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

Agencies employed humorous, festive and philanthropic approaches to holiday cards

Team One's Happy Things is a quirky holiday AR app. Team One

It was a long year.

Many agencies admit 2018 hasn’t been too kind to advertising, but December tends to find them in mostly good spirits. Every year, as inevitably as cold weather and holiday specials, agencies vie to stand out with inventive approaches to the holiday card.

Some agencies go for laughs, others good-natured cheer or homages to clients. This year also saw many agencies taking a philanthropic approach, as its seems more agencies found ways to give to local charitable organizations than in years past.

2018 also seemed to mark something of a move away from the more elaborate, high-budget efforts of some years past, as many agencies found more down-to-earth ways to ring in the new year.

Here are a few of the more memorable entries for 2018.

Please find links to the rest of the roundups below:

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

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

barrettSF — “Register for Full Features”

There are a lot of tongue-in-cheek holiday cards every year, but this one might be the snarkiest of 2018. The independent San Francisco agency plays on a phenomenon Adweek readers are likely familiar with: the paywall. Its holiday card promises a lot more with registration.

Barú  — “El Árbol de la Vida” 

As a multicultural shop, integrated marketing and media agency Barú wanted to create something for the holidays that would live up to its philosophy of representation and inclusion.

Bensimon Byrne — “Awards Auction”

Along with sister shops Narrative and OneMethod, Toronto-based creative agency Bensimon Byrne decided to raise money for Casey House, Canada’s only stand-alone hospital for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS.

After an in-house holiday drive that raised $20,000, the agencies auctioned off the awards they won for a pro-bono campaign on behalf of the Casey House to raise further funds for the nonprofit. The Instagram auction began on Dec. 12, with the One Show Gold, Clio Gold and a D&AD Pencil award, before expanding to others. The money raised from their efforts will go toward creating personalized gift baskets for Casey House patients.

Bensimon Byrne partner, executive creative director Joseph Bonnici said in a statement that the agency was proud of its work for Casey House. “Although we love getting recognized for the work, we aren’t married to the trophies themselves,” he added. “So, we thought, let’s auction the awards we won for Casey House to raise even more money for Casey House.”

Bozell – “The Nifty Gifty Finder” 

The folks at Bozell know that holiday shopping is no leisurely cup of cocoa. So they created The Nifty Gifty Finder to make finding the perfect gift just a little less stressful. Simply fill out a handful of questions about the person you’re shopping for and The Nifty Gifty Finder will provide a tailor-made gift suggestion while introducing you to the Bozeller who came up with it. 

Circus Maximus – “Yeti Tumblers”

After gifting haggis years ago, New York agency Circus Maximus learned their lesson and now they take a more traditional approach. They give the people what they want. And the people want Yeti tumblers.

Dailey – “50th Anniversary Cookies”

The Los Angeles agency, which purchased itself back from Interpublic back in 2017 after over 30 years, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in sweet fashion. Dailey baked up a batch of festive cookies for the occasion, complete with 50 facts about the agency.

Dentsu – “Eco-friendly Holidays”

Dentsu won big at Cannes and other awards shows this year with its “Dead Whale” anti-plastics campaign for Green Peace. Since the holidays are the time of year when plastics are used the most, the agency sent out a friendly reminder to friends and clients to seek more eco-friendly alternatives.

Dinner Party – “Mullet Teku”

Dinner Party describes itself as “a creative agency inspired by the vibes of a great dinner party, where the chemistry provokes truth, passion, and big ideas.”

So for the holidays, the agency decided to bring a little party atmosphere as well, but only on the back of its “mullet inspired” holiday teku glass. The front, like the hairstyle, is all business. It’s the second consecutive holiday glass for the agency, which was founded in 2017, following last year’s series based on cover art created for the agency’s monthly Spotify playlists.

“It’s a lot of fun to think about how to express who we are and the culture of the agency in a way that we think our clients and friends will enjoy,” Dinner Party founder and CEO Jeff Tammes said.

Droga5 London – “The Technically But Not Legally Supreme Christmas Card Collection” 

Droga5 London chose to do a little counterfeiting for the holidays. Using a Supreme branded pen, the agency created a series of “Technically but not legally” Supreme holiday cards featuring iterations of the skateboard and clothing brand’s logo. True to the brand, they are asking ridiculous prices for the cards, but don’t fear, the proceeds are going to Shelter UK.  

“Making the cards was hilarious. You would think copying a logo would be easy. I guess the pressure got to us in the end. The cards look suitably dreadful,” Charlene Chandrasekaran and Frazer Price, the Droga5 London art directors behind the project, said in a statement. “But more importantly, we loved the insight that a Supreme pen must surely produce Supreme ink. It’s just such a dumb truth. We loved it.”

