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The Holiday Card Assignment

What Did You Do?


Holiday Card
Image via GettyImages

Seeing as how the big day (for those of us who celebrate it) is just around the corner, it's highly unlikely you're actually working on the holiday card brief right now. If you are, it's no doubt a digital experience you're creating, or you completely missed the deadline and are working on next year's instead.

But the question remains, what did you do? It's no secret that creatives in advertising and design agencies have a very peculiar love/hate relationship with the holiday (or Christmas) card assignment. The two words in parenthesis there are a fine example of why…it's really a Christmas card, but the politically correct days we exist in have abolished that. In England and other countries, the agency still sends out Christmas cards. Here in America, Christmas is one of many holidays we now celebrate around this time, with Hanukkah, Kwanza and the New Year all coming in to play.

So what do you focus on? Or rather, did you focus on?

Certainly not Christmas trees or Santa, right? That's tied to one tradition (although the word holiday actually comes from holy day, but let's not split hairs right now). You could of course have plumped for the safe standby - a time for peace, joy, love, harmony and all those other good feelings that take a back seat to Thanksgiving, Black Friday riots and faces filled with ham and mashed potato.

How about nothing to do with the season at all? Well, then you have the issue of what is it actually for? Why send out season's greetings if it's not about the season? And as you're reading this, you've probably got a stack of these greetings piling up in your in boxes and physical mail boxes. Some will break through, most will be "why'd they bother?" So let's ask the most important question…

Is it a Card? Or an Advertising Message?

The problem is, you really have to sit down first and think "what is this card actually for?" Is your intention really to send genuine wishes of peace and joy to your clients, friends and potential new accounts? Or is it just to get noticed? If it's the former, how much agency brain-power do you really need to spend on it? Everything you do is a communication about who you are as an agency, so yes, it needs to be more than a simple picture and a lame Hallmark verse. Give it to the creative department, and write a creative brief. Seriously. If it's the latter, you need even more time spent on it, because it takes skill to get noticed in the right ways.

Do you want to win awards? And if so, should the political correctness take a back seat to something that's actually fun? Well, yes it should. PC cards are compromised and they won't have much of a chance of a gong.

The Holiday Card Should Leave a Lasting Impression.

One of the most memorable cards I ever saw was for a firm of lawyers. It was an English card, so solicitors in this case. The card's front had a very typical message - we wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. But the card, designed by The Partners, was then written all over by the lawyers of the firm. They had phrases like "we can't say this" and "they'll be all over this one." When you opened the card, it read "we advise a Christmas and a year." Beautiful. Could it have worked with the word "holiday" instead? Maybe. But the language is not as strong.

I personally once created a card that contained two white inflatable snowballs. They were a huge hit with some, others thought the "balls" weren't traditional enough. But the last 10 years has produced nothing close to the fun of that card.

So, knowing all of this, how do you rate your current card? Is it good? Can you leave a link in the comments section? We'd love to know what kind of holiday spirit you're sending out there.

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