Agency Holiday Cards 2017

From chatbots to customized drinks and fake conference calls, here's how the industry has been spreading holiday cheer.

Our sister site Stimulant has been diligently keeping track of the many (many) holiday cards from creative folks at Canada’s ad agencies. For your convenience, we’ve gathered a collection of them in a single place so you can revel in the holiday cheer.

Bleublancrouge: Meet My Liver chatbot

The bulk of the pre-holiday season may be wrapping up, but the next couple of weeks are still going to involve a lot of drinking occasions.

If you’re already thinking ahead to the impact that’s going to have on your liver, Bleublancrouge has created a chatbot to will let you check in with it directly. Slightly bitter from years of abuse, your liver is still happy to give you tips on how to avoid hangovers, reminders to drink responsibly and lets you log how many drinks (and food) you consume. Those logs help your liver get a better gauge on what you need in order to keep that hangover at bay, as well as provide you with weekly reports of how much you’ve consumed (if, for some reason, you happen to forget).

Central Station: Bite Someone’s Head Off

When Central Station’s holiday card arrives at clients’ offices, it comes with specific instructions to bite someone’s head off.

The little man who arrives with this card, nestled in his little brown box, looks nervous. And well he should! Not only is he made of the finest of baked goods – gingerbread – he is a proxy for the agency staffers who clients may wish to decapitate in pent-up rage.

“This year we decided that we’d dispel the typical agency gift norms and give our clients what they really want – the opportunity to bite the head off of someone at the agency,” the attached copy says. “Fortunately, these Gingerbread Men don’t hold a grudge and the experience won’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Happy Holidays from all of us at Central Station!”

Don’t worry little guy. It will be quick and painless.

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Cundari: Holiday Spirits

The best clients inspire their agencies. Some inspire their partners so much that they create an entire holiday drink menu around them.

For its holiday card, Cundari posted an interactive holiday spirits menu with drinks styled after their clients — from the LCBO to Canada Dry and even Meridian Credit Union (“Liquid Assets?” Come on, that’s hilarious).

Not all of the brands could easily be mixed into spirits (sorry, but we can’t all be Mott’s Fruitsations), however some still became inspiration for cocktails, from the sophisticated to the downright silly.

For example, “The Quiet Muffler,” inspired by Speedy (who else?) was comprised of equal parts grenadine, creme de peche liqueur and blue curaçao. We’re not sure exactly how that quiets a muffler, but you know what? We’ll take it, because it’ll quiet all our worries and cares.

We’d like to take this opportunity to remind you to drink responsibly this holiday season, which to our understanding means enjoying a drink while vacuuming regularly and preparing to file your taxes in February.

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DentsuBos: Fake Conference Call

We cannot emphasize this enough: thank you, DentsuBos, for your holiday gift.

With the holiday season sending everyone scrambling to finish end-of-year pitches, unnecessary holiday parties and gift exchanges, and having to answer countless emails with “Let’s reconnect after the holidays,” there’s no shame in admitting that you could use a bit of “me time.”

That’s why DentsuBos has introduced the fake conference call service to give you an opportunity to slip away from the cubicle, settle into the office with the good view, and let your mind drift while you have a perfectly valid excuse to ignore your obligations.

Did we mention it’s real?

One of the greatest benefits of the fake conference call is that the call is in French, so you can really let your mind drift.

Now if you’ll excuse us, a few of us have to go to a very important meeting. Sorry. We can’t miss it.

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Elemental: Manger Things

Agencies are particularly guilty of jumping on pop-culture’s bandwagon and not knowing when to get off. As Stranger Things is still basking in its success on Netflix, we’re seeing its tropes spread like weeds across all kinds of marketing executions. Some are good. Some are not.

Elemental and Original’s use of the property is downright atrocious. But that’s the point. And you know what? We have to respect that.

(It’s worth mentioning that watching to the end is necessary to get the full effect.)

John St.: E.A.T. 2000

It’s a common theme around the holidays: how are you going to manage to stick to your diet when there’s just so much good food all around?

