Cheryl Berman allies with Element 79 on new campaign

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Scene from Cardstore.com’s “Sweaters” spot

It must have something to do with the holiday spirit, because one sure doesn’t see ad agencies in Chicago working so happily together all that often. 

But that is exactly what has happened in the development of the first ad campaign for Cardstore.com, the online greeting card company that was acquired by — and is now a  unit of —  the giant American Greetings Corp., said to be the world’s largest, publicly-traded greeting card company.

The new campaign, which includes TV, print and online components, is a joint project between Unbundled, a Creative Co. and Element 79 — two Chicago-based shops. 

Unbundled, you may recall, is the shop set up by former top Leo Burnett creative honcho Cheryl Berman.  As the back story goes, Berman had recently been providing brand and creative counsel to American Greetings, and she recommended to AG that Element 79 be brought in to do some of the heavy lifting related to developing the Cardstore.com campaign.  

Berman famous for Hallmark advertising

Ad icon Cheryl Berman of UnbundledIt’s not at all surprising, of course, that Berman should be doing work for a greeting card company.  It’s just a bit of surprise, however, that she’s now attached to American Greetings. For decades, Berman and her creative crew at Leo Burnett created some dynamite — legendary even — advertising for Hallmark, the famous card company that is American Greetings’ arch rival.

Hallmark, of course, has been a Burnett client since almost forever. And although Berman isn’t at the agency now, Hallmark is still at Burnett.  But the card company’s advertising focus has recently changed rather dramatically — and not altogether for the better — as Kansas City-based Hallmark has tried to broaden its product portfolio.

Element 79 honcho Brian Williams also spent some of his formative years in the ad business at Leo Burnett, where he worked on the Hallmark business on the account side.

Burnett, in fact, is where Berman and Williams developed the relationship that, many years later, made Berman feel comfortable bringing the American Greetings business to Element 79.  (Yes, relationships do matter.)  Berman is said to have served as chief creative officer on the Cardstore.com campaign as it evolved at Element 79.

New campaign takes the cute route

By putting some marketing emphasis on Cardstore.com, it appears American Greetings is trying to maintain — and update — its status as a major player in the greeting card business.  At the online store visitors can create their own cards and then send them out via the traditional postal service. Newfangled and old-fashioned at the same time.  Yes, you can have it both ways.

And what of the new campaign?   Titled “Send A Little You,” it  is nothing if not cute. It’s not necessarily our favorite style of work, but it may be the best route to go for the type of product Cardstore.com is.

In a spot called “Sweaters,” (because the principal players are all wearing very loud sweaters), we literally see one family “getting into” their personalized Christmas card experience.  On the front lawn no less, a neighbor looks to be totally baffled by the strange sight of a family crawling inside a giant card that suddenly is finished off with an image of the sweater-clad family.

“Grandma” is a better effort, because the spot’s creators had a lot of fun with a number of little details.  In this commercial, a family literally jumps out of the card they have sent grandma as she sits down to open it.

The son catapults onto granny’s eyeglasses at the top of the spot, while the family’s dog licks her neck before moving on to munch on a nearby gingerbread cookie as the rest of family struggles to climb up grandma, as if she were a human Mt. Everest.  Nothing beats a raft of well-realized details to make a commercial start to sparkle.

The third TV execution, ”Mark and Charlotte” is all about a couple making the card’s recipients long to be at the beach, where the vacationing duo obviously are having a blast.  It too tries to have fun with some clever details, but it never quite rises to the level of “Grandma,” despite trying hard to do so.

This may not be the year’s most inspired ad campaign, but it’s obviously designed to bring a smile to the faces of viewers who still believe in and honor the tradition of sending holiday cards of any sort to friends or family. And if the work manages to get more people to send their cards via Cardstore.com, plenty of folks at American Greetings surely will be smiling as well.

Agency credits: ECD, Cheryl Berman, Unbundled; CD, Monica Klasa; senior copywriter, Alana Beseau; producer, Cheryl Lindquist.  Production company, Uber Content/L.A., editorial, Mackenzie Cutler, New York.

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com

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