THERE ARE NO
REAL WINNERS IN
WAR ON CHRISTMAS
Do you have something to say? Send letters and corrections to
firstname.lastname@example.org or to Advertising Age, Viewpoint, 711 Third Ave., New York,
NY 10017. Please limit letters to 250 words
their backs. I am so sick of fundamentalist rightwing
entitlement. This is America, home of the free, people of
all races and religions. Get used to it.
JUSTIN MELI, EVANSTON, ILL.
Not only is the meaning of Christmas not about shopping, it’s
not about exclusion. As a marketer and someone who
celebrates Christmas, I find it ridiculous that my objective
would ever be to marginalize people from feeling like a part
of the holiday season.
News from the frontlines in the War on Christmas this year
shows that the American Family Association, representing the
word “Christmas,” has claimed a decisive victory on the
Randy Sharp, director-special projects at the AFA, said that in
the past five years the group has seen the percentage of
retailers recognizing Christmas in their advertising rise from
20% to 80%. Struggling to find big, national retailers on which
to focus its efforts—or ones that might listen at any rate—the
group settled on Dick’s Sporting Goods. It’s sin? Hosting a
“Holiday Shop” on its website. Within a week of the AFA
announcing it was targeting Dick’s, the retailer gave in.
Though its protests and boycotts verge on bullying and don’t
sit well with us, the AFA has a point. This is, first and foremost,
the Christmas season. The overwhelming majority of those
hitting the stores in late November and early December are folks
shopping for Christmas. Retailers shouldn’t be afraid or
ashamed to call a Christmas sale a Christmas sale—especially if
the entire store is decked out in overt Christmas imagery.
So how did “Holiday” briefly usurp Christmas?
To hear outraged pro-Christmas forces
tell it, it was a craven show of politically
correct thinking by marketers afraid to
offend non-Christians with overt religious
imagery. Never mind that we can’t actually
recall Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus,
Sikhs, Zoroastrians or others demanding
that Christmas be replaced with holiday.
We’d bet on a mix of two other options.
One is that marketers—especially those in
urban areas with more multicultural
populations—simply wanted to be seen as
inclusive. They weren’t excluding
Christians, they were simply trying to be
polite. The other, more cynical
explanation, is that they simply wanted to rope more consumers
into buying. After all, why settle for Christians buying Christmas
presents when you might be able to elevate Hannukah into a
major occasion for Jews? So what if it isn’t one of the High Holy
Days—its proximity to Christmas makes for convenient
marketing. Add in Kwanzaa, and you’ve got a holiday season.
Whatever the reason for the switch to holiday, certain
Christian groups weren’t happy about it. For its part, the AFA said
it wasn’t offended by inclusion—say Happy Hannukah all you
want—but by the generic use of the word “holiday.” Its stance is
that retailers should not profit from Christmas if they refuse to
clearly acknowledge it.
So the troops were mustered.
The “extreme backlash” to generic holiday messaging likely
caught retailers off-guard, said Ellen Davis, a VP at the National
Retail Federation. Now, phrasing around the holidays is much
more strategic. “At this point, it’s a conscious decision. It’s not
just whimsical phrases being tossed around in the marketing
department,” she said.
We’d say that it’s a shame that the holiday—er, Christmas—
spirit has to be reduced to careful examination in the C-Suite, but
let’s be honest: This is marketing. Considering these programs
break during the most crucial buying time of the year for
retailers, execs should be choosing their words carefully.
Ironically, the AFA in winning this battle may be losing a wider
war. By browbeating retailers into replacing Holiday with
Christmas, they can be seen as contributing to the crass
commercialization of a religious celebration. This is something
many faithful Christians have been concerned about for decades
now, watching as one of their holiest days has its soul replaced
with blinking lights, ringing cash registers and Santa Claus.
Put the Christ back in Christmas is their refrain. Efforts by the
AFA and others have done little more than put the Walmart back
GERALD KIMBER WHITE, NEEDHAM, MASS.
I wonder if anyone at the American Family Association is
aware of the sad irony of their fight to defend Christmas
through boycotts of retailers who use “holiday” instead of
“Christmas” in their marketing, through which the AFA
becomes an active participant in the further secularization
and commercialization of Christmas.
