NPR logo Gap Holiday: The Thrill Is Gone


Gap Holiday: The Thrill Is Gone

It used to be that one of the best sources of palatable holiday ads was The Gap. This one was actually the first time many people ever saw Rufus Wainwright, singing "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" for the holiday campaign in 1998. Around the same vintage, there were ads with Luscious Jackson singing "Let It Snow" and with Low singing "The Little Drummer Boy." It wasn't all hipster bands, either — Johnny Mathis showed up to sing "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year."

Gap history and holiday blues, after the jump, and be warned — mute your computer first if you are working around sleeping babies, because The Gap will autoplay its merriment in your ear if you don't...

Gap ads in general were always uneven — compare the hugely influential "Khaki Swing" ad (which, together with Swingers, pretty much brought about the swing-dancing pop-culture boom of the late 1990s) with dumb stuff like "Everybody In Leather" and "Everybody In Cords."

The holiday ads have fared no better. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry did the 1999 ads, but before long, we entered the regrettable Sarah Jessica Parker period, and now we have reached Merry Mixit.

Merry Mixit is a site where you are encouraged to download an application for your iPhone that encourages you to mix your own Gap ad. Seriously.

They've got their own stuff, too:

But just look how...studied it is. I enjoy both Rainn Wilson and Selma Blair in their natural habitats, but when an ad feels this self-consciously whimsical and pop-culture-referenced, you lose the sense that it has just sort of fortuitously occurred. Little hits like that Rufus Wainwright ad, or even "Khaki Swing," come along and seem like a bonus — even the commercials are fun, yay! — but when an ad has this much of a sense of itself as a phenomenon, it's not fun anymore.

Admittedly, however, I am a traditionalist: my favorite holiday ad is still this one: