Have you ever worked on a project that took on a life of its own? That’s the story of our first Christmas campaign. We wanted to experiment and make something special to finish the year strong. But creating a viral campaign with our product at heart—that’s also fun and shareable—took a few rounds of tweaking.
The first suggestion? Send out a typeform from Santa where people could submit their craziest gift wishes. We’d encourage people to think big and wild, even a little bit odd. Then we would choose one or two people to actually receive their dream gifts.
It was a good start, but were we thinking big enough? Ideas came fast, and soon the project morphed from a budget friendly typeform into a video, to be shot in some yet-to-be-determined location.
The idea was to do a parody of startup product videos, and poke a little fun at ourselves in the process. And who best to represent our diverse customer base than Santa Claus himself.
According to Jake, our SEO guru:
“We wanted to show Santa going digital. He’s a great match for Typeform and the timing seemed right because of the holiday season.”
After seeing the brief, everyone was excited to get started.
With only three weeks to get the job done, the team was off to a running start. At first we considered shooting the video here in Barcelona, but then thought better of it. According to Ruben, our producer:
“We quickly realized it wouldn’t fit our audience’s expectations, since Spain is very different from what they’re used to in terms of architecture and environment.”
There were lots of opportunities for casting, production design, and shooting locations. So we decided to go for it and raised the bar once more.
We also budgeted some money to travel overseas and packed our bags for Christmassy Montréal, Canada.
Let things unfold naturally
“Plans never go according to plan. So pivoting is paramount when you’re launching projects.”
Obstacles you never anticipated can stall progress, so you need to adapt fast. And complications mount when time is your number one constraint. Attempting to pull this off in three weeks proved to be the biggest hurdle.
According to Lydia, our marketing operations manager:
“We came up with the idea pretty late in the day, so it was a last-minute dash for both teams to really pull together, develop the whole concept, and get it out in under a month.”
This wasn’t completely unexpected. When a project asks you to scout locations in a foreign city, find and audition local talent, write the script, and then fly back to Barcelona and finish edits with such a short turnaround, it’s all hands on deck.
That wasn’t all. Teams rallied to write articles, get a landing page together, and provide social media support to this new direction.
Needless to say, the difference between the original vision and the final one was noticeable. Startup use-case video parody? Gone. But the spirit of the campaign stuck, and the video took on a life of its own.
Expect the unexpected
You can’t account for everything when you’re short on time with so many moving parts. So project management and communication have to be top-notch.
Alex, our creative director, proposed setting up a kiosk with an iPad powering Santa’s typeform for people to request their gifts. Ruben thought they’d do this in a mall surrounded by lots of decorations and a great Christmas vibe. But it never materialized because the malls didn’t have a decorative Christmas vibe as they expected.
But Alex and Ruben noticed that Montréal had plenty of great outdoor locations. So that’s where they decided to shoot.
Another unexpected surprise was Paul Tassé, our Santa Claus.
He had a strong French-Canadian accent, and since Santa comes from an unknown land far away (some say the North of Canada), Paul seemed like the perfect choice. Not to mention that he was the most charming Santa we’d ever met.
Then there were the people who filled out their gift requests.
Delivering those presents was probably the highlight of the entire experience. You can never predict how well they’ll be received, but it turned into an absolute joy and surprise. Santa even got some heart-felt hugs as a result.
And finally, it snowed. Sure, it presented logistical challenges, but c’mon, it’s snow! You’re not getting that in Barcelona. This final element added a nice holiday touch to the final product.
Difficult projects can be rewarding
I spoke with Alex during post-production, and he confided that the short timeline put him under a lot of stress. I know Alex. He expects nothing but the highest quality. But despite all the challenges, the Creative team pulled it off.
Everyone at Typeform gathered to view the premier. And as it ended to a rousing applause, the team felt a sense of relief. Although they still had to release it to the public, the hard work was finally finished.
Sançar, our head of marketing, who witnessed the whole project come together, commented to me:
“The most rewarding part of the entire process was how the team trusted each other, and rallied to get the job done. Everyone pulled together to make this happen at the last minute.”
It just goes to show what a little agility and ingenuity—along with a team that complements each other—can do in three weeks time. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re walking away with a ton of takeaways.
“Learning might be the single greatest competitive advantage at any organization.”
It’s something we take to heart at Typeform. Even though things don’t always go according to plan and mistakes get made, every project brings a ton of lessons. Here’s a few we’d like to share with you.
Have a clear vision
“Make sure communication flows regardless of any time pressure. Also, it’s very important to define the project scope from the start, so the production process is more stable.”
Allow more time for bigger campaigns
“Plan Xmas campaigns at least 6 months in advance. It will give more time to throw ideas around and plan the distribution, amongst other things.”
And Lydia doubled down on that point:
“Forward planning, forward planning, forward planning, forward planning…” (we get the point Lydia)
Don’t come across as salesy
And finally from Jake:
“Don’t overbrand campaigns. It can dilute shareability and PR potential.”
All important points, and things to keep in mind when working on big marketing campaigns.
Here’s one more: When you’re planning everything on the fly, it’s easy to lose sight of the project’s vision. What was intended to be a parody turned into a heartwarming, and perhaps (a little) over-branded, campaign video.
And that’s quite alright. The video exceeded expectations in other ways.
As of this writing, that video generated over 130k views. It also demonstrated what’s possible where there’s a bias towards action, even when risks are taken and the payoff isn’t so apparent. And did you see the smile on their faces when those gifts were unexpectedly delivered? If not, take a look:
Final lesson: leave good in your wake.
Until next time.