AMANDA NETTBOY, NEW YORK
A ‘HOLIDAY’ SQUABBLE IN AD LAND
Messages”( AdAge.com,Nov. 18)
Yes, we should just call it Christmas. Because everyone who
shops is shopping only for Christmas. There is no other
reason they could be shopping there. Certainly no other
holiday they could be shopping for.
Look, I have nothing against calling it a Christmas Shop.
The majority of shoppers do celebrate Christmas. I get it. But
if the store chooses to be all-inclusive, why is that a problem
for some people?
Feel free to pretend this isn’t thinly veiled prejudice if it
helps you sleep better on Christmas Eve.
during the most
time of the year
execs should be
ROBERT PALTOS, PAULUS HOOK, N.J.
Beyond whatever group is promoting the “Holiday Spirit,” it’s
good to see a little reversal by recognizing this is“Christmas”
coming upon us. We’ve become androids to the politically
correct mantra, attempting to marginalize this holiday
season while sticking it to us about all the diversity we
represent. If we subscribe to that very diversity, then the
excitement, joy and recognition of “Christmas” is as
important as all the elements of our diversity.
Marketers should relish in the same diversity that allows
them a continuous field of retail opportunity—no matter what
faith or non-faith adhered.
EU BAN COULD SET PRECEDENT
ROBERT HOOT, MIDDLETON, WISC.
CHRIS DODGEN, DALLAS
There’s nothing I hate more than aligning myself with a
bunch of Jesus pushers, and you’re fooling yourself if you
don’t think that Mr. Sharp’s message has an underlying tone
of complete exclusion. I’m all for tolerance, but I have been on
the “Christmas” side of this war forever, because the only
thing I hate more than exclusion is pandering, and that’s how
I’ve always seen the politically correct term, “holiday.”
The fact is that most people in America celebrate
Christmas. Thanks to marketing in general, it has become so
commercialized and detached from its religious roots that it
shouldn’t bother anyone except maybe the fundamentalists
(what irony!) that we want to call it Christmas. To me, it’s a
joke when we have to live in fear of using commercially
appropriated imagery—”No Santa Claus, that’s too close to
Christmas!”—instead of just calling a spade a spade.
In my eyes, there’s a huge difference between marketing
Christmas and marketing Christ. I’m for the former, but once
these guys win this war, you can bet they’ll begin boycotting
for the latter.
Cigarettes are a difficult product to defend. I have lost friends
and relatives to lung cancer. I can understand the ban on
advertising. But the packaging? Is this really going to stop
one smoker from taking another puff? Is it the packaging
that motivates anyone to take up smoking?
Yet, the most-abused substance, with the greatest cost in
currency, human suffering and death is alcohol. And I’m
pretty sure that’s not going away anytime soon. Nor is the
advertising and packaging of alcohol going away anytime
soon, especially in Europe. Winemakers, distillers and
drinkers would topple governments before uniform generic
packaging would be required.
As a designer, my other fear is the cancerous spread of
Helvetica which would—without a doubt—be the typeface
selected for this generic packaging. That is reason enough to
hope this idea dies.
JEFFERY TRESLLEY, CHICAGO
RICHARD FINDLEY, NEW YORK
What a load of crap. [The AFA’s Randy Sharp] said the
group is not at all offended by Happy Hanukkah messages.
Oh so glad to see he is “not offended.” Politically correct
means considerate and tolerant, something these thugs
wrapped in the flag and religion just can’t abide. So the
sales don’t apply to Jews, Muslims Hindus, Buddhists or
atheists? War on Christmas? Stupid. The AFA wars on
non-Christians. Why don’t they insist the sales prices only
apply to Christians? It’s like those jerks wish you a Merry
Christmas with an angry grin and a baseball bat behind
I agree that this is a tough issue to tackle. But in a way, I do
think that the packaging can drive non-smokers to try it
(impact of color on emotions) and yes, it is a form of
advertising which, according to the article, has already been
banned, so I have to lean slightly in the direction that this
action was justified. Do I think it is extreme? Absolutely. But