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All I want for Christmas is nothing: Breaking the Secret Santa curse

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Christmas is wonderful and everything, but if there’s one thing about it that becomes more and more tedious as the years drag on - it’s the presents. As a child, there’s something undeniably magical about waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning to tear your way through your annual stash but that joy wanes throughout your teens and by the time you hit your mid-20s it’s hardened into a pit of resentment. Then there’s “Secret Santa.”

We’ve all been there - pulling a name out of the festive hat at work that we don’t even recognise and finding ourselves desperately scouring the shelves of Marks and Spencer the night before searching for something vague enough to mean something to anyone. It’s a tradition that is often romanticised and glorified by advertising agencies (for obvious reasons), but this year, Wunderman Thompson UK decided to shake up the Secret Santa formula with a radical, fun campaign that turns the dreaded seasonal workplace tradition completely on its head. 

The agency’s total departure from festive convention sees it reimagining what that annual office staple should mean. And it does so quite brilliantly. A survey commissioned by Wunderman Thompson found that 55% of UK workers never actually use their Secret Santa gifts, which equates to over £165m in unnecessary spending each year. I knew it was evil!

In its newly launched NO.THING campaign, the agency is attempting to solve the inherently wasteful nature of Secret Santa by encouraging its employees, clients and the industry to do (quite literally) NO.THING and engage in a different kind of giving that is much more in tune with the times we live in.NO.THING wants us to exchange good deeds rather than buying needless guff; in other words to exchange time for tat and put sustainability at the heart of how we celebrate Christmas.

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As a way of staying true to the principles of the initiative and avoiding needless waste, Wunderman Thompson will not be creating any sort of accompanying Christmas card. Instead, NO.THING will be supported by colourful, impactful online assets, themed ‘UNGIFTED’ that will provide plenty of inspiration for everyone to get involved and play their part in cutting out waste this festive season. 

‘Ungifted’ has a striking ‘brutalist’, guerrilla, fly-posting aesthetic with NO.THING emblazoned in a black square to cut through the seasonal clutter. The colour scheme echoes traditional seasonal colours with the addition of neon accents to complement the Wunderman Thompson brand palette.

Wunderman Thompson, which collaborated with Pentagram through the process, will be flooding its social channels with ways for people to get involved in UNGIFTED. Those who sign up via Unsigned Secret Santa will receive a confirmation email and a campaign post to share and encourage others to participate. The agency will also be sending out personalised NO.THING emails to clients and displaying digital campaign assets throughout its Greater London House HQ.

Anyone who has ever worked in a large office over Christmas will probably agree that this is a truly exceptional idea and the thoughtful act could be just about anything. It might be something as simple as making a colleague’s tea or coffee for the day or watering their plants for a month. Whatever it is, it will probably be appreciated more than a Lynx Africa gift set.

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