Some people love the idea of a White Elephant party where people exchange goofy gifts and try to dump the creepy clown or thrift shop Santa on some other guest.
In fact, they are becoming more popular among offices, said Kelsey Soby, an associate at Periscope advertising and marketing agency.
The agency, as a year-end project to raise money for charity, decided to make finding the perfect “haunted doll plate” or dolphin sculpture a way for the gift giver to do some good, said Bridget Jewell, the agency’s creative director and head of the project.
So the agency launched Periscopegiftsforgood.com, where it attached way-too-high “ridiculous” prices on the tchotchkes to raise money for the “ridiculous” problem of homelessness. The agency paired with People Serving People, which helps homeless families. Gift givers can bid their best offer on any of the items; the price is just to raise awareness that the need is real. There’s also a donation button on the site, if someone does not want to get stuck with the “surefire seal” or “filthy clown.” (Sorry, the dolphin sculpture is sold.)
“Each year, [Periscope] tries to find ways to exercise creativity and stay involved in our community,” Jewell said. These projects allow the professionals to experiment as well and build brand awareness.
“We wanted to find a way to do something different that would stand out in the crowd as a charity project,” she said.
The past few years, Periscope promoted Project Peace Paper. The agency asked people, “What does peace look like?” Their illustrated ideas are printed on gift wrap.
The project raised money for peace education around the Twin Cities. For example, as the academic year started in 2018 for Hopkins West Junior High School, students were still reeling from the death of three classmates during the past school year. The school decided on a peace day, where students learned about antibullying and other positive efforts and then wallpapered the school with peace paper as a way to process grief and start the year with positive steps.
As the group started talking this year about holiday themes, they were noticing how White Elephant parties have grown in popularity.
“Most people get a good laugh out of them and move on,” Jewell said. “We wondered, how do we make it more purposeful?”
Hence, giving your money to a good cause while trying to find an item of questionable taste came up. The agency found 15 gifts that the staff thought truly exemplified the spirit of the White Elephant. In addition to the website, the items also are being promoted on Periscope’s social media accounts.
“I think as agencies we have a unique ability to develop interesting solutions to problems,” said Periscope CEO Liz Ross. While the agency has not done the metrics on the success of the Gifts for Good project, the site has been hitting traffic goals, so it’s a start.
The agency allows dogs in the workplace and is selling 2020 calendars featuring employees’ dogs to raise money for a local animal rescue organization, Secondhand Hounds.