Gift Wrap: Richmond Centre hosts Santa 3.0

The BC shopping centre creates an interactive holiday experience with augmented reality-enabled elf trading cards, streaming Santa visits and a global map of Christmas believers.

Santa Claus has swapped out jingle bells and candy canes for augmented reality (AR)-enhanced trading cards and live web streaming in a high-tech holiday effort by the Richmond Centre in Richmond, BC.

Under the tagline ‘Believe. Santa at the Richmond Centre,’ the interactive display is part of the shopping centre’s effort to bring the Christmas experience to its tech-savvy and multicultural demographic. Created by Vancouver’s Inventa (with print creative handled by Hangar 18, also of Vancouver) the in-mall promotion started on Nov. 13 with Santa’s flashy arrival in a zero-emission Chevrolet Equinox and will run until Christmas.

To help educate those who might be spending their first Christmas in Richmond, the Santa set-up includes a School of Christmas, featuring classes such as ‘Santa Sessions,’ ‘Elf Storytime,’ and ‘Christmas Traditions.’ And for those who can’t attend a family member’s first visit with Santa, visits can be streamed online to the Santa Live! website, which also includes bios of all 38 elves, an online School of Christmas, a video of the Elf Pledge, Santa Q&A and a global map of believers. Site visitors are also encouraged to register with the site so that their house can be marked as a ‘believer’ house on the map.

‘Adding technology to the Santa experience was a logical and strategic move,’ Leslie Matheson, marketing director, Richmond Centre, told MiC. ‘Santa’s augmented reality trading card and Santa Live! are both programs that take into account the realities of the way people communicate and live today and were implemented to drive word of mouth for the Santa at Richmond Centre experience.’

The augmented reality cards are a particularly nifty element of the Santa 3.0 experience. Each trading card – handed out when nice boys and girls ask politely – sparks a 3D image of Santa when the child holds the card up to a webcam. The cards were introduced first last year, Matheson said, but this year they wanted to add a ‘more magical and awe-inspiring experience’ with the AR capability.

The mall is not promoting its Santa display via traditional media, but rather hoping that word of the innovative display makes its way through the community in the old-fashioned way, Trina Mousseau, creative account specialist, Inventa, told MiC.

‘All campaign elements are targeted to parent and child and are meant to inspire young and old to believe,’ she said. ‘We chose elements that will drive word of mouth with our customers, spreading our ‘believe’ message in an authentic and grassroots way that traditional media can’t.’