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Kim Jong-un crackers, client feedback carols & Santa's Photoshop: the best agency Christmas cards from around the globe

Another year is nearly over and another round of creative Christmas cards has landed in The Drum's physical and virtual inboxes. Strong creative themes for 2017 include reworking client feedback into a more joyful form and the impending nuclear apocalypse, while Isobel revealed yet another impressive theatrical photoshoot. Scroll down to see how agencies around the globe are wrapping up 2016.

Grey London: Hyrrs

Grey London rounded up a grim year filled with public misogyny, unequal pay and sexual harassment stories with a proudly feminist Christmas album. Cleverly titled Hyrrs (not Hymns), the LP features seven rewritten tracks of classic carols; for example, Deck the Halls becomes Kick The Balls (Of Patriarchy) and In the Bleak Winter becomes Female Sexual Pleasure.

The album artwork features the typeface Lacuna, which was created by female typographer Imogen Ayres.

The songs are available to download from iTunes, Google Play and Amazon, and can be streamed from Spotify and Apply Music. All proceeds from the record will go to Refuge, a national domestic violence charity.

Wunderman: The Festive Feedback Album

Giving and receiving feedback is the creative industry’s gift that lasts all year round, according to Wunderman’s elaborate musical video card.

It invites you to “Take the edge off the busiest time of the year with Wunderman’s Festive Feedback Album! A wonderfully nostalgic compilation of the year’s best client and agency feedback, mixed together with everyone’s favourite Christmas carols.”

Along with a retro-style commercial touting the album, there are also singalongs for songs like ‘The 12 Days of Wunderman’ and ‘Silent All Nighter’.

We Are Social: Head Elf

Every year, parents across the world flaunt their connection with Santa and his team of elves as a bargaining tool to keep children well-behaved throughout the festive season.

Playing to this tradition, We Are Social developed a festive-themed skill for Amazon’s Echo and Echo Show devices where parents can ask Alexa to connect them to Santa’s Head Elf in the North, who responds based on whether their kids have been naughty or nice.

The elf has 10 pre-programmed responses in both video (for the Show) and voice. The skill launched in the US with plans to roll out in the UK. It was developed by the agency’s Future Tech team and forms part of the agency’s monthly experiment with new tech.

Tom Ollerton, innovation director at We Are Social, commented: “The ‘Held Elf’ Skill has been a lot of fun to pull together, and we’re thrilled to see it come to life. Hopefully it will help a few parents to ‘encourage’ some good behaviour from their children this festive season.”

Whosay: Influencer Happy Holidays

Influencer marketing company Whosay has plenty of celebrities and influencers in its rolodex and they brought out a few of them to give video seasons greetings to its agency and brand partners. But first, they got in some humorous in-house fun.

Harvey Schwartz, Whosay’s co-founder and president of talent, was outfitted with reindeer antlers and made to pimp a range of products, from mayonnaise to soft drinks and retailers as he announced the holiday wishes from the company.

In between, influencers like Sam Tsui, Emmitt Smith, Baddie Winkle, Finn Wolfhard, Keegan Allen, Nigel and Chrissy Barker, Tia Mowry, Travis Kelce and Chevy Chase all gave their best happy holiday greetings.

Mr President: Merry Sickmask

Mr President is spreading the joy this Christmas by preventing the spread of germs. The agency developed 'Merry Sickmask', an initiative designed to keep people healthy via a ‘fashion-forward’ medical face mask. The facewear is available in four patterns – 'The Germ', 'The Remedy’, 'The Snot' and 'The Pill’ – and delivered in a prescription bag and pill box packaging.

"We realised giving someone the gift of health is better than any physical gift you could give or get,” said Jon Gledstone, executive creative director and partner at Mr President. He continued: “With Merry Sickmask, the Mr President team is bringing a fashionable approach to health and cold prevention to help people be well this Christmas.”

The Sickmasks are also available to purchase online, with all proceeds from sales donated to King’s College Hospital Charity.

Unlimited Group: #giftofhello

Unlimited Group forwent the usual agency one-upmanship of the season and instead sent out 500 traditional handmade cards. The catch? All were sent to random strangers across the country as a recreation of a 1970s social experiment.

The agency received more than 1,300 responses to the cards online – however they only received one lone physical card back in return. Research that accompanied the project found that 45% of people would feel positive about receiving a card from a stranger.

"The results – not wholly unexpected – suggest that Christmas is moving online and crucially brands need a laser sharp focus on craft in their communications,” said Unlimited Group’s chief marketing officer, Ryan Wain. “Lazy, boring emails will receive zero engagement – particularly at a time of the year when brands aren’t just competing with communications from competitors, but the communications consumers receive from loved ones.”

Isobel: Peter Pan

Isobel kept with its own now famous tradition of a high-production family portrait. Following on from last year's Swan Lake shoot, the team got together to recreate Christmas panto favourite Peter Pan, complete with a pirates, Lost Boys, mermaids, snapping crocodile and a flying Tinker Bell.

