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How Crisis created comedy e-cards for Christmas

How Crisis created comedy e-cards for Christmas

To see Alan Carr's personal Christmas e-card, scroll to the bottom of this article.


Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people. It is dedicated to ending homelessness by delivering life-changing services and campaigning for change.

Christmas is one of the most important times of year for the charity.  With cold weather comes an increase in the demands made on the charity for basics such as shelter and food.  “Crisis at Christmas” is one of the charity’s main annual initiatives, providing vital services and support to hundreds of homeless people in London over the Christmas period.  

Fundraising for this work is essential.  So every year for the last 15 years, Crisis has run its Christmas Card Challenge.  The idea is simple – invite large companies in the City of London to donate their Christmas card budgets to Crisis, and offer them a creative alternative instead, plus inclusion within a public ‘thank you’ advert in the Financial Times.  


For the 2010 campaign, Crisis turned to London-based creative agency Knifedge to come up with a fresh creative concept and implement the campaign.  

From the outset, Knifedge felt it was important that the spirit of Christmas was not lost by simply appealing to donors using the heartbreaking stories Crisis were dealing with.  Instead it wanted to create something fun which companies would actively want to share with their clients and contacts, whilst subtly reinforcing their support of Crisis at Christmas.

Knifedge’s solution was to create the Crisis Christmas Crackers - a series of animated e-cards which took a novel spin on traditional Christmas cracker jokes.  A group of top comedians were recruited and filmed including Alan Carr, Rufus Hound, Russell Kane and League of Gentlemen stars Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith.  When the email was opened the comics would pop out of an animated cracker and deliver the most groan-worthy jokes they could think of.  

For each e-card that was sent out, recipients could choose from a version with or without sound.  The silent versions were delivered in the style of silent movie, adding charm and appeal to the delivery.


To promote the campaign, the team once again secured the support of the Financial Times.  A series of print and online ads directed companies to a bespoke website, where participating companies were able to select and preview their chosen card. They could also upload contact lists and cards were then automatically personalised with the recipient’s name and the sender’s company logo.  Outbound telemarketing was also used to engage with past supporters of the Christmas Card Challenge, and to reach out to new companies.

A variety of package options allowed companies to participate no matter how large or small their budget.  All companies supporting the campaign were publicly thanked in a double page spread in the Financial Times, with larger donors rewarded with bigger spaces for their logos.

Companies could choose from 14 different videos to send out.  All videos can found here.


The campaign was such a hit that 21,000 cards were sent out over the Christmas period and over £650,000 was raised – representing a nine-fold return on investment.  The simple but powerful creative idea really captured the imagination of companies in the City of London.  The “Crisis Christmas Card” campaign was awarded Best Digital Campaign at the CorpComms Digi Awards and Best Use of E-Media at The Institute of Fundraising National Awards.

By using dotmailer to distribute the e-cards it was also possible to track the campaign and monitor its progress. From this reliable data can now be fed into future planning of the Crisis at Christmas e-cards.  

This year the relationship between Crisis and Knifedge continues as a new Christmas e-card campaign has recently been launched featuring a fresh group of celebrities acting out various scenes from Jack and the Beanstalk. It is hoped that this will once again prove popular with corporate supporters and help fund Crisis this Christmas.

Crisis Christmas Card - Alan Carr from Knifedge on Vimeo.


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