Best and Worst Agency Holiday Cards of 2011

Lots of ho-ho-ho's and a few humbugs

Agency holiday cards have become a big deal. Some clients would be happy to have as much work put into their ad campaigns as some holiday cards receive. Then again, as always, it's usually the quality of the idea that prevails. (Our favorite card this year is almost all idea, with just a tad of execution.) After the jump, check out our picks for the 10 best and five worst agency holiday cards of 2011. We looked at hundreds of these things, though of course we probably missed some. Leave links to yours in the comments.

  1. Deeplocal • Deck the Screens

    Let's start with this geeky little number. Deeplocal's Deck the Screens app lets you string holiday lights from one screen to the next on various devices—iPhone, iPad, MacBook, etc. You create a new string of lights, then share a code with friends or co-workers in the same room—then sit back and watch the lights blink. Will anyone actually do this? Of course not! But in itself, that's a celebration of the world of app developers. Just because there's no market for something doesn't mean you shouldn't do it anyway if it looks cool!

  2. TBWA London • Advent Calendar

    A site-specific holiday card can work, if the concept is grand enough. And this one from TBWA London is suitably impressive. The agency got 24 artists to create 24 images and make 24 wishes for the year ahead—they've been revealed one by one in the agency's windows since Dec. 1. You can see everything that's been unveiled so far over at the TBWA site.

  3. Campbell Ewald • We Believe

    Campbell Ewald figured Santa Claus could use a little help filling his sleigh this season. So, the agency went looking for him. And they found him—living in northeast Detroit, with a broken-down old sleigh. The most earnest holiday card on our list, this video really brings the goods—a great little mini-documentary about how one agency is helping one man help children in need this holiday.

  4. Koko Productions • Holidays 2011

    Vancouver sound company Koko Productions (with help from DDB Vancouver) proves in its holiday video that you can, in fact, polish a turd. You can also mold in it into a flute and use it to play a charming rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." While we're not generally partial to scat humor, the tagline vindicates the disgust inflicted: "We can make anything sound good." Point taken. Note for next time, though . . . the brown stain on the flautist's lip might take the joke a bit too far.

  5. Viewpoint Creative • Holiday Card

    There's a whole genre of agency holiday cards devoted to how difficult it is to get an agency holiday card approved and produced internally. Normally, this predictable solipsism is tiresome—although occasionally it's good for a chuckle. Art directors will get a laugh out of Viewpoint Creative's excellently produced entry, as a designer keeps getting distracted from his game of solitaire to make tweaks to the card. Of course, in the end, all the "improvements" he makes are for naught—a nice year-end reminder that most of the painstakingly detailed work that you slave over all year long turns out to be a colossal waste of time.

  6. Wieden + Kennedy London • A Choir of You

    The holidays may be about giving, but Wieden + Kennedy won't begrudge you a little seasonal narcissism too. Lo, "A Choir of You." Walk up to the window outside the agency's London office, start singing your favorite carol, and watch W + K's gadgetry magically replicate your visage on the faces of an entire boy's chorus and transform your mousy solo into soaring harmonies. Quirky and entertaining, it stands out among hackneyed holiday greeting ideas. Just try not to get lost in your own gaze.

  7. Mcgarrybowen • Mcgarrybowenoke

    Mcgarrybowenoke offers another fun twist on the near-ubiquitous agency caroling theme, with lighthearted employee performances that are actually enjoyable to listen to. In fairness, they are processed to the point where they sound like a Wendy Carlos cut for the Clockwork Orange soundtrack. But it still sounds good, and the toy scores extra points for letting users play with the samples themselves. The name—a cheesy portmanteau of mcgarrybowen and karaoke—may fall a bit short of the work itself. But overall, big kudos to the agency for programming its workforce to do something other than rake in new business like an unstoppable army of account-devouring robots.

  8. Mullen • Snowify Me

    Everyone loves a little location integration with their holiday card, and this one from Mullen lets you turn any address (including the Adweek offices, shown here) into a winter wonderland. You can also add various odd creatures to the scene, along with a holiday message, and then send to friends and family. It would be a little more spectacular if it incorporated functionality showcased on a State Farm site earlier this year—allowing you to blow the whole thing to smithereens at the end. Perhaps that wouldn't be in the spirit of the season.

  9. Voltage • Hikakin Christmas Beatbox

    Voltage, a digital advertising and design firm in Louisville, Colo., got the incredible Japanese beatboxer Hikakin to perform "Last Christmas" for this holiday video. Breathtakingly awesome.

  10. Droga5 • Press Release

    Droga5 takes top honors this year for not doing a holiday card at all. Instead, it sent out a press release announcing that it had awarded its holiday-card account to mcgarrybowen, Adweek's Agency of the Year—which won just about everything else in 2011, so why not a bit of internal Droga5 work, too? "We've decided to go with mcgarrybowen," David Droga says in the release. "After a lengthy review, we simply couldn't ignore the strategic insights into holiday cheer that mcgarry brought to the table." The release adds that Droga5 "was cut from the shortlist in October, marking the end of a nearly five-year relationship between Droga5 and the Droga5 holiday card account." Sure, it's an inside-baseball joke—but a pretty hilarious one. And mcgarry has had some fun with it, too, tweeting out a photo showing Droga5 added to its wall of clients. A heartwarming tale of giving and receiving.

After the jump, the five worst cards of 2011.

  1. Blammo • Ho Ho Hold on a Sec

    If your idea of holiday cheer is a crotchety video debunking the myth of Santa Claus from every angle, then this is for you.

  2. HCB Health • Occupy the North Pole

    This online mini-game where elves lob Christmas cookies at an opulent and salty Saint Nick shouldn't have made it past the barroom napkin it was conceived on.

  3. TBWA Vietnam • QRistmas

    Combine QR codes with a half-baked pun and more caroling ad hacks, and you've got this QRistmas app. No, we won't scan those 12 inkblots to watch you pull faces and sing. But thanks anyway.

  4. Organic Inc. • Ugly Holiday Sweater Gallery

    Merry Christmas. Now stare at my pixilated genitals.

  5. Lean Mean Fighting Machine • Under the Cameltoe

    Again with the genitals. "What could be more romantic than a stolen kiss under the cameltoe?" asks this wretched app. Oh, I don't know—pretty much any other thing at all? Congrats to Lean Mean Fighting Machine for the crassest holiday card of the season.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.
@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.