Gift Wrap: Sympatico’s ‘Portable North Pole’ is back

After a blockbuster debut last year, Sympatico has brought its interactive Santa video service back to raise funds for UNICEF and deliver customized Christmas wishes to the naughty and nice alike.

Sympatico’s Portable North Pole (PNP) was such a big hit last year, the internet service provider has brought the C2c  – that’s Claus-to-consumer – online video message application back for 2009. Ramped up with a new UNICEF partnership, Sympatico hopes to beat the record of 1.5 million videos uploaded last year.

The free service, launched this week, allows people to customize a video message from Santa and send it to anyone they wish. The users fills out a series of fields answering standardized questions and the results are fed into the application, created by Montreal’s Ugroup Media. The text is then transformed in to a custom video in which a live-action Santa delivers the message based on the answers selected by the user.

New for the application this year is a partnership with UNICEF to drive fundraising – users can choose to donate in the midst of their message-creating experience – as well as a media buy to promote it and increased functionality to expand its reach. Users can now choose from four age categories to tailor content to that particular age group. The new adult-oriented content, for example, is a bit more clever and fun, while the toddler version results in a video much shorter in length.

Sympatico is driving awareness of the Santa app with a media buy handled in-house, which includes TV spots in Quebec on Astral properties Canal D, Ztélé and Series+, a print buy with Metro in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal and an online buy with, Yahoo Canada and Creative was handled by Rethink.

The app debuted last year when Ugroup Media approached Sympatico with the idea to use the interactive and customizable video technology. The team thought it would be a fun and innovative media and promotional opportunity, Martin Ceré, senior director, content at told MiC, but never imagined how popular it would be.

But as Christmas drew near, the PNP was seeing upwards of 100,000 videos uploaded per day, Cere said, peaking at 120,000 in the two days preceding Christmas. The decision to bring it back was an easy one, he added, this year backed with the media buy (last year PR was the main promo), since it’s the first time they’ve done the promotion since the break from earlier this year.