It’s been nine years since Office Max's Elf Yourself debuted online, helping usher in an era of viral branded content before those terms existed. For the 10th iteration of the perennially popular campaign, the company — now known as Office Depot — is debuting a series of branded mockumentaries.
Taking the idea of Elf Yourself to its naturally absurd conclusion, the office supply company introduces us to Richard Lovejoy, one of Santa’s elves whose been forced out of work thanks to the millions of new elves minted by the Elf Yourself program. Now he’s in New York, trying to make it as a dancing elf — you know, like the ones from Elf Yourself (it’s complicated).
"Why does life have to be so elfin’ hard?" muses a sympathetic elf.
The original Elf Yourself, created by independent digital shop EVB, allowed users to upload headshots and create a dancing "elf" version of themselves, complete with green hat and festive sweater. The site received 31 million visitors and half a billion hits in less than five weeks. According to a counter on the site, more than one billion digital elves have been created over the past nine years.
Since then, the company has produced a new version of Elf Yourself each holiday season, usually to widespread acclaim, though not without speed bumps. In 2008, Office Max partnered with JibJab and required users to register to use the site; traffic took a substantial hit. The Elf Yourself app went live in time for the 2012 Christmas season, and is still available on iOS and Android devices. The mockumentaries aren't meant to replace the ad, simply to promote it.
This year, the client has turned to Fancy Rhino, a creative content shop in Chatanooga, Tenn., "to create a story that could be taken in multiple directions with strong character development and a level of intrigue," according to a release.