Santa Claus' personal brand, as a modern marketer might say, involves having a round belly and a messy grey beard. It is who he is—and has been this way since Coca-Cola helped popularize the modern version of Santa in the early 20th century.
But the Father Christmas takes on a modern look in a new Audi ad that shows him shedding pounds when he endures a bit of a mid-life crisis after realizing that he can't fit into a sports car at his current weight. The online-only video, by M/H VCCP (formerly Muhtayzik Hoffer) and directed by Craig Gillespie, plugs the new Audi RS 5 Sportback coupe.
Santa catches a glimpse of the car while munching on cookies inside a living room on Christmas Eve. Back at the North Pole after his big day, he begins a workout regime that is painful at first. Pretty soon, he is boxing with elves, jumping rope, doing sit-ups and even passing up cookies in favor of broccoli. He even trims his beard (gasp). His reward, besides lower blood pressure, is a shiny red RS5, hauled in by reindeer, of course, which he takes on a joy ride through the snowy North Pole terrain. Audi's kicker: "Progress is writing your own story."
Santa's weight is not a new topic, of course. For instance, in 2014 CNN article asked the question, "Should Santa Claus still be fat?" The story featured a contestant on "The Biggest Loser," who pledged to continue working as a professional Santa Claus, even after shedding 88 pounds. "The world is going to have to change their acceptance of what Santa looks like," said the contestant, Roy Pickler. "Santa is a role model, and kids don't want to have a role model that's fat."
As National Geographic points out, the original St. Nicholas was a Greek man born around 280 A.D. who "was neither fat nor jolly but developed a reputation as a fiery, wiry, and defiant defender of church doctrine during the Great Persecution in 303, when Bibles were burned and priests made to renounce Christianity or face execution." National Geographic credits 19th Century political cartoonist Thomas Nast with creating the "jolly, chubby, grandfatherly face of this Santa"
But Coca-Cola Co. is largely responsible for the popular, commercialized version of Santa Claus seen across the world today. Coke's red-nosed, rosy cheeked Santa, created by artist Haddon Sundblom at the direction of the D'Arcy ad agency, first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1931.
This year, the U.S. Postal Service recognized Coca-Cola's role in popularizing the Santa image by releasing a series of commemorative holiday stamps featuring Santa Claus images painted by Sundblom starting in the 1940s.
"Coca-Cola didn't invent Santa Claus, but we did—with Sundblom—help shape how people around the world see him," Justine Fletcher, director of Heritage Communications at Coca-Cola Co., said in a blog post about the stamps.