Agency Holiday Cards 2018: Inventive and Creative Send-Offs to the Year, Part 3

Shops used everything from animated videos to ASMR

Santa draws an awful hand.
Passion Animation Studio

Adweek’s roundup of agency holiday cards continues with approaches including gaming, ASMR, animated videos and a take on Drunk History.

Please find links to the rest of the roundups below:

Agency Holiday Cards 2018: Inventive and Creative Send-Offs to the Year

Agency Holiday Cards 2018: Inventive and Creative Send-Offs to the Year, Part 2

ABC Creative Group — “Drunk Christmas”

Drunk History has delighted audiences with soused historical reenactments for years, proving its formula versatile and enduring. So why not expand the approach to fiction?

That’s what ABC Creative Group did with their fun video holiday card, in which owner and creative director Travis Bort and senior art director Mike Haines attempt to tell the story of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, apparently while quite inebriated.

Things go about as expected, which is the charm of the approach really. It’s refreshing to see an agency not taking itself too seriously and using its holiday card as a way to have fun and make something entertaining.

Brownstein Group— “Choose Your Own Philly Adventure”

Who didn’t love Choose Your Own Adventure stories growing up?

For its agency holiday card, Philadelphia agency Brownstein Group took a cue from the classic series. The adventure begins with a choice between three storylines: Miracle on S. Broad Street, It’s an Advertising Life or A Religiously Ambiguous Carol.

“I think what we enjoyed most about it was seeing others in the agency use it and how much fun people had creating their stories. For it to be successful outside of the agency, we had to make sure the people who were creating it had fun using it,” Brownstein Group designer Matt Rondos said. “During our internals we had everyone fill one out and there was so much genuine laughter. That’s when we knew we had a good idea.”

Burson, Cohn & Wolfe — “Spoken Word Holidays”

The newly-merged PR agency Burson, Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) decided to let spoken word artists do the talking. Its holiday card delivers a message of unity and inclusion.

“The card became more than just a holiday greeting, but an important message about our culture, our people and our values,” executive vice president, global communications Catherine Sullivan explained. 

“We love how it all came to life through the passionate and diverse voices of those featured in it,” she added. “The last thing we want to be is ordinary. In the words of one of our artists, ‘Ordinary is just being stuck on repeat.'”

Copacino+Fujikado — “Agency Holiday Card Bingo”

Seattle agency Copacino+Fujikado got meta with their agency holiday card, with a bingo card for of all the agency holiday card tropes this year. The agency then kept track on Instagram Stories. Acknowledging their own contribution, the agency provided a center space for “Getting Meta With Agency Holiday Cards #CFHolidayBingo.” If you’re wondering, oh yes, we certainly have a bingo.

Deutsch — “Pie It Forward”

Deutsch’s effort revolves around a tasty pun on “pay it forward.” At Thanksgiving, the agency sent out two pies, asking recipients to keep one pie and to share the other with someone in need. (And when it comes to pies, aren’t we all in need?)

It’s a fun way to spread a spirit of giving around the holiday season and a refreshing change of pace from usual gifts. As an added bonus, the agency got to sample pies at Sweet Lady Jane Bakery.

Digitas — “Holiday Unicorn”

The holiday season is chock-full of magical creatures, but unicorns are usually not among the ensemble cast.

Digitas seeks to change that this year, dressing up the Digitas Unicorn in festive holiday gear. Recipients of the agency’s holiday card will find the unicorn dressed according to their location and weather. Teams across the agencies U.S., Costa Rica, and India offices worked on the card, with 18 unicorn designs in total and four weather filters: “toasty, chilly, brisk, and ice-cold.”

Digitas is asking that recipients of the card to make a donation to One Warm Coat, a national nonprofit organization founded in 1992 that distributes coats and other clothing to those in need.

Empower — “The Confessions of Mrs. Claus”

Sure, Santa Claus seems to pull off the impossible every year, including one ultra-marathon of a workday. But he doesn’t do it alone.

Creative media agency Empower finally gives Mrs. Jessica Jingle-Claus her due in its agency holiday card, which takes the form of a podcast series produced at its recording studio. To introduce the series, Empower mailed festive red earbuds and a written note from Mrs. Claus to its clients and partners.

