Rogers socks it to Xmas shoppers

Ah, Christmas. The chiming of familiar carols. The fresh scent of a newly cut pine tree awaiting decoration. The merry chuckle of a department store Santa, and the warm-hearted holiday greetings of friends and acquaintances....

Ah, Christmas. The chiming of familiar carols. The fresh scent of a newly cut pine tree awaiting decoration. The merry chuckle of a department store Santa, and the warm-hearted holiday greetings of friends and acquaintances.

Oh, and the glazed indifference of the television viewer enduring yet another string of Christmas ads in the middle of the Rita MacNeil special.

Let’s face it: The problem with holiday advertising is that there’s just too damn much of it – and the same basic formulas tend to be used over and over. And over and over again. As an advertiser, your chances of being heard amid the seasonal din are about the same as spotting a team of jet-propelled reindeer in the sky on Christmas Eve.

Unless, of course, you can come up with a memorable variation on Yuletide advertising convention – which is what Rogers AT&T Wireless has attempted to do with its new holiday campaign.

The goals are simple enough: The company wants to get consumers thinking about giving wireless phone packages to friends and relatives as gifts, and has a couple of promotional offers that it’s trying to spotlight. Of course, that’s more or less what a thousand advertisers in other categories are trying to do as well. So how to get noticed?

Well, ditching most of the traditional Christmas imagery is a good start. That’s the advice of Andy Manson, group creative director at MacLaren McCann, creative agency for Rogers Communications and its various divisions.

‘It’s particularly difficult to stand out [during the holidays] because the icons of Christmas tend to define a lot of the advertising,’ he says. ‘There’s Santa Claus and Christmas trees and Scrooge and so on. And it tends to make your advertising somewhat bland and typical, especially when everyone else is using those same icons to demonstrate the seasonality of their offering. So it’s important to take a different tack.’

When it comes to gift-giving, wireless products are still considered something of an unusual choice. Which is the point that Rogers and its agency decided to play upon: In a world of dull and uninspired gifts, why not opt for something more original?

To symbolize the dull and the uninspired, MacLaren enlisted that most prosaic of presents: the black sock.

The television portion of the campaign depicts a strange and frightening parallel world where black socks are considered the ultimate Christmas gift. One of the spots, for example, features an upscale store that’s doing a brisk holiday trade in black socks. (‘We have ebony black, we have jet black, we have light black,’ a salesman helpfully explains. ‘And we have dark black.’)

The second spot, meanwhile, shows people reacting with alarming levels of enthusiasm as they receive black socks on Christmas morning. (One father toys cruelly with his son’s affections by pretending to give him white socks instead.)

In addition to TV, the campaign includes newspaper, radio and point-of-purchase advertising. To help spark recall, MacLaren developed a tongue-in-cheek ‘no black socks’ pictogram that appears in all the creative materials.

Dave Minnette, vice-president of marketing communications for Rogers AT&T Wireless, says the campaign should strike a chord with just about anyone who’s ever tried – and failed – to come up with an inspired gift idea. And the creative idea is one that could easily be extended into the Boxing week and early January periods, when consumers are busily returning all those Christmas gifts they didn’t want. Like black socks, say.

Manson, for his part, says the dry, irreverent humour of the ‘black socks’ campaign is in keeping with the tone MacLaren has set for most of the Rogers advertising over the past year – a tone that sets the telecommunications company apart from its major competitor.

‘Bell, which has been around forever, is kind of the mothership,’ he says. ‘They tend to take the more conservative route. Whereas Rogers is more adventurous and innovative. We tend to be a little more spirited in our executions. We don’t have the same heritage as Bell, so we have more latitude to have fun.’


Client: Rogers AT&T Wireless

Agency: MacLaren McCann

Account Director: Gloria Florio

Account Supervisor: Kim Farwell

Creative Directors: Marta Cutler, David Kelso, Andy Manson

Copywriter: Andy Manson

Art Director: Blaine Kennedy

Production House: Avion Film Productions

Director: Mark Story

Media: Television, newspaper, radio, point-of-purchase

We’re always on the lookout for great new campaigns to feature in this column. If you’ve got a suggestion, please contact David Todd at