When Tony Blair called upon MPs to ’Remember you are not here to
enjoy the trappings of power but to do a job’, the acceptance of lavish
Christmas gifts by corporate lobbyists was probably not at the forefront
of his mind.
Christmas does, however, lend itself to extravagant gestures of goodwill
which - under the guise of festive bonhomie - could be seen to
compromise the recipient. While the Ministerial Code, published in July
this year, clearly underlines that MPs should not ’accept gifts,
hospitality or services which might appear to place him or her under an
obligation’, in the corporate sector guidelines are not as clear
No PR company wants to be accused of attaching a bribe to a gift or
incentive, yet attracting the attention of the press, as well as
clients, remains part of the business.
According to Mark Borkowski, chairman of Mark Borkowski PR, companies
have to be wary of how they conduct their relationships with the
’It is a slippery slope if you start giving gifts to journalists. Not
only are lavish gifts slightly tacky and naff nowadays, but their
motives could be questioned.’
Rather than spending vast sums of money on gifts companies are taking an
innovative approach to gifts. ’You’ve got to think creatively and be
spontaneous,’ says Borkowski. With this in mind, he recently spotted a
voodoo set which was sent to selected clients along with a cryptic
’This is the way to be remembered,’ he affirms.
Given the reality of a limited Christmas budget, many companies have no
option but to think creatively. Last year Revlon targeted its top 40
journalists with a Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore hot water bottle. ’We
don’t have a huge Christmas budget and operate in a sector where
journalists are showered with freebies,’ says Marion Scott, Revlon press
’This was an original idea and we had a great response.’
More and more companies are discovering that novelty gifts, as well as
being memorable, are relatively inexpensive. Last year, sales promotion
consultancy Originator sent a Scratch’n’Sniff t-shirt, featuring a
pine-scented Christmas tree, to its clients.
And it’s not only agencies which are looking for new and imaginative
ways to communicate with their clients over Christmas. WWAV Rapp
Collins, the UK’s largest direct marketing agency, pioneered a charity
TV appeal for the first time last year. ’Instead of sending out
Christmas cards, we are funding a festive appeal for our charity
clients,’ explains Gerry Scott, client services director of WWAV Rapp
Collins. The NSPCC, Age Concern, Oxfam, Scope and Shelter all featured
in a two-minute commercial on Christmas day, inviting viewers to make a
Altruism aside, directing Christmas budgets into charity support and
away from direct expenditure on clients is a good PR exercise in
Rosalyn Palmer PR also took a new approach to its Christmas campaign
last year. The company adopted an Orca whale through the Whale and
Dolphin Conservation Society and sent clients a photocopied picture of
the whale for Christmas.
’We actually wanted the card to look low budget,’ says Helen Donald,
deputy managing director. ’The point is that we’re not spending money on
them but on the charity.’
Simon Brocklebank-Fowler, managing director of Citigate Corporate, keeps
his distance from any sort of gift giving over Christmas. ’Corporate and
financial agencies don’t tend to build relationships in this way. Gifts
are more common among consumer agencies. An invitation to a corporate
entertainment day would be a more typical gesture,’he says.
His is a typical response from the industry and PR agencies remain wary
of divulging details of Christmas budgets. One PR hack recalls the
extravagant 1980s when gift-giving was in its heyday and hampers crammed
with champagne raised no suspicion. Journalists dream on.
Holly Acland is a reporter on Promotions and Incentives
A-Z: CORPORATE GIFTS
A is for Alcohol
You can only move the goal posts for Christmas gifts so far and alcohol
remains a tried and tested favourite. A bottle of champagne with a
personalised label from What’s in a Name! will make your gift stand out
among the plethora of bottles clients are sure to receive. Champergift
UK also provides champagne, wines, spirits and combinations,
ready-wrapped and bearing a personal message card.
B is for Beauty products
Beauty and body products have come a long way since bath salts were
standard Christmas fare. Guest International specialises in luxury
aromatherapy products while Doctor Frog targets children with its range
of customised oil-based creams and potions. Glossy, manicured nails are
back in fashion and Nail and Beauty Promotions offers a selection of
products from emery boards to nail buffers.
