The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 13th Annual Shorty Awards

Santa Calling

Winner in Kids & Lifestyle

Gold Honor in Family & Parenting

Audience Honor in Kids & Lifestyle, Family & Parenting

Entered in Contest or Promotion, Online Event/Activation


2020 was a year of really grown-up stuff. A global pandemic. Schools closed. Jobs lost. And with COVID-19 case-rates surging with the onset of winter, there was a distinct possibility that the holiday reprieve kids were looking forward to would be cancelled along with everything else.


Our objective: 

T-Mobile wanted to help. As a customer-obsessed brand that knows a thing or two about creating meaningful connections, we wanted to be there for people, inspiring holiday connections and celebrations during a difficult season. Sure, we wanted to create an engaging brand experience for the holidays. But really, there was no more important objective than simply helping maintain connection and bringing merriment to the welcome end of 2020. 


In other words: our KPI was to be good for goodness’ sake.

Strategy and Execution

As the UN-Carrier, T-Mobile is always fighting for those who need it most. Connectivity isn’t just about the tech and the G’s, it’s also about the feeling. In the spirit of the season, we needed something that could bring people together and spread holiday joy for kids, parents, and out-of-work Santa Clauses, right when they all needed it most. 


To do that, we took the elements that make Santa visits beloved every year, and reimagined them through the lens of connectivity that could span even COVID.


A shared experience

Santa Calling was a virtual North Pole experience inviting all of America’s kids to experience a video call from Santa. Whether your carrier was T-Mobile, Verizon or AT&T, you could sign-up for a call from Santa from the safety of your home—for free.


And because we wanted everyone to be able to connect with Santa, we made sure that we had a diverse cast of St. Nicks who spoke different languages, including ASL.


In lieu of the usual photo with Santa, each session was turned into a video memory for families to share and treasure, especially during a year with less social gathering. Sharing compilations of these videos on T-Mobile social channels (with parents’ permission, of course) meant the joy spread far and wide on organic social.


An immersive story

After a really tough year for kids and their families, we wanted to do everything possible to preserve the innocence and wonderment of a child’s belief in Santa. Kids are perceptive. We needed a convincing backstory and some tricks up our sleeves—so, like most people, Santa was “workshopping from home” in 2020. 


In line with Santa’s usual M.O., we reached kids through their parents—with videos from St. Nick on social channels where parents spend time.


The magic started with a sign-up experience allowing parents to personalize their time with Santa. From selecting from a diverse group of Santas to sharing details to tailor Santa’s time with the kids, families could make sure their chosen Santa would be a great match.


Our virtual experience created an immersive world in meticulous detail. From the carefully curated clutter of Santa’s desk, including flight plans, children’s letters, a smartphone (Santa is a tech-savvy fellow) and “hand Santa-tizer” to his whimsical “North Pole office” Zoom background, we had something to delight both the young and young-at-heart.


A real-world connection

The connection between imagination and reality is core to Santa’s magic. A video call with the big guy wasn’t enough—we needed to deliver the goods for real. At a time when family budgets were stretched to breaking point, we knew presents would surprise and delight kids and their parents.  


We asked parents to share a photo of their little one’s wish list with us on Twitter so we could DM them to Santa. Of course, T-Mobile took a peek and surprised lucky kids with gift cards to get just what they wished for—brightening up a holiday season that was tough for so many families.


Thousands of children experienced the magic of Santa Claus (and got the gifts on their wishlist) during a year that was otherwise bereft of the experiences of childhood. 


Rather than paid media, we put every dime towards ensuring that more kids could get time with Santa. Nevertheless, word of the partnership between T-Mobile, Santa, and parents was shared far and wide:




Social engagement exceeded T-Mobile’s 2020 cultural moment benchmarks:


Our sentiment scores also exceeded expectations for this type of activation. As a telco, our social channels are where people come to tell us about service issues, so a degree of negative sentiment is expected, but Santa Calling received only 0.1% negative sentiment—192.2% better than the broader T-Mobile conversation.

And in terms of that KPI, we have it on good authority that T-Mobile has secured its spot on the Nice List indefinitely.


Video for Santa Calling

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Decoded Advertising, Conill Advertising, T-Mobile

Entry Credits