Managing partner Paul Holding won the lead of the protagonist, but got a little too carried away with his method acting and fell from a six-foot height. Magically, he was almost entirely unscathed.

The shot was captured be Paul Thompson at the Leatherhead Theatre. The costumes were supplied by the National Theatre.

Jolly Rebellion: Write Off Trump

New agency Jolly Rebellion took a political stance this festive season by commissioning a new font to fight for an equal world. Designed by typographer Rick Banks from Face37, the 'Jolly Rebellion' typeface has is available to purchase on the agency's website for the price of £6.66.

Proceeds from the font will go towards gender equality charity The Fawcett Society and Tell Mama, which works to counter anti-Muslim prejudice. The typeface's has been plastered across the President's face in marketing materials.

"This year has been a really hard one for our world," said Cathy Hutton, Jolly Rebellion’s creative director. "So when we created our own font we couldn’t think of better causes to donate it to than those fighting for an equal society. Even if we raise just £6.66 it will be worth it. If politics can’t kick him out, maybe being a bit creative can."

Iris London: The Iris 2017 Selection Box

Iris turned to the world of confectionary for its annual Christmas gifting and produced its very own box of chocolates. Unlike Forrest Gump, the agency’s friends and clients knew what they they were going to get thanks to handy guide, which explained the range of zeitgeist-influenced creations.

Inside was The Russian (‘Pretty sure this chocolate hasn’t been tampered with, but who knows?”), The Rum & Rooney (‘So much liquor it wouldn’t pass a breathalyser’) and The Conference Cough Stopper (‘Infused with enough honey and lemon to stop any coughing fit’). The space for The Uber was, sadly, left unoccupied – this choc was ‘Unavailable due to licensing issues’.

Robot Food: Christmas Bottles

Robot Food enlisted the entire team – including ‘Steve the lovely finance man’ – to design its Christmas gifts to friends and clients. Each member was given a bottle of Halfpenny Green sparkling wine and a blank logo to art direct, with the brief to ‘make it yours’.

The agency hoped the project would communicate the message that despite clearly housing a number of 'different tastes and styles, different talents and specialities… we’re our best when we work together’.

Arnold Worldwide: The Holiday Pitch

To celebrate the holidays with clients and friends, Arnold Worldwide put a youthful twist on the agency creative process and invited five kids to brief the team on their personal campaign.

‘The Holiday Pitch’ saw Ducati (age 7), Valentina (age 7), Jack (age 8), Kayden (age 8), and Kolby (age 4) brief the Arnold creative team on their campaign goal, their dream holiday gift, and insights on their target audience: the parents.

The Arnold creative team developed personal logos for each kid and the final creative work went live just ahead of the busy holiday shopping period with highly targeted media across radio, print and OOH. Whether it was Valentina’s billboard, Ducati’s newspaper ad, Jack’s guerilla street art or Kayden and Kolby’s social video, each of the creative executions were tailored to the individual campaign goal and insights on the parents. The video closes with a call for card recipients to sponsor a child or donate to Youth Villages Holiday Heroes program.

Iris Amsterdam: Santa’s Photoshop

Iris’ Dutch chapter turned its main office window into an interactive experience, complete with an Adobe CC-powered Father Christmas. Passers-by are being invited to tweet or email in whacky festive image suggestions, which Iris’ Santa will turn into reality through the power of Photoshop.

Handily located in the heart of Amsterdam’s tourist hotspots, the agency hopes to get industry bods, locals and tourists involved. Created artworks so far include "a happy family but instead of heads we see Christmas gifts, and they are all holding their own heads” and "two otters holding hands and drinking hot chocolate, on a comet, led by Cupid and Dasher and Dancer and Vixen and the crew.”

Creative director Rachna Dhall said: “Santa’s Photoshop is an open invitation to collaborate and get the creative juices flowing. We’re intrigued to see what the mix of tourists and locals will come up with. The crazier the suggestions, the better. It’s a risky one, but we are ready for it.”

DiMassimo Goldstein: Anti-SantaCon

New York-based agency DiMassimo Goldstein used its annual holiday card to draw attention to a serious Yuletide concern – drunk and high Santas at SantaCons across the US. SantaCon is an annual gathering of thousands of Christmas-themed revelers bar crawling through the streets of major cities.

The agency, in collaboration with Crew Cuts Productions, released a tongue-in-cheek PSA highlighting the dangers of SantaCon, with the hashtag #sitoutsantacon. The campaign features downloadable posters, collectible buttons, an informative website, a series of gifs, and a PSA that shows the real victims of SantaCon: the children.

