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Advertisers strive for memorable holiday spots

Got your Stompeez yet? If not, it's too late. The rainbow-colored children's slippers, shaped like puppies, unicorns, or alligators, with mouths or eyes that open and close, are sold out.

Got your Stompeez yet?

If not, it's too late.

The rainbow-colored children's slippers, shaped like puppies, unicorns, or alligators, with mouths or eyes that open and close, are sold out.

That's a fact that Sherri Hope Culver, a Temple University scholar who studies the impact of advertising, regards with a certain professional admiration.

The endless holiday rotation of Stompeez TV commercials apparently did its job, enticing kids to crave an odd, previously unknown sort of footwear and parents to plunk down $19.95, plus postage and handling.

"That's a slam-dunk success," said Culver, director of the new Center for Media and Information Literacy at Temple. "There's a reason advertisers spend the millions of dollars they spend."

Yet even the purchase of something as simple as a pair of Stompeez holds complication, she noted.

"From the advertiser's perspective, the goal is to sell a product," Culver said. "From a parent's perspective, and a kid's perspective, it's about choices. If you have five pairs of slippers in the closet, and you're buying another pair, maybe that's not right for you."

Ho, ho, ho.

'Tis the season to move product, slippers, shoes, and everything else, so red-and-green-hued commercials are dominating the airwaves.

Holiday sales - the 61 days in November and December that cover Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa - accounted for 19 percent of total retail-industry receipts last year. For some companies, it was 25 percent or even 40 percent, according to the National Retail Federation.

This year the federation projects holiday sales to rise 2.8 percent, to $465.6 billion. That means that in two months, American consumers will spend a sum roughly equivalent to the gross national product of Norway.

To get their share of that money, companies strive to create memorable ads.

One of the best-liked spots this year is the Hallmark commercial in which a soldier, far from home, unwraps a recordable storybook - and hears the voice of his young son reading a Peanuts Christmas tale.

The soldier chokes up - and so does everyone watching.

One funny spot is the HBO ad where an elderly woman unwraps a gift from her teenage granddaughter - a complete-season set of the show True Blood.

"It's this show about this crazy town in Louisiana filled with sex-crazed vampires," the girl excitedly tells her puzzled grandmother.

The tagline: The perfect gift for almost everyone.

On the other side are commercials that are memorable for the wrong reasons.

Does anybody want to see another Lexus tied with yet another big red bow? Or spend another moment with the Target Lady, who treats shopping as though it were an Olympic event?

Culver, an assistant professor in the Department of Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Mass Media, has her own favorite non-favorite this season: an advertisement for Barbie Printable Hair Extensions, a toy that enables little girls to design, print out, and clip on hairpieces.

"It's fun, creative, customizable, and, on the other hand, it's a hair extension," which is an expensive adult product, she said. Also, the ad subtly suggests to young girls that "the hair you have is not good enough. You should be doing other things with it - changing the color, changing the look, that's what big girls do."

The Center for Media and Information Literacy is a hub for initiatives involving the study and use of local and national media. Its expertise includes issues surrounding cyberbullying, gaming, privacy, surveillance, and social networking among children.

"The sole purpose of a commercial is to be memorable enough to stay in your brain, so that you will act on it at some other point in time," Culver said. "More than any other media, a commercial is designed to stick in our head in a way that we like."

The best spots tap emotions of love, frustration, understanding, nostalgia, evident in classic commercials that people remember from years ago:

The Campbell's soup ad where a snowman creeps up the front walk and into the house, then slowly melts, revealing himself to be a boy once a bowl of steaming chicken noodle is placed in front of him.

And the M&Ms commercial where Santa Claus and a walking, talking M&M bump into each other under the Christmas tree - and both faint at the realization of the other's existence.

"As adults, we think we're not affected: 'I know they're trying to sell,' " Culver said. "If you laugh, cry, if you're moved, it's making its point. It's putting a little notch in your brain somewhere."