C is for Corporate histories
Book Production Consultants promises to turn the rather turgid topic of
a company’s corporate history into a lively and novel marketing
With access to company archives, professional historians compile a
conclusive corporate history which make a fun and unusual Christmas
D is for Desk accessories The desk is the obvious platform for keeping
your company name in permanent view and desk accessories are becoming
increasingly hi-tech and eye-catching.
The touch-and-reveal mouse mat from B&H Liquid Crystal displays a
full-colour message while Biblio International has incorporated a
calculator into its mouse mat. A miniature wide-angled mirror from The
DesignAware Company will alert computer operators to what is going on
around them in the office.
E is for Edibles
It’s the season to indulge and food suppliers are already bracing
themselves for the Christmas rush. JB Confectionery specialises in
tablets of Belgian chocolates sprayed with sugar to form a bespoke
design. For a healthy alternative to the usual chocolate-laden Christmas
hamper, Renaissance supplies exotic fruit hampers.
F is for Fireworks
There are a number of companies specialising in fireworks and products
range from a pounds 12.50 Supreme Rocket, courtesy of Barnum’s, to an
all-singing, all-dancing firework pack from the Firework Company for
pounds 2,000. The Firework Company will also set up and operate your own
firework display if you just want to sit back and enjoy the show without
getting your fingers burnt.
G is for Glassware
Glassware is perfect for collectible gifts which can be added to over
the years to give continuity to your Christmas giving.
Nazeing Glassworks specialises in hand-made glassware in modern designs
and its range by designer Rob Allen includes paperweights, vases and
wine glasses. For a more traditional look, try companies like Caithness
Glass and Villeroy and Boch.
H is for Hi-tech Hi-tech gadgets offer hours of amusement and are
usually reasonably priced.
The VodaZap! from Vodaphone is a miniature digital messaging service
with up-to-date info on anything from the top chart hits to premier
league scores. For the desk-bound, the Mega Calc by Incentives For Less
features a digitally programmed company logo or message which builds up
in stages to keep the recipient’s attention.
I is for Interactive
Tailoring a CD-ROM to a client’s hobby - be it gardening, opera or
cookery - is made easy thanks to the array of products now available.
The companies World Reference Atlas CD-ROM brings the globe to life
while its Eye Witness series ranges from nature and science to space and
the universe. Sierra On-Line specialises in CD-ROM games and its
Christmas range includes a First World War flight simulation game.
J is for Jewellery
John Donald specialises in the corporate sector and creates his own
pieces of jewellery combining traditional techniques with modern design.
For glamour without the cost, Cabouchon launched its designer costume
jewellery collection in the UK last year. Korporate Creations can
incorporate a logo or motif into brooches, pins or cufflinks in silver
K is for Kites
The Skippy and Funfli Stunt Kites from AMT Marketing and Sales both cost
under pounds 5 while an eight-and-a-half foot Club Sport would set you
back pounds 29.99. For those who would rather be airborne themselves,
Flying Pictures manufactures and pilots a wide range of balloons. The
gift could include champagne breakfast followed by lunch in the launch
field for a maximum of four. For larger parties, The British School of
Ballooning caters for big hospitality groups.
L is for leather
A leather bound personalised diary or address book is a universally
popular gift and there are plenty of companies offering quality products
at good prices. Leather gifts from Richard Jardine, as well as Marshall
Bros include personal organisers, desk blotters, key rings and
M is for Music
Rather than opting for another re-hashed Christmas compilation CD, The
CD Card Company specialises in bespoke CDs - selected from its own
repertoire - complete with a customised greeting card. For a novel CD
player or radio, Akura has recently secured the licence from Umbro to
conceal a music machine in a plastic football.
N is for Noel
While some may abhor tinsel-festooned desks, embracing the Christmas
spirit can be fun. A Christmas kissagram to surprise or embarrass a
colleague would cost around pounds 50 from Kissagrams First Class in
London. For a less risque approach, tickets to a Christmas panto should
get clients in the festive spirit or leave the choice of entertainment
to them with a voucher from Theatre Tokens.