Fluid — “Holiday Cocktail Companion” 

For digital agency Fluid, it’s all about the clients … and the cocktails. 

The agency created a 58-page Holiday Cocktail Companion book complete with 40 original cocktail recipes—each inspired by one of the agency’s clients.  

There’s “The Scentsation” for L’Oreal and “Charmed” for Kendra Scott, for example. Each of the drinks attempts to capture the spirit of a client on Fluid’s agency roster, which also includes the likes of Fender, Nespresso, Cariter and Aqua Aston Hospitality.  

The book is being distributed to clients and friends of the agency’s New York, Oakland and Portland offices across the country. 

Fuse Marketing – “Jingle Caroling”

This Toronto agency admits 2018 has been a tough year for advertising (something of a theme this year), so they decided to spread some holiday cheer around the advertising industry the old-fashioned way: caroling. Only Fuse decided to give things an advertising-themed twist. They sent a group of carolers around the city to serenade agencies with renditions of classic jingles for Meow Mix, Folger’s, Toys R’ Us and more. The agencies were not enthused.

GYK Antler — “Client Homage” 

Manchester, New Hampshire-based agency GYK Antler used their holiday cards to craft homages to their clients.  

The agency teamed up with local artist and former GYK Antler intern Alexandra Bye to craft custom illustrations representing each of the brands with which it works. Many of the illustrations specifically reference work GYK Antler created for the client, such as an illustration of the 45th-anniversary boot for which the agency created a digital ad and a card for Cedar’s Hommus focused on the “Know Better Hommus” tagline the agency created.  

The agency also designed handwritten accompanying personalized holiday cards and envelopes, to further show its appreciation for clients in a creative way. 

Highfield – “Canal Street Mystery Box” 

This New York-based agency is ringing in the holidays with a loving homage to the city’s Canal Street (and all the weird things you can buy there). The agency is filling up boxes with random assortments of goods you can only find on Canal Street for a grab-bag extravaganza.  

All proceeds from Highfield’s “Canal Street Mystery Box” go to Womankind, a New York organization supporting survivors of gender-based violence.

“‘Canal Street Mystery Box'” is our love letter to one of New York’s grandest thoroughfares,” Highfield co-founder Matthew Gardner said in a statement. “Being this close to so much awesomely useless stuff has given us an almost unfair creative advantage. It’s time we shared with the rest of the world.”

Isobar – “Holiday AR Experience”

This year, digital agency Isobar brought its holiday card to life in a new way.

Isobar used its holiday card as an opportunity to hone its augmented reality capabilities, a field of emerging tech that the agency doesn’t get to explore as often as it would like.

In addition to the traditional card, viewers were invited to participate in an AR experience. Isobar utilized origami and cut paper to tie the experience to the physical card with a scene celebrating togetherness.

Not being tied to a creative brief meant the agency was free to pursue the possibilities of the format for storytelling with a heightened degree of creative freedom. It also allowed the agency’s design and tech teams to work closely together to comprehend the limits and possibilities of the technology.

IW Group – “Holiday Dance Battle”

This year, IW Group chose to keep things simple and fun with an East Coast v. West Coast dance battle. The video stars Ryosuke Hoshiyama as East Coast Santa and Ian Iwataki as West Coast Santa and also features “Robot Girl” Raphaelle Oriol, “Chair Dance Man” Eljay Feuerman, “Pee Wee Dance Girl” Lauren Alvermann and “Antler Girl” Sabrina Yunus. The behind-the-scenes crew included creative director/director Colin Costello, associate creative director/art director Amanda Kuchman, director of photography/editor Cory Lutz and graphic designer Debby Chen.

JTWO – “Xmas 2018”

Last year’s effort from JTWO got a little dark. So the agency begins this year’s holiday card video by promising no kidnappings. Predictably, though, the agency continues the running joke from last year with a series of ideas that go horribly wrong.

Klick Health — “Meet Klickmas” 

This agency gets Seussian with a video imagining what it would be like to be “the world’s first year-round Christmas agency,” complete with a North Pole meeting room, “Christmas canon” and plenty of tinsel. The true meaning of the season isn’t lost on the agency, which will donate a dollar (up to $10,000) for each like the video receives to Mélanie’s Way, “a wish-granting charity for young women with metastatic or relapsed cancer.”

Madwell – “Yule Log” 

This Brooklyn agency nods to a classic, with a series of inventive riffs on the perennial yule log video. A laundry list of designers contributed to the effort, incorporating a variety of styles and approaches while referencing everything from Pink Floyd to classic video games. 

Marcus Thomas – “$25,000 of Light” 

Cleveland agency Marcus Thomas decided to prank family, friends and clients this year … for a good cause. The agency collected donations for what they promised would be a spectacular holiday display and then invited donors to tune in to watch the big reveal on Facebook live. Those who watched were presumably underwhelmed, with the agency subsequently revealing it gave a $25,000 donation to United Way of Greater Cleveland instead. 

