History of the Coca-Cola Christmas Truck: A Holiday Tradition on Wheels
The Christmas season is filled with traditions, characters, and iconography that’s steadily become part of the holiday we celebrate every year. While some of that comes from entertainment through songs and movies, much of it is purposefully produced for product advertising. Christmas commercials are a nostalgic part of the season, after all.
For automobile fans–and fans of carbonated beverages–the big, red Coca-Cola delivery trucks have become a beloved part of winter. But how did these festive vehicles originate?
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Tracing the Path of Coca-Cola’s Holiday Caravan
While the timeless quality of Coca-Colas Christmas trucks makes it seem like they’ve been around for eons, they actually originated as recently as 1995.
Delivery cars have been a part of Coca-Cola’s identity for the past hundred years, but it wasn’t until recently that they became connected to Christmas.
For December 1995, Coca-Cola debuted its now-iconic TV advert featuring a caravan of red semi-trucks decorated with strands of glowing Christmas lights. While they looked excitingly real in the commercial, these vehicles were actually 40-foot props utilizing over 30,000 bulbs, covered with the art of Haddon Sundblom, and enhanced by computer-generated special effects from Industrial Light & Magic, the studio famous for its work on Star Wars.
With millions of people in dozens of countries watching and re-watching the first “Christmas Caravan” commercial, Coca-Cola knew it had a marketable icon in its hands. In the following years, multiple new ads were made featuring the jolly red delivery trucks. They still make occasional cameo appearances in the soda-maker’s holiday ads now and then.
In 2009, Coca-Cola UK decided to bring the trucks to life and send them on a tour across the UK and Ireland. The effort was such a success that the trucks now go on an annual tour through the area every year, making stops at dozens of cities to share drinks and good cheer. As of 2012, the trucks made 64 stops over a 40-day period, handing out more than 300,000 samples, according to the company’s reports. Last year, a man with cystic fibrosis was even invited to drive one of the trucks to raise awareness.
Today, the merry red semi-truck makes its way across our television screens and even makes real-life appearances in cities across the UK. It is a cherished way to celebrate the arrival of the holiday season.
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