In Finland, people often had criticized Coca-Cola (and Americans in general) for replacing the "traditional" image of Santa Claus. This is a sort of paradox...

Haddon "Sunny" Sundblom (1899-1976) was born in Chicago, but the roots of the family were in Föglö, Ahvenanmaa (Åland), Finland.

He founded an advertising agency in mid-1920s, and made ads for companies like Ford. In 1931, he made the first ad for Coca-Cola, and got the inspiration for the character by looking at the mirror.

(Sources: Ilta-Sanomat 22 Dec 2000)

(A bit of an update: I told above people had been criticising that, not that it would actually be true. I'm well aware of the "urban legend" side of this, that's why I said it would lead to an interesting paradox...)