O is for Oxfam
Oxfam’s Christmas calendar is published this month and contains hundreds
of gifts, all of which have been manufactured and distributed in
accordance with the charity’s fair trade standards. Unicef - the United
Nations Children’s Fund - launched its Business Collection of Christmas
cards last year and services include an overprinting option for a
company to add its own logo and corporate message.
P is for Pens
Coprom has come up with the hypochondriac’s dream - a two-in-one
thermometer set inside a plastic pen. Another novelty gift is the mini
tie pin pen available in gold, chrome or black. For the more
traditionally minded, a top of the range President fountain pen from
Senator is a replica of the 1950s original with a gold plated clip and
diamond finished gilt fittings.
Q is for Questionable taste
Christmas is the time for loud and garish festive accessories.
Magnificent Mouchoirs has successfully transformed the staid male
accessories market with its newly launched Mad Dogs and Englishmen’
collection. The range includes Asterix boxer shorts, Dougal and Zebedee
cuff-links and Wallace and Gromit silk bow ties and braces.
R is for Rare.
Worldwide Exotic Plant Promotions specialises in supplying rare and
unusual plants and flowers including lychee and pomegranate plants as
well as a peanut bush guaranteed to deliver at least 25 peanuts a year.
For an alternative florist, Paula Pryke designs innovative flower
arrangements which include gilded fruit and vegetables and tropical
S is for Stress busters
Pounding the life out of a lump of moulded foam is a cheap and cathartic
means of stress relief. Lancewich manufactures squeezable Santas and
Snowmen with plenty of space for a Yuletide message. Alternatively, a
gift voucher for an aromatherapy, Swedish or therapeutic massage at
London’s exclusive health spa, the Sanctuary, is sure to be
T is for Toys and games
At the cutting edge of toy innovation, the Tamagotchi - a hand held
virtual pet game from Bandai - has proved popular among adults as well
as children while the Magic Cube from the Louis Kennedy Partnership
combines the frustration of a Rubik’s Cube with the cathartic properties
of a stress ball.
U is for Ultimate personalisation
Using a distinctive cartoon-style, artist Robert Duncan designs
calendars tailored to individual companies. As well as producing bespoke
calendars, his Face in the Crowd service uses access to historic
pictures to replace a famous figure’s face with that of a friend or
colleague. Each print is double cut-mounted and presented in a
V is for Vouchers
Easy to send and increasingly easy to redeem, vouchers are a popular
Christmas gift, especially if you are unsure of the recipient’s tastes
or hobbies. Whitbread Leisure Vouchers can be redeemed in over 3,000
leisure, food and hotel outlets from Pizza Hut to Marriott Hotels. Going
Places gift vouchers range in value from pounds 5 to pounds 1,000 while
sporting vouchers from Active offer the ultimate buzz with activities
including bungy jumping and abseiling.
W is for Watches
Prepare for the turn of the century in style with a Millennium watch
from Junghans UK. The watch features a panel displaying the number of
days, hours, minutes and seconds until the year 2000. If you’re
concerned that this gift has a two-year shelf-life, think again because
the watch can be used for personal countdowns such as birthdays,
holidays or even the number of minutes until lunch time.
X is for X-rated
What better way to fill your stocking - or anything else for that matter
- than with Ann Summers’ latest range of Christmas goodies? The company
has just celebrated 25 years of fun and its new Christmas products
include the innocent-sounding ’novelty chocolates’ and saucy lingerie
Y is for a Yard glass
Usually found gathering dust on the walls of a pub, the yard glass has
been re-fashioned to bring it firmly in line with the 1990s. Originating
in America, this yard glass from Fish Tank features a neck strap to keep
your hands free at concerts or festivals and the bottom can be moulded
into various shapes. The range also includes a six-inch double shot
Z is for Zoo
The adoptive parent of an animal from London Zoo will receive a
certificate, photograph of the animal and a listing on the Zoo’s thank
you board. While an Asian elephant would set you back pounds 6,000, a
passion fly butterfly or black widow spider can be adopted for just
pounds 20. For an unusual venue for a Christmas party, a champagne
reception in the Exotic Bird House or Reptile House is sure to be