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Re-designing a More Sustainable Holiday Season

Tag UK’s global client managing director, Steve Pitts, says a greener festive season is in reach for all - all it takes is planning

Re-designing a More Sustainable Holiday Season

What’s your approach to the festive season? Generally, I see three different preparation types when it comes to Christmas... The first plans meticulously weeks in advance; lists and spreadsheets are involved, as is listening out for gift clues throughout the year. Food is pre-ordered, there’s a schedule, and all the shopping is done way ahead of time. The second always wishes to be like the first, but tries to implement the same tactics just a little too late, leading to a kind of organised mess that pulls things off just in time but has to compromise on some points, like budget. The third is chaotic (though never ill-intentioned), leaving it all to the last minute and hoping for the best.


Can you guess which approach produces the most satisfied smiles, full bellies, and least waste?


Sadly, I’m not here to talk to you about having a stress-less Christmas day, but the above scenarios do illustrate how the industry needs to approach sustainability during the festive season and beyond. On average, the second scenario is quite common – the right intention but still wasteful and misses making maximum impact -  clearly it’s the first approach that all brands should be aiming for. With the right forethought, planning, and a production partner well-versed in sustainability, it’s possible to redesign a more sustainable holiday season and adopt greener practices for future campaigns too.


The conversations surrounding sustainability are now happening all the time and aren’t confined to Christmas. It just so happens that the festive season tends to coincide with the most marketing spend and the biggest creative ideas, which tend to produce a lot of assets and therefore waste. Clients often come to Tag asking for ideas and leadership around sustainable production and advice on sourcing, like how to  smarter, greener material selections. Without granular data, or a partner who can supply it, it’s far too easy to miss the opportunities that will make for more sustainable campaigns.


O2’s sustainable Christmas


Our work on O2’s Christmas campaign is just one example. The challenge we faced was to produce O2’s first fully recyclable Christmas campaign. It may sound impossible and yet the results we achieved speak for themselves. O2’s 2019 campaign produced 2,878 of vinyl, 500 fully decorated trees, 64 LED wreaths, and 500 bespoke LED light frames - all non-recyclable. In 2020, we tackled this with a different mindset and framework, thinking about the creative and the materials from the very start. We produced all the instore POS items using 100% recyclable materials; arranged for the collections and recycling of all the items, as well as reduced the overall carbon footprint compared to the previous year. We also used this campaign as a benchmark to ensure that all future campaigns, not just festive ones, are fully recyclable.

What did we achieve? We eliminated 98% of PVC use, reduced the carbon footprint by 78%, and created a 99.98% recycled window campaign. We provided an end-to-end service that recycled all the POS items. This was made possible through multiple tests and a design process that took sustainability into consideration at every stage, like designing displays that could be installed by staff, and therefore eliminated the need for additional travel from installers. It’s only by thinking about the campaign holistically - that’s the creative, the materials, installation, transportation, and end of life - that we were able to produce a campaign with truly green credentials. We now have the data to help us drive future decisions, plus, we’re constantly building a library of learnings on which to base future recommendations.



How to redesign a more sustainable holiday season


Plan, plan, and plan again. This is the most crucial point, without which nothing else is possible. Use data and learnings to look for small opportunities that become normal business practice throughout the year. Or find a partner with a data-driven approach that can do the planning for you. Learn, adopt, and plan for sustainability at all possible touchpoints, big and small. After all, to quote the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “The first two elements of creating the circular economy are to design out waste and pollution; and to design so that you can keep products, materials and components at their highest value and utility at all times.”



A campaign could be for life, not just for Christmas. Reuse is a crucial component of the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ slogan, but it’s one the industry doesn’t consider as often as it could. Brands are starting to look at components that can be reused, year after year, to extend materials and props’ life expectancy beyond single festive campaigns.


Creative messaging over props. Brilliant creative doesn’t necessarily need heaps of mixed materials in store or a window to create festive theatricality. Focusing on the creative message and the emotional intelligence behind it can lead to campaigns that resonate with shoppers, are more memorable, and less wasteful too. 


Premium permanent displays. A lot of brands are currently on a journey from paper to premium permanent displays. The switch means less production and it gives the brands more of a permanent presence in stores. It’s also easier to keep track of permanent assets, with the possibility of repair, redress, and redeployment.


Bank your carbon emissions if you want to splurge at Christmas. If brands spend the majority of the year thinking about sustainability and keeping emissions as low as possible, then taking a slightly more frivolous approach (‘carbon luxury’) to the Christmas period doesn’t seem that bad. It is of course contingent on a sustainable and green approach in other areas of the business throughout the year.


It may well be that your campaign is for Christmas, but that shouldn’t stop activity being well planned out with a sustainable mindset and when it comes to festive advertising working with a Partner who helps brands to be good all year has got to be the best approach.

view more - The Sustainability Channel
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Tag, Tue, 30 Nov 2021 09:56:07 GMT