Adland holiday greetings: Naked’s murder mystery, a year-end deck from Rethink

Nothing says the holiday season quite like good food and drink, presents, family gatherings… and adland holiday greetings.

December is the time of year agencies get to indulge their creative whims without fear of client pushback. No fretting over whether the work is acceptable within the stated brand guidelines, no requests to tamp down a great idea or make the logo bigger. It really is the most wonderful time of the year for creatives.

This is the last batch of our holiday greetings as we turn the page on 2021. See you in the new year.

Barrett and Welsh: “Ad industry Snakes and Ladders”

“For this year’s Christmas greeting, we wanted to look away from the pandemic, and look into the crazy fun life we lead in the ad industry,” said Barrett and Welsh co-founder Gavin Barrett in a note sharing his agency’s holiday greeting.

“With its challenges and joys, it has found a way to keep us all employed, engaged and enthusiastic over 2021.”

So what did they do? They created a Snake and Ladders board game inspired by the industry itself.

The board, which can be printed for gameplay, includes ladders that lift players further up the game board to the finish line with positive industry inspired messages like: “Agreed. The logo is big enough” and “We want to work with teams as diverse as we are.” Snakes that drop players back include: “Can you photoshop a brown guy into this shot,” “It’s not on-brand, but the CMO’s partner likes neon,” and “I used to do editing in high school. It doesn’t take that much time.”

Naked Creative Consultancy: “A Round of Shots”

Rather than send out holiday cards or other traditional gifts this holiday season, Naked Creative Consultancy created “A Round of Shots,” an interactive murder-mystery game that uses the agency’s Distillery District location as a backdrop.

The game, which can be played interactively via video conferencing or in-person (personally we’d opt for the latter right now) requires seven people plus a host to play. It takes place in 1911 at the fictional Exposed Ankle Creative Libations Company as it prepares to launch its new Titanic Tonic.

Players are invited to solve the murder of Peter von Shier, whose name bears a strong resemblance to that of Naked president Peter Shier, while photos of Naked staffers have also been digitally altered to make them resemble Edwardian-era Torontonians.

Clients that sign up to play via the agency’s contact form receive an email directing them to the game’s website, which contains information on how to play, as well as virtual backgrounds for each suspect, costume ideas and some Titanic Tonic-inspired cocktail recipes.

“It’s been a tough two years for everyone in our business,” said Shier. “We hope this lets our clients cut loose and have some fun this holiday—even if it’s at my expense as the unlucky victim…”

Gene: “Marketer Meditation”

As in previous years, the past 12 months has been an unending stream of virtual client meetings, deadlines and always-on service demands. It’s a highly stressful industry, which is why Gene created “Marketer Meditation,” a 60-second mindfulness practice designed to ground users and alleviate worry.

Developed with software engineer Mark Balaban and Pixel Thoughts, invites visitors to write down a stressful thought they’d like to release in a text box, which then appears as an orb in the middle of a starscape.

As the meditation process continues, users are presented with a series of encouraging messages (“There’s more to life than this thought” “Give yourself a break” etc.), while the orb gets smaller and smaller before finally fading to insignificance.

“This industry can take a toll on our mental health—especially during this time of year,” said Gene’s executive creative director, Julia Morra. “So we wanted to create an experience that invited our peers to unplug, catch their breath and reset the day.”

When the process is complete, users are given an opportunity to visit the nabs website for additional mental health resources, or to make a donation to the charity organization.

Pigeon: “Joke Generator”


With the Omicron variant threatening Christmas, we could all use a good laugh right about now.

And here comes creative agency Pigeon to the rescue with the “Joke Generator,” which serves up a series of cheesy jokes like “Did you hear the one about the angry chicken? It was in a fowl mood” and “How do you fix a broken mask? With masking tape.”

The mobile-optimized site is designed to look like a comedy club, complete with a neon Santa and the obligatory brick wall. Pigeon has also created a series of holiday cocktail recipes and a Spotify playlist.

OneMethod: “Flixtapes”

OneMethod is turning classic holiday movies like Elf, Die Hard and Home Alone into club bangers with “Flixtapes.”

Housed at, Flixtapes replaces the original soundtrack on seven full-length holiday movies with music from DJ P-Plus, transforming them into equivalent of music videos bearing names like “Notorious E.L.F.” and “Vibe Hard.”

It’s like we’ve always said: It’s just not Christmas until we see Hans Gruber fall off Nakatomi Plaza soundtracked by a remix of “Picasso’s Final Note” by Wiz.

