The holiday season: ‘tis a time for giving. For the weeks leading up to the holidays, you can find us in intense boardroom meetings, brainstorming unique gift ideas for our clients and friends. For years, we sent eggnog cupcakes, eventually developing a bit of a reputation. This year, however,  we wanted to do something that has an impact on our community. So, we left our eggnog cupcakes in the past, and spent our gift budget on something different. Not wanting to leave our clients empty-handed, we took the little spare change we had left and created a handmade gift, designed to make you laugh. And, as with everything we do, we did it with great detail. You’ll see by the end of this post.

So, where did the money go?

We donated the $5,000 gift budget to various charities, splitting it across:

  • SPCA
  • BC Children’s Hospital Foundation
  • Toronto Humane Society
  • Coast Mental Health
  • BC Cancer Foundation
  • Katie’s Place Animal Shelter
  • ALS Society of Canada

All these charities have supported our team in one way or another, we’re grateful we can return the gesture. For example, you can read why and how we raised money for ALS earlier this year. And now, as then, we are thankful that we have the opportunity and the means to give back.

Spreading the festive cheer

Nonetheless, we still wanted to bring some holiday cheer to our clients, colleagues, friends, and family, letting them know we couldn’t have made the donations without them. After donating our budget to charity, we had to get creative in our method of communicating this. We settled on creating a low-budget holiday video ourselves.

We brainstormed a few ideas and settled on telling a classic Canadian story, one that may not be known by a younger generation – until now.

The 12 Days of Christmas by Bob and Doug McKenzie was released on their comedy album, The Great White North. The album has sold over a million copies in North America and, during the year of 1981, topped Canadian music charts. We knew we needed to do The Great White North justice with our tribute and what started as a silly video quickly snowballed into an office-wide effort.

Below, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at how we approached each day and the attention to detail that was required to make the set as authentic as possible.

The Days

Day 1: Beer

We wanted to get The Great White North set on point. In the video, you’ll notice some old Molson Canadian beer cases and stubby beer bottles. The beer bottles during Bob and Doug’s prime are much different than those we know and love today — so, we searched the internet for props.  We found an original case of Molson Canadian with 12 empties on eBay that some folks in Saskatchewan were selling for only $20 + shipping!

On the bottom of the case, the printed production date reads 1981 — Bob and Doug McKenzie aired on SCTV from 79-82. The other Molson Canadian beer box for 24 cans (two-four) is a bit older from 1973. Renting that as well as the 1970’s era Labatt 50 cans from a movie production company cost us $40. So all in, we spent $100 on empties worth about $1.20, if you were to get the deposit back. It was worth every penny.

Day 2: Turtlenecks

Day two focused on turtlenecks, also known as polo necks if you’re from across the pond. Our CEO Lyn Bryan and VP Operations & Finance Raelene Thomas are featured in this clip, wearing toques and turtlenecks and using a box of Turtles as a Christmas tree stand. Turtles chocolate covered pecans are a classically Canadian treat to eat at Christmas. If you haven’t had them yet – now is the time!

Day 3: Three french toasts

For day three, we took a meta approach. You will see three french Canadians toasting three pieces of french toast. Miles Sellyn, President of Major Tom, is originally from Montreal and provided the Montreal Canadiens hockey jerseys, scarves, and toques to help demonstrate that the characters were French. Miles is featured in this clip as well as the two founding partners of Major Tom, Chris Breikss and John Blown. It was shot in the popular Jam Cafe next door to our HQ.

Day 4: Four pounds of back bacon

The four pounds of Canadian back bacon are being tossed in front of Toronto’s iconic comedy theatre, The Second City. Here, we pay homage to the Second City comedy troupe by making it rain back bacon.

In the early 1980s, Second City Television was a television program that the “Great White North” sketch starring  Bob and Doug McKenzie was featured on. It was essentially a Canadian version of Saturday Night Live that was popular in both Canada and the United States. Second City Television was shortened to SCTV similar to how Saturday Night Live is referred to as SNL.

Other famous people who appeared on SCTV include Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy (currently appearing on Schitt’s Creek), John Candy, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, and Harold Ramis, to name a few.

Day 5: Golden toques

Set in a Tim Hortons, which if you’re not Canadian, outsells Starbucks in Canada. You will see Timbits in the video clip too which are tasty little donut balls, equivalent to American “donut holes”. In Canadian office culture, these are popular office treats, commonly used to flatter your coworkers.

With the money having gone to charity, we could not source real golden toques but these ones did the job!

Day 6: Six-packs of two-fours

It doesn’t get much more Canadian than two guys drinking Canadian beer on a pick-up truck overlooking the ocean complete with a Coleman grill and hockey sticks. A fun fact, however, is that neither of the guys featured in this clip are Canadian! Jamie, a Digital Marketing Analyst, is from England and Brian, an SEO Strategist, is from Ireland. We had to teach them what giver means.

Day 7: Packs of smokies

Perhaps we played this one safe, but to be fair we made it more Canadian. Smokies are tasty hot dog weiners that are popular on Canadian camping trips. And, healthier for you than seven packs of smokes.

Day 8: Eight comic books

Natalie in Accounts Payable is a big comic book fan so these props were easy to source and she was happy to take the lead in sorting out this clip. Thanks, Natalie! She provided us with a few Canadian Easter Eggs, too. The comic books include Captain Canuck, The New Mutants (no. 98) which introduces Deadpool to the comic book world, and Saga, which was created by Canadian comic book artist Fiona Staples.

The backdrop

To get the set just right, it was vital that we sorted out the backdrop the right way. Although we’re a digital marketing agency, we flexed our traditional print muscles — this was no time for green room magic. We reached out to a friend who was kind enough to recreate the design, and inform us of where the original ended up.

The email reply from the backdrop guy.

We then had it printed 8”x8’ and now, it hangs proudly on one of our meeting room walls.

Have a picture on the set!

If you’re in our Vancouver neighborhood (548 Beatty Street) before December 24th, then come by and take a picture on the set! Just be sure to email [email protected] first so we can prepare for your visit and ensure we have a couple of brewskies in the fridge.

The original set vs Major Tom’s.

Christmas tree ornaments

Another detail that is hidden in the background of the set is the very Canadian Christmas tree ornaments, including: a hockey-playing beaver, a Zamboni, maple syrup, and a pair of old skis. There’s one of each ornament on both trees in the video – can you spot them all?