Interac swaps holiday gifts for the ‘stuff’ that matters

The company is focuses more on experiences as Canadians grow concerned about the materialistic nature of the season.


Last year, Interac chose a pink, sequined poop emoji pillow to tell a holiday tale about the benefits of maintaining financial control by purchasing gifts with money you actually have, instead of credit.

If the unusual present were to have made an appearance in this year’s holiday ad (note: it doesn’t), it would be laid gingerly off the side as the protagonist opts to spend on an experience that’s more likely to leave a lasting impression.

That’s because the financial services company has recently changed tactics, putting more focus on the experiences and moments that money can buy, rather than the more tangible presents that have left many Canadians feeling stressed about the holidays. According to the company, more than half of the population wishes the holidays “came with more time to spend with friends and family, and less time spent stressing about what presents to give.”

So Interac’s holiday campaign, again crafted by agency Zulu Alpha Kilo, follows a family that decides to forgo traditional gift-giving in order to spend more time with each other. But the feel-good “Stuff the Stuff” spot doesn’t suggest doing away with spending all together: OOH billboards and print executions, for instance, feature copy that reads, “Buy cocoa, warm hearts” and “Buy lights, brighten spirits.”

Matt Houghton, Interac’s new director of digital and integrated marketing, believes the campaign’s strength lies in the cultural insight that a growing number of people are concerned about the materialism of the holidays and realizing that they are spending on things that end up not meaning as much as the other “stuff” the holidays offer: time spent with family and friends, making memories.

“People are getting very weary of that, and I think the universal theme of the holidays, regardless of your background, is having that down time with your family and friends, getting to unplug, and I think the stress around getting people things and shopping is really distracting and stressful,” Houghton says. “With this campaign, we’re going out with a perspective of spend on the things that matter in your life and create memories while you’re doing that.”


The campaign concept was executed unusually fast, Houghton says. A former senior director of digital strategy at Publicis, he arrived at Interac only a few months ago, and was reviewing creative concepts for the campaign during his first week. He was hired, he says, because Interac believes he has the “right combination of understanding the agency mindset and the ability to execute quickly and having a strong digital and strategic capability, but also knowing how to work in a larger collaborative environment with a lot of different departments.”

The more experienced-focused holiday campaign follows work launched in the fall that similarly attempted to broaden the focus for Interac to touch on experiences, Houghton says. The campaign, dubbed “More Than Just a Card,” depicted how Interac helps Canadians enjoy moments in life that go beyond payment transactions. But that doesn’t mean it will exert all its marketing energy driving home that message going forward.

“It’s going to be a balanced message over time. This specific message just lands really nicely for the holiday period, and I think it really does touch on something that’s really important for people in this day and age, which is, spend thoughtfully, spend meaningfully,” he says. “We’ll dabble on both of those messages, spectrum-wise, but I think over the holidays, because that quality time you want during the holidays with family and friends is so important, the message really fits well.”

In addition to TV buys, the campaign includes in-mall posters, in-cinema takeovers, a partnership with Toronto Life and a range of social and digital executions. Media Experts is lead the national media buy and The French Shop is handling creative in Quebec.