For 30 years, PNC Bank has released its Christmas Price Index, a clever and creative visualization of economic trends that mimics the Consumer Price Index and is aimed at educating middle school students. Using online gaming devices and innovative technology, the annual CPI tabulates what it would cost, in real dollars to give your true love all of the gifts from the 12 Days of Christmas.
But never has PNC committed to giving away those gifts. We presume gifting service labor and multiples of live exotic fowl is a bit of a challenge. Instead, PNC’s generosity is made simpler through 3-D printing. With its 3-D Gift Maker, PNC is letting customers create and customize modern-day, toy versions of the 12 gifts of Christmas–all while explaining economic trends.
With the Gift Maker users are invited into a virtual toy workshop. There, they’ll have to complete their custom toy creations before the current price of the gift is revealed. Kit out a leaping lord with a snowboard and discover that the price of 10 is up 10% in 2013 and will cost a cool $5,243.37. Trick out a calling bird in a cell phone suit to find out that four will cost $599.96, up 15.4%. Or place a French Hen in a bag of baguettes and find out the price of poultry has been stagnant this year and three birds will cost $165, the same as in 2012.
Created by agency Deutsch NY, with digital production from MediaMonks, the intent was to create something special for the CPI’s 30th year. “We always try to come up with a new twist on this tradition. In previous years, we talked about making toys but the cost, timeframes, and complexity of traditional production prevented us,” says Deutsch SVP, group creative director Jeremy Bernstein. “Now that 3-D printing has become more reliable and affordable, we thought this was the right time to make it part of the CPI story.”
Every day for 12 days starting on December 2, PNC will randomly choose 24 gifts created and submitted in the Gift Maker workshop, print them with a MakerBot 3-D printer, and mail them to their creators. If someone designs and submits 12 toys, they get 12 chances to win for the day. In all, 288 toys will be given away.
Bernstein describes the toys, designed by Invisible Creature, as “modern but not overly cool” so that they appealed to a wide swath of people. “We wanted to create a collection of toys that would be as enticing for a 6-year-old as a 60-year-old. We wanted the gift that each toy was based on be recognizable in the character, but we also wanted to reinterpret them in fun ways. For example, you can make a traditional looking turtle dove or you can give it turtle fins and a turtle shell and create a turtle/dove hybrid.” He says the limitations of 3-D printing, such as the fine ridges of the printing process and the fact that only bright, saturated colors are available also informed the toy design.
Because the agency knew only a small percentage of the visitors would be able to receive a 3-D printed toy, they designed the online experience to be fun and rewarding. The toy building experience is simple: users drag-and-drop various parts from the workbench to assemble the toy and finished toys come to life and do a little dance. “We avoided complex menus and interfaces so that the focus is on the toys themselves,” says Bernstein. Prices are then revealed one at a time and highlight the economic influences at play. Finally, users can share the gifts they create over social media. Bernstein says the site was designed as a mobile-first experience. “It was important to us that the experience work on computers, tablets, and phones, so we actually thought about the tablet experience first, and adjusted accordingly for the other two screens.”
So what is the overall cost of Christmas in 2013, based on the 12 Days of Christmas gifts? Quite a bit more than in 2012, it seems. The price of the 2013 PNC CPI is $27,393.17, an increase of 7.7% or $1,192 over last year, making showering your loved one with swans, gold rings, maids, ladies, lords, drummers, and a partridge in a pear tree a significant financial investment.