Hallmark ditches TV, goes all-digital in its 2015 holiday campaign

The Internet has been particularly hard on the greeting-card industry, which is struggling to stay relevant in an age when emoji-fied texts, Snapchat wishes and Facebook birthday wall posts have all but replaced tactile paper cards.

But Hallmark is taking the challenge head-on, coming out with its first-ever digital-only holiday campaign. The brand, along with American Greetings, has been a dominant player in the ailing greeting-card market and has traditionally put most of its dollars into TV.

“It’s a bold move, yes, but not surprising with all that’s changing in the media landscape,” said Ann Herrick, marketing director of omnichannel marketing at Hallmark. “We see this campaign simply as an opportunity to reach target audiences in the environment where they spend a preponderance of their time — connected to their digital devices.”

A series of digital videos by creative shop Chandelier comprise Hallmark’s new “#KeepsakeIt Together” campaign, meant to reflect zany family antics during the holidays. While the videos are based around common Christmas-time traditions, such as a family dinner, tree-trimming and family picture-taking, they aren’t perfect “Hallmark moments.”

In one video, for instance, a young, millennial mom encourages her kids to decorate a Christmas tree — only to end up micromanaging it all.

Another highlights the chaos of the family group photo, with a selfie-obsessed grandma calling the shots.

The campaign, which is promoting Hallmark’s line of Keepsake Christmas ornaments, also has an influencer component. Hallmark is partnering with mom-daughter DIY duo Angie & Mayhem to make a holiday dress completely out of paper. Joy The Baker is going to compile her list of top 10 things that make her family’s holidays memorable. All of the content will live on the campaign’s microsite. The brand is also profiling several Hallmark artists about their inspiration and the process behind designing these holiday ornaments. Lastly, a user-generated push invites users to also share their stories.

“We needed to create a strategy that would entertain and inspire our customers, as well as attract a new audience,” said Michael Scanlon, creative director at Chandelier. “The Keepsake collection is built on storytelling, personalities and memory-making, thus we took this tiered approach.”

As a part of the campaign, Hallmark is also sponsoring a branded geofilter on Snapchat — another first for the company. Snapchat users at Christmas tree displays in 20 locations across the country — including Rockefeller Center in New York and Union Square in San Francisco — will be able to use a tree filter on the app between late November and Christmas. The effort is a part of Hallmark’s latest attempt to reach millennial moms, whom it tried to reach last year through its “Northpole Communicator” campaign.

“Millennial moms are actually one of the highest-growth audiences on Snapchat — it’s the perfect place to reach a customer that’s family-oriented, especially in the context of such shareable content as the photo taken in front of a classic American Christmas tree,” said Herrick. “This year, we’re taking that to the millennial mom and her family in settings where we hope we’ll create a bit of unexpected delight.”

Hallmark, which also owns Crayola and the Hallmark Channel, and sells wrapping paper, toys and books, hasn’t quite cracked digital yet. Its revenue fell by 2 percent in 2014, and in just five years, the company has reduced its workforce from almost 22,000 full-timers to about 10,500 worldwide. The paper greeting-card industry at large is beleaguered. Research firm IBISWorld estimated a 5 percent plunge in the industry between 2010 and 2015 and predicted things to only get worse.

In light of its ongoing struggles, Hallmark’s campaign is smart, according to Doug Rozen, head of mobile and social, at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, who has also worked with Hallmark before.

“With the proliferation of different channels, everyone feels the need to be everywhere,” Rozen told Digiday. “I think it’s a great strategy especially when you’re under threat, the value of being in a single great place is better than a hundred OK places.”

Through the campaign, Hallmark is hoping for reach, engagement and eventually sales. “Adaptation implies merely survival,” said Herrick. “We’re ensuring Hallmark is part of the conversation and the tradition of a perfectly imperfect holiday for years to come.”