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Over the 12 days of Christmas, my holiday campaign gave to me…

520,000 visitors 

245,000 registered users 

192,000 further marketing consents

2 Minutes 21 seconds average dwell time 

20% higher open rate vs industry average on re-engagement emails


In recent years holiday TV advertising has become a ubiquitous part of the build up to Christmas, with glamorous set pieces and epic stories bringing laughs and tears in equal parts across the UK. This festive season Vodafone wanted to do something fun, interactive and different for families that would put a smile on people’s faces.

The challenge 

After putting our collective heads together, the ever-popular ‘elf of the shelf’ craze emerged as the perfect candidate for a remix – a tradition beloved by children and instantly understandable to parents, who were very familiar with the disappearing and reappearing elves! With a creative vision in mind, the SmartMedia Technologies team went to work creating an interactive, gift-giving game that would delight the British public, increase Vodafone’s brand affinity and keep their goods and services at the forefront of shopper’s minds as they walked the high street.

 Coming off the back of the multi-award winning Vodafone Find Unlimited campaigns SmartMedia Technologies had built in years past, we knew we had to go bigger, better and more interactive than ever to grab the attention of consumers. The resulting campaign not only over-achieved on engaged users by 110%, it became the world’s largest augmented reality treasure hunt!

User flow

After creating an account in seconds through SMT’s 2-tap onboarding process, which requires just an email or phone number to get started, each player would receive their own Web3 wallet, which contained virtual candy canes they could geodrop around them to entice gift-holding elves to their location. Once they’d dropped a candy cane, players would head to the map and start hunting for footprints left by the elves. Players would have to follow the footprints to get close to an elf, before switching to augmented reality to find and pick them up – creating a ‘wow factor’ moment that surprised and delighted players when their hard work was rewarded with an elf sighting and potentially a prize.  

Leveraging social, DOOH & influencers to raise awareness

The campaign was designed with families in mind and the media was fine tuned to raise awareness amongst this target demographic. DOOH in high footfall areas would grab the attention of families out holiday shopping at the weekend, radio raised awareness during school runs and family friendly influencers were engaged to capture a mobile-first audience. Vodafone ramped up the gamification element with limited-time events promoted through their social channels, re-engaging loyal players. Those in major cities could solve family-friendly puzzles and brainteasers promoted across owned channels that would reveal a hint to elves’ locations.

Keeping consumers immersed in Vodafone branding

Distributing prizes where they’ll be picked up by players can be a challenging aspect when running a gamified, location-based campaign. To keep re-engagement high and players happy, we monitored where players were dropping candy canes and dropped extra elves near them. The more people played in an area, the more elves were dropped – creating a positive feedback loop. The results were impressive, with returning players making up 20% of the daily player base on average – meaning Vodafone spent more time on consumers’ minds over multiple days, building brand affinity and ultimately creating a more meaningful relationship between brand and consumer. 

Players continued to flock to the game day after day, with re-engagement email open rates 20% higher than the industry average.

"Elf and Seek is a great example of how we can use the power of technology to bring brand ideas to life in vibrant new ways - combining creativity, innovation, technology, data and media."

Chris DaveyHead of Creative UK, Dentsu Creative