It’s that time of year again
For several years the johnson banks Christmas cards were nice gentle affairs that cost very little and probably slipped dangerously quickly into nearby wastebaskets. Then, in the middle of the decade, we changed tack and started to take a different approach.
It all started with this idea, where we nipped off to William Hill and bought five hundred separate one-pound bets on it snowing at Christmas, and sent the slips as cards. We had clients complaining, only partly in jest, that they’d spent their break thinking about us (and whether they’d win or not).
Galvanised by the way we’d entered our friends and clients consciousnesses, next year’s was a much bigger deal. Inspired by a discussion about all the dull things we all get up to at Christmas, we developed a special kit that allowed you to cheat your way though the holiday.
It came in a simple looking box…
…which opened to reveal Monopoly cards, a blank domino with die-cut white dots, a pair of loaded dice, and a handy little book of those weird two-letter words you’re allowed to use in Scrabble (you know, like Xu, an aluminum coin and monetary unit in Vietnam. Obviously.) Just to round off your Scrabble game there were two blank tiles. And a set of four aces.
The Monopoly cards were just slightly modified to work in the cheater’s favour.
It’s fair to say that this went down a storm. A little worried about how to follow that, we took the obvious way out in 1997 and threw money at the problem. The solution? A pack of Christmas chocolates wrapped in specially printed foil illustrations of the johnson banks team.
The back of pack broke down the precise contents.
The bar-code, when viewed at the right angle, revealed the fiscal disaster that we had created.
As the end of 1998 drew near, and aware that 1999 would be stuffed with Millennium nonsense, we decided to issue a completely deadpan set of Millennium Guidelines, issued anonymously.
This was the Millennium typeface.
Only when you got some way into the piece did you realise that someone was taking the mickey. Here’s the specially developed Lorennium Ipsum, saving the ‘time and expense of commissioning copywriters’.
Only this number revealed where the guidelines had come from. We had a lot of calls. We even heard that one client called a meeting to discuss how to implement them.
The next year coincided with an office move, so we plumbed office catalogue vernacular and sent a fake sale brochure offering up the Omnicrom machine, old Macs and obsolete technology.
Once in, and settled, we then decided to pastiche Christmas wrapping papers and tags, and issued our own, dedicated set, complete with terrible illustrations.
We can’t find a copy of our 2001 card, but it was a cruel joke-headhunters letter offering us all up for employment. A recession was obviously beginning to bite.
In 2002, we had a two-pronged strategy. Important people got sent a book in November…
…then in January we sent a bilingual Still a Good Idea brochure which carefully presented old rejected ideas for potential purchase…
…such as these rejected (but we think hilarious) packs for Doritos.
By the end of that year we were obviously in a hugely cynical frame of mind, and sent what appeared to be the first of a series of mailings on How to Promote A Design Company. Step one was, of course, designing the Christmas card.
Still in a determinedly anti-design mindset, 2004’s card featured faux-pastel portraits of the team drawn specially for us by the worst illustrator we could find in Leicester Square.
Inside, recipients found a bizarre round-robin-style end of year note written the way your long-forgotten Auntie might write every year from New Zealand.
Last year we sent fake Royal Mail ‘apology’ bags that contained the edges of very desirable objects and a tiny copy line hidden in the code that suggested it’s the thought that counts.
So, that leads us to this year.
Well, we’re still working on it (of course), but as a hint, it involves going through the plan chests, cutting up old posters…
…and gathering up old brochures and magazines.
Watch this space.