How Deutsch Inc. Reinvented the 12 Days of Christmas
For the past five years Deutsch has been helping kids count the cost of Christmas by combining smart technology with a classic carol. The PNC Christmas Price Index compares the prices of French Hens, Golden Rings, and Leaping Lords to give children an insight into the global economy – and each year the Index is brought to life by a creative and innovative campaign. Past events have included 3D printed lyrics and a Google Streetview treasure hunt, and this year the team is hoping to grab the attention of Youtube-addicted youngsters with a platform of diverse content. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Deutsch NY EVP & GCD Jeremy Bernstein and CCO Kerry Keenan to find out more.
LBB> How long has Deutsch been working with PNC – and for how many years have you run the 12 Days of Christmas event?
We’ve been working with PNC for five years and this is our sixth Christmas Price Index. It was one of the first projects we worked on when we landed the account and has become a great tradition here at Deutsch.
LBB> Returning to the same song every year presents a unique creative challenge – how do you keep it fresh?
It’s a really interesting challenge and quite unusual in this business to get what is essentially the same brief, year after year. We try to find a new angle on the project every year – something that opens up new creative possibilities and gets us really excited to work on it again. There’s actually a lot to work with. There are the 12 odd gifts, of course, which can be reinterpreted in so many ways – but there’s the music itself, which has fallen out of favor and was long overdue for reinvention. We decided to make that our focus this year.
LBB> Which of the 12 Days are the most fun to work with and come up with creative re-interpretations for? Which are the trickiest?
“Maids-a-Milking is always a fun one and this year’s interpretation, Milk Bucket Music, is one of my favorite pieces because it is simple and charming, but also quite weird.” (Jeremy Bernstein, EVP, GCD Deutsch NY).
French Hens is also a great one and creating an ‘80s’ French Hen Hair Band with live hens was a blast.
Golden Rings is always a tricky one – it’s the only inanimate gift and the one that doesn’t really fit with the rest. It’s everyone’s favorite part of the song, though, so we gave it a moment in the spotlight this year with Golden Rings Orchestra.
LBB> The core of this year’s campaign is the ‘Christmas Carol Comeback’ – an attempt to refresh the song and get it where it belongs, up the top of the holiday charts. How did that idea come about and evolve?
In previous years, we’ve talked about the fact that the song can be a bit annoying and isn’t at the top of most people’s holiday playlist. This year, we came across a stat that confirmed it – the song is ranked number 98 out of the top 100 on Billboard’s Holiday Chart. We decided to lean into this and make it our mission to make the song popular again. After all, if people stop listening to the song, the Christmas Price Index (which is based on the gifts in the song) loses its power as a financial education platform.
LBB> This year’s event includes a real variety of content, from live action film to animation, from storybook to interactive film. What sort of challenges did that present in terms of production? And which of the finished ‘Days’ is your favourite this year?
The biggest challenge was the budget. Because we wanted every piece of content to work on it’s own and not feel like part of a formula, one project turned into 12 projects. Plus we needed to design and build a responsive website to house all of the different content in a cohesive way. Many of the efficiencies and economies of scale that you get with a typical, more homogenous campaign didn’t apply here. We had to get pretty creative (and scrappy at times) with how we executed each piece. We ended up using a lot of internal resources to offset the full burden of production. From typesetting the partridge book, to shooting 11 pipers piping to editing all of the videos in-house. The entire team was extremely enthusiastic and committed to the idea and went above and beyond to make it happen. The great thing we have been seeing since launch is that there is no clear favorite when it comes to the gifts. “In my house, my 7-year-old daughter loves nine ladies dancing, my 9-year-old son loves eight maids a milking, my husband loves the French Hen Hair Band and I love the animated short ‘Scaredy Swans.’” (Kerry Keenan, Chief Creative Officer, Deutsch NY).
LBB> I think my absolute favourite is the Scaredy Swan film. The animation is beautiful! I was just wondering whom you worked with on it and how you developed the story?
Scaredy Swan is definitely a favorite of mine and the entire team here. We worked with Burcu Sakur and Geoffrey Godet, a super talented young animation team from ACME Filmworks. They do an amazing job of using 3D animation in a way that doesn’t feel overly slick and manufactured. Their subtle textures and shading gave this animated story a unique personality and charm.
LBB> As I understand it, the aim of the yearly Christmas Price Index is to educate children about finance by comparing the real world prices of all the gifts in the song. I imagine it’s quite a strategic challenge reaching a young audience about a potentially dry subject – what are the keys to making it engaging?
While it started out originally as a holiday PR stunt, the Christmas Price Index has become a financial education initiative for middle and high school students throughout the country. Teachers use it to make economic principles like inflation and supply and demand more fun and approachable. Getting the attention of kids these days is no easy task – ultimately we’re competing with whatever is trending on YouTube. So instead of trying to fight this media trend, we joined in and set out to create entertaining videos and other fun content that kids would enjoy and share – ultimately leading back to the site where they can explore this year’s gift prices and learn about the economic influences that made them rise or fall. If kids are having fun, they’ll spend more time with our content, share it with their friends, and learn a little about the economy while they’re at it.
LBB> The yearly Christmas Price Index is something I associate with pioneering uses of new technology – there was the Google map treasure hunt, and last year the 3D printed figures were very cool. I was wondering if part of this is related to the audience you’re trying to reach – with kids becoming increasingly tech literate and sophisticated?
New technology has been a big part of the Christmas Price Index for the past several years because we know that kids are more likely to engage with something that feels novel. Kids have no fear when it comes to gaming technology and are often the first ones to try something new, unlike their parents. While this year wasn’t about a new technology per se, we did purposefully exploit the ongoing trend toward social video and content consumption on tablets and mobile devices. We conceived the content with kids in mind and made sure every piece we created could be consumed in a few minutes. We also made sure that kids could easily share the content by embedding it in their social channels so their friends could access it right in their feed, rather than forcing them to go to the website to see it. In other words, we built the campaign around the way kids already like to access and share content.
Check out PNC's 12 Days of Christmas here.