How Santa’s boots destroyed an ad campaign

Years ago, when print advertising was still going strong in the B2B arena, there was an advertising agency working with a client, a paper machine felt manufacturer, who wanted to run a Christmas campaign in the US.

The agency was in Finland, the home country of Santa Claus (although I’ve also read a claim that he lives in New Jersey—obviously an uninformed source). Santa in Finland wears felt boots, which sparked the visual idea of connecting his felt boots and the paper machine felt.

There wasn’t too much time available, so the agency advanced on all fronts simultaneously. The idea was presented to the client while copy, visual and photography were being done simultaneously to meet the deadline.

Everything went just fine until the layouts were shown to the client’s US sales office. The first thing that happened was that everybody stared at Santa’s boots. You see, the American Santa wears leather boots.

So, everything—the copy, visual and photography—had to be redone. You can imagine the extra work and cost.

All is well that ends well, though. The media deadlines were met, the now leather-booted campaign (with totally remade copy, of course) ran as planned and everyone was happy. I just have to hope the accounting departments of both the agency and the client managed to work out how the cost was divided.

Moral: Be attentive to detail when communicating to a foreign audience. A seemingly minor issue may trash the best of intentions.



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