Merkley+Partners – “Carol of the Renovations”

Earlier this year, Merkley+Partners had extensive office renovations, which continually interrupted client calls. So the agency decided to spread holiday cheer by serenading clients with the sound of a classic Christmas carol, accompanied by a few sounds they might remember from earlier in the year.

North – “Creative Fire Holder”

North chose to take a hands-on approach to craft a holiday card this year. The agency’s hand-made offering is more than a candle holder; it’s a “Creative Fire Holder” designed to keep the spark of creativity alive.

Planet Propaganda – “Krampus Kibble”   

Creative agency Planet Propaganda teamed up with Nutkrack, a brand owned by chef Eric Rupert, for a confection inspired by the Krampus of Central European folklore.  

Krampus, if you’re unfamiliar with the mythical beast, is a half-goat, half-demon who punishes naughty children while St. Nicholas rewards the good ones. In other words, not the guy you want to run into at Christmas.  

So Planet Propaganda and Nutkrack are introducing “Krampus Kibble,” a treat designed to keep Krampus at bay, to the Madison, Wisconsin, area. A portion of the proceeds are being donated to a local food pantry, which should help keep Krampus away next year as well.

PXL  “Digital White Elephant Party”

In addition to a traditional gift of a physical card and cookies from a local bakery, PXL hosted a digital white elephant party for the third consecutive year. Clients, vendors and partners were invited to visit a landing site and redeem their white elephant, which included such delightfully random items as a Godzilla onesie, Miss Cleo’s tarot cards, sea monkeys and uranium ore.

Quirk Creative – “Punny Desk Succulents”

Every year, Quirk Creative sidesteps the traditional winter holiday gift exchange with a New Year’s gift. This year, the agency sent out personalized desk succulents to clients, so that they can be reminded of their Quirk partners and symbolically grow their relationship.

The project wouldn’t have been complete without quirky names for the xerophytes. These names grew out of an hour-long session in which agency employees pitched 200 celebrity-based plant name puns. It was a close call, but “Roots Bader Ginsberg” edged out “Jason Grow-moa” and “Frederick Law Grow-mstead” as the favorite. 

redpepper — “Elf on the Shelf, Grownup Edition”

Nashville-based agency redpepper repurposes the popular Elf on a Shelf for its agency holiday card. The agency utilized Amazon’s Comprehend AI to transform the character into a spy, who catches adults being naughty. It then docked money from their paychecks to donate to charity.

Summerjax – “Care Packages”

In addition to gift bags for clients, full-service production company Summerjax created toiletry bags for girls and boys between the ages of 14 and 20 at Orange County Juvenile Hall. Summerjax filled bags purchased from Hollister with self-care items, which employees are wrapping for inmates and delivering in-person on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Back in May, Summerjax produced a fashion show at Orange County Juvenile Hall for Extreme Security Risk (XSR) inmates, some of whom were prosecuted as adults or even face life imprisonment for violent crimes, as part of a compassion-based therapy rehabilitation program. Summerjax wanted to show the kids that they were thinking about them during the holidays when it can be particularly hard to be away from friends and family. 

“The kids are just like other kids outside of juvenile hall; the difference is they’ve made bad choices or have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the end of the day, they’re kids looking for guidance,” Summerjax partner, executive producer Wimberly Meyer said. “Having the opportunity to be a positive influence has made an enormous impact for everyone at Summerjax.”

Team One — “Happy Technolidays” 

Publicis’ Lexus-dedicated agency admits that 2018 was well, you know, kind of crappy. For the holidays, they teamed up with global visual effects studio Digital Domain to attempt to spread a little cheer via an AR app bringing inanimate objects to smiling, cheerful life as personalized greetings to friends and family. It’s a nice, low-key holiday lark, and a welcome distraction from seasonal affectedness.

The Gate New York — “Ugly Sweater Contest”

MSQ Partners company The Gate New York is kicking off the holiday season with an ugly sweater contest, open to all. The Gate president Beau Fraser and CCO David Bernstein modeled their own ugly sweaters on the invitation, which read, “All they want for the holidays is the ugliest sweater you can create. And world peace.”

Designers were invited to “Let bad taste be your guide.”

Viewpoint Creative  “The Agency Playset”

This agency went for a lighthearted, nostalgic nod to classic ’80s toys commercials, answering a question no one thought to ask: What if there was a toy centered around the world of advertising?

In addition to the agency’s office, the set includes personnel such as a designer with a series of ironic T-shirts and the creative director, complete with inflatable ego. Of course, there’s also a series of client villains to make their lives difficult, like the 5 O’Clocker, Mr. Buzz-Killington and The Tank. It’s the holiday gift sure to confuse your child!

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.