Public Inc. says out loud what many of us have been thinking about 2020

Amid a stream of year-end emails and holiday videos, the “Christmas card” from Toronto-based Public Inc. stands out for being… well, really, really F’d.

Rather than giving corporate gifts, the agency is running a digital campaign in support of mental health with a video that could make a sailor blush. The idea was to say out loud what so many people have been thinking about a year that is mercifully drawing to a close. The result is an R-rated, literal “fuck you” to 2020.

By turns angry and happy, poignant and playful, the video mixes serious “F yous” to COVID and the “all lives matter” contingent, as well as the killers of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (“arrest those fuckers,” says one person), with more humorous middle fingers to Zoom calls, murder hornets and all those who hoarded toilet paper.

The deluge of F-words (we counted 29 in 90 seconds) and middle fingers is as relentless as the year itself, but that was intentional, said Public founder and CEO, Philip Haid.

As a social change agency, the long list of historic hardships that coloured the year has very much been on the minds of staff and the people they work with. “We have ideas that we want to express, and we wanted to really reflect what we’ve been hearing from people… what people are experiencing and feeling and thinking,” he said.

“We felt like we should go for it, and we shouldn’t hold back and we shouldn’t censor ourselves too much and be too risk-averse.” That said, the agency did create a censored version for anyone who wants to share a more PG version on social, or for influencers who are uncomfortable with the real thing.

It has a distinct American vibe (most of Public’s work is in the U.S. now) but Canadians will get all the references. A text-to-donate option is for the Mental Health Coalition in the U.S., but Public is also using the video to generate donations to the Canadian charity Black Health Alliance.

While the video has an unapologetically blunt message, Haid said they felt it equally important to mix in some lightness and levity. “There is still a reason for optimism,” he said. “We felt it was important to kind of bring some humour to this. Not to make light, but it’s cathartic to be able to laugh at what we’ve gone through—it helps people cope.

“And I think there is a message of hope in the end to say 2021 is going to be a whole lot better.”

Let’s fucking hope so.

David Brown