Soul: Tiddly Popped

London shop Soul created an infuriatingly addictive web game for Christmas, inspired by the struggle of opening your front door after a few too many Cinzanos at after work drinks. Tiddly Pop features five levels – Hiccough, All a Blur, Midnight Munchies, Oops and Tired & Emotional – and challenges the player to simply get you key in the lock under the virtual influence.

Shaun Moran, Soul’s creative director, said: "We wanted a fun idea that people can relate to."

Transparent House: Transparent SF AR

Creative studio Transparent House’s president Denis Krylov commissioned a new holiday-themed augmented reality (AR) app and invited his staff to create an animated version of San Francisco that would showcase their talents in signature style.

"We used the exciting new ARkit from Apple to allow anyone to see 'Transparent SF' come to vibrant life in Augmented Reality on any flat surface," said Krylov. "Our goal was to make this ‘AR snow globe’ entertaining and educational, while also presenting a fun canvas demonstrating how AR can be used to engage audiences of all ages in new ways."

Transparent House’s holiday cards feature a link to the experience.

The Gate: Party Character Emojis

International agency the Gate knows a thing or two about holiday party goers. For this year’s New York card it created ‘The Eight Characters You’ll Find At Holiday Parties’. Each emoji character is specific in their party quirks, from the Silent Observer (“yes, she is judging you”) to the Constant Nibbler (“never met a finger he didn’t like”) to the Spiller (“always blames the glass”).

Receivers of the holiday e-card are encouraged to drag the emoji that fits them best to their phone or desktop.

Anomaly: Dear Satan

Anomaly teamed up with thespian royalty for its film about a little girl who erroneously sends her Christmas letter to Satan instead of Santa. Sir Patrick Stewart narrated the festive story of enlightenment and self-discovery, which ends with protagonist Hope being gifted a three-headed dog that breathes fire and pisses lightening.

In a statement, the agency said the film was a chance to create something “for the sheer pleasure of it”.

Zak: Crackers of Christmas Destruction

Sticking with the 2017’s near-apocalyptic theme, indie agency Zak produced its own range of crackers with a difference. The branding of ‘Weapons of Xmas Destruction' features the handsome faces of world leaders Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, with the tagline: ‘Make your Christmas go with a bang!’

Inside, party guests will find an ‘inspiring’ quote from North Korea’s divine leader, a ‘Rocket Man’ pin and a black paper hat to get guests in the mood for nuclear war.

DCMN: Big Christmas

Growth marketing company DCMN created an original storybook for clients titled ‘Big Christmas,’ which tells the tale of a little boy who wants to grow and must travel the world with Santa Claus to find that growth.

Ultimately, it’s also the story of DCMN and its clients and features its co-founders and chief operating officer, hub cities, office dogs and signatures from the entire team. Clients also received a hard copy of the book.

22squared: ‘Tappy Holidays’

22squared turned Instagram Stories into a social holiday, tap-through sing-along, ‘Tappy Holidays’, using employees as the instruments in the agency’s interactive holiday greeting card using the tap-through function. Employees from all departments – including CEO Richard Ward – participated in the merry holiday greeting from the agency. The catch is that users have to join in too, by tapping through at the right pace to complete the classic favorites Jingle Bells or Deck the Halls.

22squared connected its tonally challenged card effort with the music charity, Education Through Music.

Iris Singapore: Jolly Trolly

Iris' Singapore outpost reckons it's been a 'pretty eventful year for trolls in ad land', and as such aims to spread a little positivity before the year is out. It's taken 10 of the 'ugliest comments' from 2017 and transformed them into beautifully designed notebooks, available to purchase on a dedicated microsite.

All proceeds from the likes of 'A brownie made of faeces doesn't make it yummy' books are going to The Red Pencil – an NGO that recognises the therapeutic importance power of creativity for all ages.

Aesop: Once Upon a Christmas Tree

Aesop, the agency behind Game of Thrones boxset packaging and Andy Murray’s brand identity, opted for a whimsical ad this Christmas in which a series of tree decorations are given colourful personalities and exchange silly gags.

Titled ‘Once Upon a Christmas Tree…’, the ad sees a Scottish Santa playing the bagpipes to a forlorn-looking gingerbread man, an Irish elf confronted by his fear of robots, and a tutu-donning bear attempting to befriend a unicorn, among other festive characters.

Deutsch: Chill

The holidays are stressful, which is why Deutsch designed an Alexa skill that kelps you chill for the holidays, the Holiday Chill. Jack Frost floats over the device in an ohm position to spread holiday chill, where you can Zen-out with a guided meditation session or relax with the sounds of winter and have a happy, healthy holiday.

"We encourage our employees to practice meditation and mindfulness; we offer group mediation once a week and have amazing feedback on the value it provides.

We created 'The Holiday Chill' with the hope that everyone, from clients to employees to friends and family, can take a moment to be mindful and find some inner peace and balance during the most hectic season," said Val DiFebo, Deutsch NY chief executive.