The Greater: “Donates $50,000 to charities”

At the end of its first year in business, The Greater founders Matthew Logue and Matthew Klar have donated $50,000 to charities.

The agency launched last December with a focus on building brands and businesses that benefit society. To demonstrate the agency’s commitment to what it calls “purpose+” culture,” Logue and Klar commited to reinvesting 50% of net profit into community charities.

They followed through on that commitment on Giving Tuesday (Nov. 30), donating the $50,000 to a non-profits in a number of areas including:

  • Climate Change and Sustainability: Nature Conservancy of Canada; Project Neutral; Toronto Environmental Alliance
  • Food Security: Black Creek Community Farm; Foodshare TO; Afri-Can Food Basket
  • Indigenous Reconciliation: ENAGB Youth Agency; Thunder Women Healing Society; Indigenous Friends
  • Mental Health: Friends of Ruby; Wanasah: Mental Health Services for Black Youth
  • Sport Access: Canada Basketball Foundation; MLSE Foundation; Canadian Olympic Foundation

Church + State: “The gift of laughter”

Church + State gave the gift of laughter this year with a video poking fun at the digital craze of the year: NFTs.

The video was created with Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, and features a man and a little boy opening presents on Christmas morning and the adult explaining that he has given the child a “non-fungible toy.” When the youngster opens the box and is disappointed to see that it’s empty, the man explains “No, it’s a toy, it’s just on the blockchain,” before launching into a detailed (and tedious) explanation of NFTs.

“Through all the serious and important discussions, protocols, and medical updates, we simply wanted to give our clients and the advertising community a break from the serious with a little bit of silly,” explains president and CEO, Robin Whalen. The agency developed the concept and wrote the script, then worked with Airfoil Media to shoot it. Aside from using Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival talent to produce it, Church + State donated to the festival, and asked for others to do the same.

“Brands and agencies all rely on Canada’s creative talent to appear in our commercials and in our content. We rarely define them as partners, but they really are,” said agency founder and chief creative officer, Ron Tite. “They deliver comedy for brands, but those talents aren’t developed on our sets. They’re developed at places like SketchFest. We need to help kick-start comedy.”

Rethink: Holiday Deck-Orations

At the end of a very busy year, with lots and lots of presentations and, of course, pitch decks, Rethink is closing out the year with one final deck—this one about decks and decorations.

The very funny 65-slide deck includes print-cut-and-fold instructions for five different Christmas tree ornaments, including The Snowball (which is simply a piece of paper you crumple up), which is described as “the first ever DIY holiday ornament that reduces stress as you build it.”

There’s also an NFT, which everyone is talking about but hardly anyone knows what they are. Rethink decided they could be NFTrees.

And if you aren’t interested in any of the ornaments in the deck, Rethink will also make a donation in the recipient’s name to one of five charities: Indspire, Humane Canada, Food Banks Canada, Canadian Mental Health Association, or the Canadian Red Cross and BCAA to help B.C. recover from the recent flood disasters.

Trigger: Vacation Passport

Calgary agency Trigger has created a spin on the vaccination passport with the “vacation passport,” a card featuring a scannable QR code that takes recipients to what the agency describes as “a page of holiday goodness” assembled by the agency’s staff.

The page’s content includes a Spotify playlist, downloadable mobile wallpapers, and a recipe for something called “Christmas crack.” There’s also a humorous post outlining the three stages of life: Believe in Santa. Do not believe in Santa. Be Santa.

“We had a lot of fun creating this,” said Trigger partner and managing director, Geoff Hardwicke. “I think our friends and clients will get a kick out of it too.” 

Here Be Monsters: Naughty or Nice

It’s the time of year when we’re keeping a tally of who’s been naughty or nice, which is the basis of Here Be Monsters’ holiday greeting.

The agency sent a digital greeting to its network asking them to select between two options: Naughty or nice? “It’s a playful and binary question that lets us take the pulse of our network and thank them for working with us through thick and thin times,” said managing director and partner Chris Raedcher.

According to creative director and partner Matt Bielby, about two-thirds of respondents selected the “naughty” option. The agency is sending decadent sweets or drinks to the “naughty” respondents, and a donation to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank to those selecting “nice.” While respondents received immediate feedback on where they sit among their fellow recipients, they weren’t told their gift depended on their naughty or nice choice.