“Mrs. Claus runs the workshop, handles Santa’s intense meet and greet schedule and collaborates with major brands to create Christmas campaigns,” explained Empower senior director of marketing Meghann Craig. “With about a billion years of experience working at North Pole Media and keeping the elves (and Santa) in check, she offers a wealth of knowledge and tips to young aspiring elves climbing their way up the evergreen ladder.”

Givewith — “Fight Hunger”

It’s no surprise that Givewith, an agency dedicated to making it “easier for brands to donate to nonprofits by including social impact as part of its digital ad buys” opted to give back for the holidays.

The agency asked recipients to engage with its card. Simply by opening the email, they triggered a $100 donation from the agency to domestic hunger-relief organization Feeding America.

“Once radical, cause marketing has become a one-way dialogue between brand and consumers, so having the social ‘impact’ or ‘good’ rely solely on consumer interaction feels incredibly subversive,” Givewith marketing coordinator Rachel Kerr said.

GreenRubino — “Holiday Jammin”

Sometimes for the holidays you just need to break out the jams.

GreenRubino set out to do that in two different ways in an effort to spread some holiday cheer. The agency mailed recipients branded jam that connected to a website designed in-house containing curated playlists of songs carefully selected by “taste experts” at the agency.

GSD&M

Like us, the folks at Austin-based agency GSD&M have a soft spot for dogs and cats.

For its holiday card, the agency created an integrated campaign to raise awareness for local pet shelter Austin Pets Alive!

“There isn’t a day at GSD&M that you won’t find a furry companion in a meeting. We’re big on pets. So, Austin Pets Alive! means a lot to GSD&M because for many of them, it’s where they found their pet,” GSD&M CCO Jay Russell explained. “To keep Austin the largest no-kill city in the country, APA! is in great need of materials to help keep pets safe and happy until they find their forever homes.”

The campaign includes an 18-foot “wishlist” tree containing items to be donated to the shelter and a website takeover, in addition to a traditional holiday card featuring over a dozen adoptable dogs and cats mailed to the agency’s friends, clients and partners

Huge — “Magenta Gift Guide”

Brooklyn-based agency Huge combined the digital with the physical for its holiday card, which consisted of a physical printed copy of its agency gift guide, and a basket full of augmented reality easter eggs.

Huge chief design officer Derek Fridman explained that the holiday gift guide, which utilizes AR technology such as Unity and Apple’s ARKit, is a follow-up to an initial test the agency conducted over the summer with its zine.

Fridman called the project “part art project and part science experiment,” with the agency seeing it as a way to explore the possibilities of the technology.

Interbrand — “Peace One Day” 

Interbrand partnered with U.K. nonprofit Peace One Day, the organization which led the UN to adopt Sept. 21 as International Peace Day, an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence, back in 2001.

The agency mobilized its creative teams across 17 offices globally, with the goal of finding ways to move towards making peace a reality all year long and raising awareness of Peace One Day. Each office took a different approach.

Interbrand New York, for example, played on the phrase “piece by piece” by imaging the peace symbol as individual parts building toward a yet-unrealized goal.

“Peace One Day is our vision. It’s the promise of a better world. We can all attain it every day through small acts that make a big difference – every thank you, Tweet, post and petition. Every day. Peace by peace,” Interbrand designer Spencer Seligman said.

KSV — “The Super Solar Holiday Happy Joy Maker”

We’ve certainly never seen a solar-powered holiday card, but that’s what KSV, an agency which is very serious about sustainable energy, aimed for this year.

So what does that entail exactly?

Tiny LED lights soldered to 150 small solar panels, in a card celebrating all manner of seasonal holidays.

Morsekode — “Almost Exactly”

Sometimes it seems all it takes to find the perfect gift is to ask people what they really want.

Minneapolis-based creative agency Morsekode began its holiday process by asking clients what their perfect holiday gift would be. Pretty simple, right? They then set out to deliver exactly what they wanted, almost.

Passion Animation Studios — “Xmas Hold Em”

Santa is all-in in this animated short from Passion Animation Studios, directed by MegaComputeur.

The charming animated tale finds Santa confident in his hand during a round of poker with the reindeer. After all, they don’t seem to be taking the game too seriously. But Santa may have overplayed his hand.

Pitch — “The Year in Cookies” 

Sometimes an approach to holiday cards is such a good fit that it becomes an annual tradition.

Such is the case with Pitch, which has captured the year’s most memorable moments in cookie form for over a decade. Certain cookies are easily identifiable, while others are a bit of a riddle that need to be puzzled over before it’s clear what event they’re referring to (hopefully before being eaten).

