Oregon-based DVA Advertising & PR markets itself as an innovative agency willing to take risks - especially in the new media sphere.
Though the agency specializes in promoting its clients, it found an opportunity to do its own PR amid the mounting controversies surrounding Santa's weight during the recent Christmas holidays.
The firm crafted a clever rebuttal campaign to the holiday hullabaloo that relied on media relations and word-of-mouth marketing.
Efforts to straighten Santa's image - like taking away his pipe, and attacks on his hefty waistline - prompted the agency to launch a satirical, self-promotional response.
"We thought 'this is ridiculous, let's have fun with this,'" says Justin Yax, DVA PR director. "And it just lends itself to that kind of viral and non-traditional campaign."
The agency harnessed the holiday spirit and increased newsworthiness through a charitable component. The campaign's timeliness and comical nature made it ideal for the immediate and irreverent sphere of viral and word-of-mouth marketing. "We wanted [it] to demonstrate the efficiencies and power of viral marketing," notes Yax.
The agency launched "Keep Santa Fat" on December 10. The grassroots effort included a Web site, online mockumentaries, and promotional materials.
The agency created a petition to "Keep Santa Fat," donating one pound of food to America's Second Harvest per signature.
The firm uploaded videos to YouTube. They then targeted bloggers to spread the effort virally and promote the site, and piggyback on the movement to slim Santa down.
DVA targeted broadcast, radio, and other outlets that could quickly address the Santa controversy. Yax says the story was "perfect" for journalists looking for a "puff-y" holiday story.
The main YouTube video featuring a fake news piece investigating the effects of Santa's weight on children garnered more than 22,000 views. Two commercials had more than 1,000 views each.
In addition to coverage in more than 40 US markets, ABC World News ran the story nationally, while markets in the UK and Australia ran pieces. The New York Times featured the campaign on its humor blog prompting others to link to the site.
More than 7,000 people signed the petition, resulting in more than 11,000 pounds of donated food. The site garnered about 20,000 visits from more than 113 countries, and the online promotional store sold about 200 items.
"There will be something next year," Yax says, adding that the effort shows DVA's innovative marketing strategy.
"It may be Valentine's Day, Easter... it could be something totally unrelated. We're going to figure out how we're going to close the loop for people who have supported us and for media relations."
DVA Advertising & PR
PR team: DVA Advertising & PR
Campaign: Keep Santa Fat
Duration: December 10 to December 31, 2007
Budget: About $35,000
It's refreshing when a firm promotes itself with bravado and ingenuity. Taking a stand on the holidays' politically correct frenzy was bold, as it displayed a willingness to take risks.
The irreverent tone showed that DVA gets the flippant style of online media. Taking on holiday controversies could be an agency signature - though its stance could become too dangerous or too safe, depending on how each affects its business.
Before going too far, DVA should heed caution - either could destroy the winsome yet sneering tone that makes the campaign so endearing.