As someone who’s spent a long career in marketing, I’m still fascinated by advertising.

Some of it is shockingly bad, and some of it falls somewhere between engaging and brilliant.

The stakes are high for retailers this time of year, so advertisers pull out all the stops. Ads run early and often.

The biggest promotion is for cars

This one continues to astonish me — luxury car dealers seem to think that everyone has the discretionary dollars to be buying cars for their significant others for Christmas.

They’re creating the expectation that we’ll wake up on Christmas morning, take a quick look outside and see our luxury car with a big red bow on top.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never known anyone who’s ever gotten a car for Christmas.

Follow the advice of the ads and you’ll wake up fat, broke and hung over

Other notable ads are for alcohol and food.

We’ll be dressed to the nines, attending an endless round of galas and events as well as hosting glamorous parties for which we’ll need expensive wine and gourmet food.

Online sales are way up, and I’ve been receiving catalogs from a variety of high-end retailers, including Petrossian, soliciting our dollars for caviar, smoked salmon and other high-end delicacies. I’ve received my big glossy Neiman Marcus holiday catalog and several from Saks.

Advertising is all about the power of suggestion. So if you follow the recommendations of these retailers, you’ll wake up in early January fat and broke, with a giant hangover.

The reality? Real people aren’t celebrating the holidays like those in ads.

Time to slow down and take care of yourself

Years ago, my family and I decided to donate to our favorite charities in each other’s behalf rather than buying gifts that we didn’t need or like.

Besides supporting some very worthy causes, we just eliminated a whole lot of shopping, wrapping and schlepping. There was one immediate benefit: The holidays just got a whole lot easier!

This was our way of getting off the holiday rollercoaster and focusing on the things we loved about the holidays that didn’t cost a dime—holiday music, spending time together, staging ongoing Monopoly tournaments like we used to do when we were kids.

These days, I try to carry on this spirit of the holidays

I try to contribute to something more important than myself.

Just as I used to make Christmas lists, I’m now creating a list of organizations to which I will donate. I’ll identify my budget, then allocate my money across my favorite nonprofits.

Planned Parenthood will be on my list along with an organization that helps save endangered species.

I’m donating to our local heroes, the St. Helena Fire Department, who worked 24/7 to save our Valley during October’s fire.

One more thing

Don’t forget to make time for your friends and for yourself. Have a massage, a long lunch at someplace special.

Catch up on your reading. Slow down to enjoy the holidays.

Contact Janet at 510-292-1843 or jpeischel@top-mindmarketing.com.

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