Capital One’s Disco Santa Delights Viewers
Holiday Night Fever
“Well you can tell by the way I drive my sleigh….”
Take one personification of Christmas spirit and one beloved celebrity. Mix in a homage to one of the most iconic scenes in US cinema history. Add a garnish of perfectly placed product shots. And there you have it – one of the best and most unusual holiday season US ads from one of the unlikeliest sources. In a Christmas commercials list usually packed with retailers and candy brands, Capital One have made an impact with one of the most talked-about ads of Christmas 2023.
The ad stars John Travolta, referencing his legendary role as Tony Manero from 1977’s Saturday Night Fever. Specifically, the scene set to the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”, where Manero strolls through 70s New York City, dressed to kill in the white suit he’ll wear on the dancefloor. But Travolta’s swapped the white suit for a red one – he’s playing a funky Father Christmas, looking slicker than the holiday icon ever has.
Disco Santa shimmies his way past construction workers and food carts, making purchases on his Capital One card as he goes, before winding up in the disco where – after a glass of milk – he wows the dancefloor.
The ad scores 5.3-Stars on Test Your Ad, an exceptional performance and one which puts it high on the list of 2023 holiday commercials. It’s not the first time this year Travolta’s put his library of iconic roles at the service of a brand – in the Super Bowl, he and his buddies from the original Grease film adapted a song for T-Mobile, for an ad which was one of the top big game performers.
But the attention to detail in the “Holiday Night Fever” ad sets it apart from almost all celebrity referencing commercials. This is a labor of love with real rewatch potential for anyone who knows the original, and Travolta’s performance is a perfect blend of disco dancer charisma and twinkly Santa magic. Cultural references are gold dust in ads because they’re such a great way of getting the “broad beam” right-brained attention that helps build brands. Though in this case, the ad’s short term potential – as measured in our Spike Rating – is also Exceptional.
“Holiday Night Fever” is one of the best uses of a celebrity in a Christmas commercial we’ve seen. While they do often feature, famous faces aren’t as widely used at Christmas as at other big advertising times of year, as brands often prefer to tell a new story than focus on a star. By finding such a strong – and very festive – way to use Travolta, Capital One have managed to cut through the rest of festive advertising, start a conversation and get energy from the cultural references they’re using. It’s a move even Tony Manero would envy.