Every year I forget.
But this year, finally; a Christmas related post in time for Christmas!
Does blogging get any slicker?

For most people, Christmas cards are an opportunity to reach out to family and friends to let them know you’re thinking of them.
For Creatives they’re an opportunity to win yourself an award.
Here’s a few examples.

My agency was no different.

We’d find a bit of budget to help us send out season’s greetings to all our friends, clients and suppliers.
Some creatives would view being given the agency Christmas Card brief a punishment, but being a giddy-eyed optimist, I always saw it as another creative opportunity.
But it’s a tough brief.
The brief isn’t too bad; come up with some smart arse, sassy observation on Christmas.
The tough bit is that thousands of creative teams all over the world have been working on that brief for the last 100 or so years.
The best, maybe a dozen or so, are dotted around awards annuals, so those observations have been closed down, so you’re left to come up with something that army of creatives couldn’t.
Plus, if you’re a creative agency, there’s no point paying to print anything unless it’s creative.
Ideas from the creative department started rolling in – ‘Been done…Been done…Been done…Don’t get it?…Been done…Boring…Been done…Ooh, that’s good!’

‘Give your mantlepiece a bit more class with DHM’s fake Xmas cards’.
What a nice idea; we create a set Christmas cards from the great and the good to.
That could be funny.

It was 5 cards not 1.
It also needed a box.
So we made nonsense of the estimated budget.
And it risked the agency being sued by a bunch of multi-millionaires for ‘passing off’.
And forging their signatures.

But it’s a nice idea – so fuck it!
The trickiest bit was trying to sit the cover designs on the border between real and fake, the sweet spot would be for people to wonder whether it’s from Sir Paul Smith for a few seconds and then cotton on that it was a joke.
Figuring out the insides was fun too, making them just sound just that bit wrong, E.g. Sir Paul Smith ‘Beerz soon?’ or Damien Hirst signing off ‘Laters – Damien X’.
(It occurs to me that this must be where I got my Wave idea.
Whenever I’d record a podcast I’d there leave a D&AD annual in Parv’s collection, inside , badly written with my left-hand, would be written a message as if it was a gift from some luminary, like ‘To Parv, the best earholes in the business, love, David Abbott’.
I just liked the idea of some semi-bored creative chancing upon it and thinking ‘David Abbott…is that his handwriting, bit childish?…’earholes’?’.)

Anyhow, this is how they ended up.


Sir John Hegarty.

Sir Martin Sorrell.

Damien Hirst.

Charles Saatchi.

Sir Paul Smith.
It got a nominated for silver at D&AD.
The following year we thought we’d try to go one better – silver.
Obviously we had the
The card project had set a new, expanded budget.
The five card box idea had set an expectation that we were unlikely to go the one piece of cardboard folded over route.

We needed something novel.
So off we set.
After weeks of complicated, contrived ways to waste agency money, an idea turned up that I liked; ‘A fake bag to smuggle your real bags of Christmas presents into your house’.
Most people will have experienced that awkward moment of smuggling say, an Apple bag past their spouse or kids in December, (particularly when they discover it’s something you bought for yourself).
If, on the other hand, they spot a bag from ‘Malcolm’s Sock Shop’, their hearts sink as they hope it’s not a present for them.
Usefully lowering expectations.
It’ll also give us a good opportunity to make up some funny shop names and spoof graphics.
The brief went out to all departments: What’s the worst place to get a present from?

1st ROUND: They worked.
They were believable.
But not great.
They didn’t have that ‘smile in the mind’ element.

I give my usual guidance in this kind of situation – be more specific.
Rather than The Cake Shop, The Battenberg Cake Shop or even more specific – Bridlington’s Favourite Battenberg Cake Manufacturer.

It often helps.

2nd ROUND:
A definite improvement.
I like the argyle one.
The compilation album one’s not too shabby either.

Maybe we should think of very specific bad presents and then back fit a shop into them, like the compilation album?