Well, you could exercise better portion control. You could look up some healthy holiday alternatives and cross your fingers that no one can tell the difference between a grain-free, sugar-free, paleo cookie of sadness and Grandma’s traditional ginger snap recipe. Or, you could literally punch another hole in your belt.

John St. has decided to go with the third option.

The agency’s holiday card features an ad for the Expanding Abdomen Tool (E.A.T) 2000 — a hand-held device to simply punch another hole in your belt. Because you know what’s better than self-control? Unnecessary new devices.

Pound & Grain: Heartbeat Record

It’s the age of digital. The age of mobile. The age of everything that is new, shiny and touchless.

For Pound & Gain, its holiday card bridged the gap between the two. It issued clients custom-designed vinyl record covers with real records inside — although a disclaimer on the records states that there’s nothing actually on the record. Fear not, Pound & Grain has still included a card with a link to a custom Spotify playlist that captures its passion and excitement for the holiday season. So turn up the speakers and party on, digital style!

As for the record, so what if there’s nothing on it? With its bright red logo, it seems like it’ll look mighty good on display in your home. And isn’t that why most of us collect records in the first place?

The agency wishes clients a drama-free office party and many, many eggnogs (trust us, we’re already working on it).

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Republic: Mini Toronto

Forget “ho, ho, ho.” This festive season, Republic is all about “HO, HO, HO.” (Sorry, modelling joke.)

This miniature layout of downtown Toronto featured in Republic’s holiday card might give you model fever.

To celebrate the agency’s big year, Republic went against expectations. The video featured an HO-scale layout of the city (“HO,” or “half-O scale,” is a 1:87 ratio scale) and all its famous landmarks — the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, the Distillery District and more.

The model set was created by GTA miniature makers Our Home and Miniature Land, which is currently on a mission to create an HO version of the entire country and deliver it to Torontonians and tourists in the near future. In the giving spirit of the season, Republic also announced that it has made an investment in Our Home and Miniature Land.

As for the holidays, we hope that whatever agency you hail from, you’ll take a little bit of time to remember the little things for the season.

Rethink: Buttons the Holiday Chatbot

We’ve seen a lot of chatbots in 2017, and not all of them are great. Some have trouble understanding basic sentences and commands. Some give you a laugh, but not a reason to ever use it again. Some simply don’t do a whole lot, making you wonder why a brand bothered to create a bot in the first place.

For its holiday card this year, ad agency Rethink decided to bring us a Christmas miracle in the form of a chatbot that is none of those things.

The Facebook Messenger bot takes the form of an adorable elf named Buttons designed to serve any holiday need you may have.

The agency’s offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal created over 200 GIFs and videos for Buttons to serve up during its chats, and the script that powers his conversation is over 20,000 words long. Based on an initial conversation with Buttons, this appears to have resulted in fewer instances where he gets sent a phrase he doesn’t understand – and even if he does, responds with an entertaining, holiday-themed quip.

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But it also means the functionality of the bot is massive. Buttons will tell you jokes and stories. He will give you advice on planning the perfect Christmas party and count down to Christmas Day. He will give you recommendations for outside-the-box gift ideas. He will play games as simple as “rock, paper, scissors” or as advanced as “Escape From Rethink,” a text-based, choose-your-own-adventure game where you try to get out of the agency’s office following the holiday party.

Buttons also integrates some of the deeper functions of Messenger, like asking you to use the “share location” feature to let you know if you can expect snow in the exact location you are standing.

As a final touch to personalize it, Rethink delivered holiday cards to clients that came with special parametric coding (seen left) so when they used it to open their conversation with Buttons, it would include unique content that had been personalized to the recipient.

Wax: The Truth About Santa

Warning: do not show your children this video if you want them to continue believing in the magic of Santa Claus.

We at Stimulant asked some of our staff members what age they were when they stopped believing in Santa. The results were, let’s say, interesting.

“I honestly don’t know if I ever believed.” — Neil Ewen, sales supervisor.

