It was huge, it was very red, it had the numberplate ‘Santa 1’ and it filled the arc to bursting.
The Coca Cola truck, a feature of the company’s Christmas advertising since 1995, popped into Bury St Edmunds yesterday as part of its tour of 46 locations around the country and it started attracting selfie-snappers even before it was fully set up.
But by 7.45pm, arc staff had to go to the end of the queue in School Lane to tell people they would not get to the truck by the 8pm closing time.
Colin Roberts, arc manager, said today: “We knew there was going to be a lot of interest, but it exceeded our expectations by miles.
“We believe we had in excess of 40,000 people come through the arc yesterday – it’s about double a normal Thursday for this time of year.”
Families could get their pictures taken with the truck, and many were prepared to queue in the rain for ages for that. Byron Burgers’ staff were even selling take aways to people in the queue.
Colin said: “The queue started to form about 20 minutes before they started at 12 o’clock and by one went as far as Carluccio’s and Byron.
“But when the schools turned out it did a dogleg down School Lane and stayed there until quarter to eight.
“I’ve been in shopping centres for 20 years and have never seen a response like that to anything and, in the main, it was incredibly good humoured.”
He said he met people from as far away as Colchester who had come to see the truck.
“It’s got to have been good for the town and brought new people in,” he added.
However, the truck boosted the late night shopping traffic around Bury so much that some commuters complained that just getting out of the upper floors of Parkway multi-storey took 40 minutes.
The Coke ad campaign featuring conoys of trucks and called ‘Christmas Caravans’, was dreamt up by the agency W.B. Doner in 1995, using Star Wars special effects firm Industrial Light and Magic.
By 1998 ‘Christmas Caravans III’ was showing in more than 100 countries, making it one of the the most widely used Coke adverts.