Lexus's 'December To Remember' Sales Campaign Turns 20 But People Still Aren't Gifting Cars

Illustration for article titled Lexus's 'December To Remember' Sales Campaign Turns 20 But People Still Aren't Gifting Cars
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Perfect fluffy snow, a surprised love one, a giant red bow. The ‘December To Remember’ ad script is familiar to all by now and it should be after twenty holiday seasons. The campaign is back again this year, but the numbers indicate that buying stock in Big Big Red Bow might not be a winner.


Lexus is widely regarded as the driving force behind end-of-year car ads that are less about clearing out the lots and more about the impression of getting a new car.

Or, to be more precise, giving one. If you think back, I’ll be you’ll remember that the ads tend to focus a lot more on the givers of new cars than the recipients or the cars themselves. And that’s by design.

In a press release, Lexus explained that in creating their initial holiday ad campaign back in the late ‘90s, it was gift-giving rather than gift-receiving that made the most emotional impact:

The research also revealed a key insight: one of the most treasured holiday memories is the gift-giving moments. And it’s not just what we give our loved ones that excites us, it’s the reaction we get in return when a loved one opens our gift. The act of giving is as important to us as the gift itself.

And while the sentiment behind gift-giving might be nice, there’s little evidence that the campaign has driven many sales to people intending to put a big ol’ red bow on an RX350 for their partner (or an LC500 for anyone for that matter).

Last year, a Texas Lexus dealer told the New York Times that cars bought as gifts only make up around fifteen percent of his December sales. Despite the atmosphere of the ads, this small number of sales might indicate that most buyers know that cars make less than ideal gifts.


That’s what a number of industry analysts told Marketplace this week in a segment commemorating the ad campaign’s second decade running. According to them, getting a car as a gift often doesn’t shake out. If you’re going to be driving something, you’re probably going to want some input on what it’s going to be, right? After all, cars are often for the whole family, and the “recipient” just might be on the hook for part of those monthly payments too.


But while cars might not make the incredible gifts they appear to be on television, there is some suggestion that the year-end advertising blitz does get people into new cars. Marketplace also reports that new car sales rose 2.2 percent in December 2018 over the month prior. That’s important for dealers looking to clear out some of their old inventory before new models start rolling in come the new year, but it’s hardly enough to drive up demand for those huge bows. Unless you’re selling to the ad studios dreaming up next year’s holiday cheer, I guess?

Max Finkel is a Weekend Contributor at Jalopnik.



You would be surprised how many units we move in late December that are gifts. Usually it’s Dads and Husbands making little Bella/Ethan a very happy kid or shutting up the wife for a week. But my favorite car as a gift story was in 2015.

I had a regular customer who was a homebuilder that was absolutely wiped out in 2008. He had a 2007 Tundra that he perfectly maintained instead of buying a new one. (The Tundra was now up to 320k miles) His wife brought in her car for maintenance but found me for a favor. She had lost her job during the great recession and decided to go back to school. A master’s degree and a great, six-figure job later she was getting a company car.

She wanted to trade in her car to replace her husband’s Tundra. Okay, good luck with that. He had rebuilt his business and had more work than he could handle. But, he was gonna keep that truck until it died. She was adamant that she and the kids just wanted to show how much they appreciated his many, many sacrifices. He brought his truck in for scheduled service the next week and we got him. The service writer called to let him know that his truck was ready.

He comes in with the family and the writer pulls in the new Tundra and hands him the keys. Of course he says that’s not his truck until he notices the ladder rack and toolbox are his. (I had all of his stuff swapped over) His wife finally tells him that her car is not “in the shop" and this is really his truck. That was a good day. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. It's not always the douchebag in a turtleneck getting something nice.