“I was about seven. I found the gift that Santa would eventually get me under my parents’ bed.” — Jeromy Lloyd, digital editor.

“Wait, what?” — a freshly traumatized Justin Dallaire, staff writer.

This all goes to prove a very important point: some children are lied to, some are not. And agency Wax decided to take on that myth in its latest campaign. It went through every media channel possible to let kids know that Santa isn’t real.

Banner ads? You got it. YouTube overlays? Check. Out of home? You know it. Can’t dispel a centuries’ old myth without being #AlwaysOn. Investment is key — you don’t want your kids to grow up believing some nice man in a red suit is actually putting Christmas presents under their trees for no good reason, right? This is why they’re complaining about housing prices in between plates of avocado toast.

Okay, we want to assure you right now that this was not a real campaign. But just to be safe, you might not want to watch the agency’s holiday video in the presence of any kids.

Unless you want them to toughen the hell up.

Will: A Holiday Greeting That Moves

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the late-night comedy shows and internet memes that talk about what a rough year it’s been. Sometimes it’s just too tempting to snuggle up with a big bottle of wine and have a good, ugly cry about what a year it’s been.

But creative agency Will’s holiday card took a different approach.

The agency utilized a familiar format (the flash mob) to delight Vancouver shoppers and remind them of all that’s good in the world. Just try and watch without smiling — I mean, there’s ribbon dancing!

Will happens to be managing the strategy of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation’s ongoing “snowball fight” campaign, so it appropriately ended the video with a call for donations to the foundation.

Remember, even if you have two left feet and no sense of rhythm, there’s always solace in making someone else smile. And what better time to do it?

Wunder: The Wunder Gift Shop

How to say thanks to the greatest clients in the world?

How about a pencil? A 16GB USB stick? A used textbook from your communication studies days with only a few pages highlighted?

Sounds like a bit of a joke, right? Well, Wunder’s holiday card tested its clients’ patience with such a stunt. It drew up a few $25 gift cards, sent them out to clients, and directed them to the most underwhelming gift shop (a.k.a The Wunder Gift Shop) where they could find Wunder office stationary up for grabs.

Whether you picked an item or just decided to click off the page, Wunder quickly popped in with a message that the gift card was actually for Amazon, so clients could spend the cash on something they actually wanted.

Well played, Wunder. Well-played. And, for those who were actually hoping for a few new pencils or small-capacity USB sticks, well, Amazon sells those too, so hey, there’s something for everyone.

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Zulu Alpha Kilo: Turkey Rub

For those unfamiliar with the “slow TV” phenomenon, here’s a one-liner. Slow TV is a trend originating from Scandinavia, in which viewers watch seemingly mundane events on television (like train rides, people knitting and boats coasting gently along the sea) for marathon stretches.

With that in mind, we present to you a 15-minute video of someone massaging a turkey.

Now, for those of you who simply don’t have the time to watch a 15-minute video of someone getting handsy with your holiday meal, here are some of the highlights:

0:48: He’s massaging the turkey.
4:07: He’s still massaging the turkey.
6:34: Still massaging the turkey.
9:16: Still massaging the turkey.
10:28: He observes some tension in the turkey’s neck, and recommends leaving that part of the bird inside. Good call.
12:43: Here comes the main event. The masseuse produces a turkey rub, “Bake and Wake,” which is caffeinated in order to counteract the tryptophan commonly known for making people sleepy* after turkey.
14:52: He eats the rubbed and cooked turkey, because apparently we’re living in a universe where masseuses eat their clients.

* Tryptophan in turkey actually doesn’t make you tired, and there’s in fact more tryptophan in some nuts and cheeses than in turkey. You’re probably just tired because you overate, and having to listen to Great Uncle Milton’s stories about growing up in Tillsonburg in between mouthfuls of mashed potatoes will make anyone tired. Nevertheless, Bake and Wake is a real product (albeit in limited quantities), the result of a collaboration between Zulu and First Spice Mixing Company.

Zulu also donated 150 (unmassaged) turkeys to Second Harvest in order to help families in need this holiday season.