It’s a fun, and tasty, way to look back at all the biggest events of the year. There are a lot of great entries, but the highlight this year has to be the Banksy cookie.

“The amazing thing that happens with Pitch cookies is that they spark a chain reaction of creativity. We get really entertaining and imaginative responses back from clients and partners,” Pitch co-CEO Sara Bamossy said. “Some hold team meetings or contests to solve them, some send us back stories and clues about our clues.”

Planit — “Planit’s Favorite Things”

Baltimore agency Planit created an interactive gift guide featuring recommendations from staff.

Planit employees created 90 unscripted videos “pitching” their favorite gift ideas, which include everything from a Canadian passport to a kangaroo condom to a golden retriever. Almost every person in every department participated, giving a complete picture of the agency’s wish list.

Publicis — “A Very Marcel Holiday”

Former Publicis CEO Maurice Levy’s humorous, self-aware agency holiday card videos became a yearly tradition, which new chief executive Arthur Sadoun continued last year. This year, Publicis’ AI platform Marcel takes over the greeting, and the poor guy seems to be having something of an identity crisis.

Small Army — Protect Yo’Elf”

AR seems to be the trendy technology of the moment when it comes to agency holiday cards.

Boston agency Small Army utilized the tech with a holiday-themed AR mobile game. Can you save Small Army’s holiday party from a horde of evil snowmen? The agency squeezed in details such as billboards referencing its work over the year and employees cheering on elves as they make it to the party.

SS+K — HolidASMR”

Finding ways to relax can be difficult around the holidays, a theme that multiple agencies sought to address.

New York agency SS+K gets in on the ASMR craze with an Instagram full of holiday-themed ASMR videos. The 13 videos feature SS+K employees acting out holiday activities, such as scraping skates together, decorating the tree and lighting candles on the menorah, ASMR-style. Don’t take it too seriously, though.

The JRT Agency — “Deck The Halls” 

Most agency holiday cards are only really appreciated around the holidays, for obvious reasons.

Michigan’s The JRT Agency sought to create an experience friends, clients and partners could appreciate year-round.

The agency developed an 8-bit game with the objective of making it to the agency’s holiday party before you die. There are four levels to the game, from the perspective of an account person, CEO, creative director and client.

“We let our digital creatives loose, tipping the traditional holiday card concept upside down,” The JRT Agency director of business development Susan Weatherhead said. “This provided the opportunity for our creatives and other employees alike to get a little slap-wacky, to collaborate and to drum up an addicting gamification holiday card experience that millennials dig and decision-makers can’t help but obsessively keep playing.”

The Richards Group — “Make The North Pole Great Again” 

In what will easily be the most polarizing of approaches this year, The Richards Group parodies the year’s news with a “Make The North Pole Great Again” holiday card.

Some of the parodies are light-hearted references, like Santa’s sleigh-sharing app Gyft and a Rudolph prototype designed to reduce waste.

Santa proclaiming he will “Make the North Pole Great Again” and other references to Trump have proven more polarizing. There’s also a head-scratching reference to “Misfit Toy Islanders” receiving reparations that some may find in poor taste.

A spokesperson for the agency acknowledged that some of its employees were not fond of the approach, telling AgencySpy they were concerned it might “strike the wrong note” with clients or other people in the ad industry. The spokesperson claims the agency responded by telling employees they could “send something different if that felt like the right thing to do.”

White64 Paper Thin”

Often it seemed acceptance was in short supply in 2018.

Washington D.C. full-service agency White64 crafted its agency holiday card video around the theme of acceptance, whisking viewers away to an animated land populated by wrapping paper characters with help from production company Rocket Panda. The story follows a gingerbread man as he attempts to befriend a group of reluctant snowmen.

“When we drafted the script, two thoughts occurred to us: First, we immediately knew it was a beautiful story that had to be told. Second, we frankly wondered if we could pull off the combination of live action and animation using agency production and a small budget,” White64 associate creative director Alex Belgrave said.

The agency decided to go for it anyway, with everyone at the agency contributing.

“Our producer found a scrappy animation company out of Italy willing … no, anxious … to help,” Belgrave explained. “Our production team, with the help of literally everyone, shot the video footage using all agency talent.”

A local music company contributed the soundtrack and a serendipitous snowfall set the mood.

“Producing this story of unity worked magically at bringing our agency together,” Belgrave added.

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