3rd ROUND:
The Book Token Warehouse tickles me – the idea of a shop not selling books, just tokens.
Also, tokens are tiny, so ‘Warehouse’ and having a big paper bag is funny.
Also, Tattoo’s While-U-Wait – how else are you going to get them? But not a bag-type shop.
The Left-Handed Pencil Store isn’t bad either.
There’s a few others I like, but they’ve all gone a bit too meta.
Maybe there’s something nearer the brief, maybe we admit what it is, but make it look like a bag from a shop?

4th ROUND:
Maybe for a single bag, but we want to do a bunch.
Perhaps there’s something simpler, with funny names, the kind of shops you see in the background of The Simpsons?

5th ROUND:
Quite like them.
But they seem to be trying a too hard.
Trying to be comedy bags.
The idea is ‘A bag to smuggle in your Christmas presents’, which I like, so simply writing funny stuff on bags seems off brief.
Maybe we shouldn’t be so knockabout?
Maybe we should be more observational?

6th ROUND: There’s some good and funny ideas there, but they’re more like headlines than shops.
Maybe we keep the humour to the sub-line?

7th ROUND:
Funny, but too contrived.
Like the store name is just there to lead you into the sub-line.
They don’t seem remotely real.
If the idea is ‘A bag to smuggle in your Christmas presents’ and we’re trying to lower expectations, maybe it’s as simple as coming up with a lot of shops that sell cheap tat?

8th ROUND: Better.
Some are still a bit weird though.
Maybe it’ll be funny if we print the names of shops selling ludicrously heavy things on these paper bags?

9th ROUND:

Quite like the Anvil one.
Maybe the whole heavy object idea is different from bad Christmas presents?
There must be something in Bag For Life?
They’re all the rage at the moment, ours are paper and obviously won’t last long, we can spin off that?

10th ROUND:
They seem a bit obvious.
Also, off brief, the goal should be a shop that would disappoint your partner.
Maybe if we go edgier, spikier, more controversial?

11th ROUND:
Nope, Mother did something similar.

As above.

Mmm…probably as above.

No shop is ever going to be called Ball Bag.

Maybe in 1976.

Jesus! No.

What do they need a bag for?
Or shop for that matter?

As above.

See Mother comment.

I decide I’m too close to it – not seeing the wood from the trees.
I spread all the ideas across the boardroom.
There are 245.
(I didn’t just remember that number, that’s how many were in the PDF I took these from. I spared you a hundred or so.)

I decide that they should be semi-believable as shops.
The kind of shops you may buy very average Christmas presents from.
on a criteria:
semi-believable shops related to possible presents.
So not just funny, weirdy or meta.

Also, if we’re going to print five, each should come from a different category of present.

We created a wrapper to explain the idea and tell people who it was from.

People give books at Christmas, so we did a book-based idea.

People give socks at Christmas, so we did a sock-based idea.

People give DVDs at Christmas, or at least did, so we did a DVD-based idea.

People give toys at Christmas, so we did a toy-based idea.

People give knitwear at Christmas, so we did a knitwear-based idea.

We send them out to clients, friends, suppliers and, more importantly; D&AD.
It’s a more lateral solution than the cards, maybe it’ll go one better than last years nom?
Flip! Didn’t even get a com.
Maybe it was too lateral?
Maybe the Latvian judge didn’t get it?
Maybe I took it too seriously?
Maybe I should’ve just picked the funniest bags?
Maybe I shouldn’t have wasted so much time on it?
Maybe it’ll come in useful one day?
Seems unlikely.


3 responses to THE CHRISTMAS POST.

  1. Graham Pugh says:

    One of my biggest regrets is the card we almost made for Banks Hoggins O’Shea. It was my art director’s idea (but I’d have still got my name on it) and it got approved by everyone but the chairman: a perforated pop-out mistletoe sprig. The line above it said, ‘Clients: hold this above your arse’. The line below said, ‘Suppliers: hold this above ours’.
    Can’t think why the agency chickened out.

  2. Paul says:

    The best Christmas card I saw was I think from JWT. It was a cartoon of Rudolph’s head with a red nose. The line next to the nose read ‘Merry Christmas from the Creative Department’.
    As you pulled the sleeve out of the card the die cut nose went from red to brown and the new line revealed ‘And from Account Service.’

  3. Mark Dickens says:

    Pelmet palace had me giggling for about ten minutes

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