Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: The First Sign of Christmas We No Longer See Dec10

Share This

Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: The First Sign of Christmas We No Longer See

Nat King Cole’s Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Gene Autry’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.  When I was a kid, we would start to hear these songs way back in August.  No, we weren’t singing them, but we would get to hear them on just about every television break thanks to the long gone tradition of the two minute Christmas record offer commercials.

Just about the last weekend of summer they would start to air.  In most cases, I was still wearing shorts, hadn’t even been to school yet for the new year, and suddenly it was time for Jingle Bells!

I can remember them most as big-time filler during the weekend movies.  Stations could fill an entire two minute break with just one of these commercials.

Long before iTunes and the internet, the only way for record companies to sell their albums was either in a record store (do people even know what those are, anymore), with ads in magazine, or with two minute TV commercials, which allowed viewers to sample the biggest songs in the set.

The Time-Life company was the grand daddy of these record offers.  In fact, Time-Life had a whole bunch of various collections they would sell in these two minute breaks.  Everything from Dick Clark’s rocking hits, to classical music, and even The Mysteries of the Universe book collection!  (We’ll save that one for a future blogumn.)  Simply call that 800 number, add a little extra for shipping and handling, and these babies were on their way to your door!  Towards the end of the year, they would turn their focus on their annual Christmas set.

The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas was launched in 1986 and consisted of 45 songs on two records, three cassettes, or three CD’s.  To entice audiences to purchase the set, the commercial featured happy holiday scenes that will surly have visions of sugar plums dancing in your head.


But, they didn’t stop there.  The set was available for many years before being retooled and re-released as Volume 2 in 2001, but as with all companies who cut back with the times; they cut back on the number of songs, now only releasing 24 of them on two compact discs.

They again re-released the original set in 2002, but the song list was cut to 43 on two CD’s.  The days of the record and cassette had officially come to an end.

But, this wasn’t Time-Life’s only Christmas set.  They released a similar set entitled 50 Christmas Classics in the early 90’s, with a whole new line of commercials, but it never enjoyed the fame of their original offering.

Even the Smurfs had their own Christmas record set.  You can also pick up this beauty on 8-Track!

The Time-Life collections were the most popular selling Christmas record sets for years.  That is until 2001 when The Universal Music Group released Now, That’s What I Call Christmas.

This new set featured 36 songs on 2 discs and included more current music as well as a mix of classic songs.  Volume 2 was released in 2003, Volume 3 in 2006, and Volume 4 in 2010 each featuring 36 new and classic songs on 2 discs.

I must admit, I caved and purchased the original Now, That’s What I Call Christmas thanks to the original commercial.  I used it to set the mood when I had friends over for an impromptu party.  Sometimes, I still put this disc in when I’m driving back to Pennsylvania for my family’s good old country Christmas.

Two major factors have contributed to the fall of the two-minute commercials on TV.  First, commercials these days are getting shorter and shorter.  Advertisers are now favoring 10 and 20 second commercials.  These spots are cheaper for the company to purchase. The buyer can take their budget that was set for a 30 second spot and buy three 10’s and air it in three different breaks.  In the future, you are going to see more and more commercials in these shorter formats not only to save money, but also because our attention spans are shorter and full length commercials no longer have the impact they once did.  Most people quickly flip the channel or fast forward during the breaks, anyway.

Secondly, consumers really don’t pick up the phone and order anymore after seeing an ad with a toll free number to order.  Now, they can simply get on the internet and buy the song for instant download.  That’s also a factor in the death of record stores and compact discs in general.  They no longer have to wait four to six weeks for an item to be delivered.  If a consumer still wants a good old-fashioned compact disc in a hurry, it can be rush ordered from places like  Just like CD’s killed records and 8 tracks, MP3’s are now killing CD’s.  I can only wonder what the next step is.

Last week on F and N, I discussed how the big Christmas toy catalogs have gone away thanks to the Internet, and the two minute record offers have fallen under the same demise.

Thanks to technology another piece of my Christmas past has come to an end.

THE 411

What: Two-minute Christmas commercial record offers

Where: commercial breaks on television

Currently airing: some still air on cable channels, rarely on broadcast, and as late night filler.

JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS: I agree that two minutes is now too long to sell a product on television.  People are more inclined to just flip the channel and tune out, unless the product is something you really, really want.

Record companies need to continue to find ways to make us want to sample and purchase their collections.  iTunes does a great job by letting us audition 30 seconds of a track and decide if we want to purchase it.  That’s definitely a step in the right direction.  To entice us more, I suggest that companies team up with department stores and offer a free track or two as a download from either ITunes or their own websites to sample their collections.  That happens now, but not on a large scale. It needs to be brought more into the mainstream.  Make it easy for me.  I buy $50 in groceries; I get a free track off of the next Now collection.  Why not?  In this economy, everyone is tightening our wallets.  You have to keep coming up with clever ways to get me to spend.

Also, I am a major fan of new technology and love checking out the latest high-tech gadgets.  But, sometimes I would give anything to be a kid again and see these two minute commercials while flipping through a Christmas catalog with that shear moment of excitement that Christmas, is just around the corner.