Will: Will From Home

Although most agencies have implemented some form of hybrid office/home working arrangements, the emergence of the Omicron variant has complicated things once more. That means working from home is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future.

But Will knows that WFH can be isolating and boring, so it’s doing its part to recreate the office environment with “Will From Home.” It’s featured in a two-minute, infomercial-style video inviting people to rent co-worker archetypes (dubbed “willers”).

They include “The morning person,” “The stinky microwaver,” “The one who swears too much” and “The audible sigher.” There’s also a toll-free line at 1-888-YAY-WILL.

Klick: #SpreadJoy

Klick Health gave joy to its staff this year, giving 630 employees a $100 bill that they in turn donated to someone else. Many of those acts of kindness were self-recorded (more than 10 hours of content) and turned into a three-minute holiday video of joyful moments.

“One single act of kindness can inspire many more, and we hope that our holiday video inspires other companies to #SpreadJoy,” said Klick’s chief people officer, Glenn Zujew, “We can’t thank our Klicksters enough for continuing to prioritize giving back, in keeping with our people-first culture and values, and we are excited to announce that the video is also supporting Make-A-Wish to bring joy to children with critical illnesses, too.”

Klick is donating $1 for each of the first 10,000 views of the video on YouTube. Most of the $100 donations (about 31%) went to local businesses and service workers like baristas, restaurant servers, bus drivers and garbage collectors, but Klick employees also hired a band to entertain residents at a retirement home, tucked $20-bills into random windshields, bought pizzas for firefighters, and stocked street-side free libraries.

The Hive: The Ugly Sweater Passport

Toronto-based creative agency The Hive came up with a unique twist on ugly Christmas sweaters for the year of vaccine passport—ugly Christmas sweaters that are your vaccine passport.

The agency created real sweaters for staff and any client who want ones that display the wearer’s proof of vaccine QR code.

“The vaccine code is so cold and government-y,” said The Hive’s associate creative director, Mitch Duesling. “We felt the Ugly Sweater Passport was a nice way to add some classic holiday fun and joy into the COVID holiday season.”

The Hive also created a website to give away some Ugly Sweaters. The first batch is gone, but they’re going to draw names from all those who signed up next week to create another bunch. Not surprisingly, this one is getting some mainstream coverage, with CBC, Global and CTV all covering the playful and ugly take on a topic that is very much front of mind this year.

“When we thought back to what the holidays looked and felt like in 2020, we couldn’t help but see an opportunity to have a little fun and maybe even bring a smile to people’s faces,” said The Hive’s president and CEO, Jared Stein.

Conflict: Holiday Booster Shots

Remember in the before times, when doing a shot was fun?

Toronto agency Conflict is trying to bring that back with its Conflict Holiday Booster Shots—which it has cleverly dubbed CNFLCT-h21 in a nod to the description of vaccines from the likes of Pfizer and Moderna.

Each dose is intended to be taken orally, which is good, because the primary ingredient is vodka. The kits also come with dry vermouth in case recipients want to take their shot in martini form. There are also usage instructions on how to make a dry martini booster, dirty martini booster, filthy martini booster and boosted punch bowl booster.

“Boosters are a hot topic right now, naturally,” said Conflict partner and creative director Niall Kelly. “We thought we’d bring some levity to what is a very serious discussion while providing a twist on regular gift-giving. 2021 didn’t take us completely out of the woods, and in many ways it continued to be a tough year. We’re hoping our Booster Shots bring some smiles to those who have been through it all with us.”

Conflict worked with Toronto’s Presslinx to create the medically inspired packaging for the Booster Shots, while Kate Inc. provided photography.

Fuse Creates: 52 Better Fights to Have

Celebrating special occasions like the holidays away from family has been tough. But let’s not forget that these get-togethers come with enormous risk for internecine fights over everything from political beliefs to vaccination to whose stuffing is better.

With “52 Better Fights to Have,” Fuse has created a party game that asks questions designed to spark more friendly debate, like “Were Ross and Rachel really on a break?” (yep) and “Does advertising really work?” (let’s hope so, or we’re in big trouble).

“I mean [family fights are] going to happen regardless,” says Fuse Create’s executive creative director Steve Miller. “We thought we would offer a way to make those inevitable holiday family arguments a little more fun—and have a little fun with it at the same time.”

Oh, and we’ll fight anyone who believes you cut a grilled cheese down the middle. It’s always diagonal, people. Come on!!


Chris Powell