scent Vacation" via his social media channels

And finally, here's a new Nike Free commercial that launched on SportsCenter after the Superbowl.