‘Tis The Season To Start Avoiding Holiday Debt

For debit-payment service Interac, Zulu Alpha Kilo subverts beloved Christmas carols to promote holiday fiscal responsibility.

If retail stores, TV ads and certain satellite radio services (we’re looking at you, Sirius XM) are to be believed, it’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas. No sooner are the ghouls, goblins, and miniature candies whisked away, do the Santas, elves, candy canes and holiday tunes get trotted out.


As the first visions of sugar plums start dancing in our collective heads, Canada’s debit-payment service Interac has already jumped into the fray with a campaign designed to get consumers to think twice before racking up holiday credit-card debt. But how do you get people to think responsibly during a season of lavish spending and record-low self-control? By debt shaming them.

Dubbed Merry January, the campaign from agency Zulu Alpha Kilo encourages people to pay with their own cash via debit in merrily unexpected ways. In one spot, a woman experiences a hallucinatory existential crisis over which payment method to use. As she reaches for her credit card to pay for a nutcracker doll, the toy store’s shelves of toys break into song, chanting “debt, debt, debt” to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Once she’s returned to her senses, she chooses debit over credit, though we’re not sure why she still wants to buy that nutcracker after such a frightful onslaught.

In two other videos, a Christmas sweater-clad clan signs altered versions of traditional carols, such as “Don’t debt the halls with credit follies” and “We wish you a Merry January”. Print, out-of-home, and digital executions includes similarly subverted headlines, like “Debt is a real nutcracker”; “You’re a foul one, Mr. Debt”; “Credit Card Fees? Humbug”; and “Sleigh interest fees.”

While Interac has long been a champion of financial responsibility with it’s Back in Black brand platform, the real challenge is to get people to think of the repercussions of relying on credit without seeming like a total holiday kill-joy. Perhaps turning January into a month to look forward to–one of financial solvency versus that bleak month of austerity and ill-fated resolutions–will hit the right chord.


About the author

Rae Ann Fera is a writer with Co.Create whose specialty is covering the media, marketing, creative advertising, digital technology and design fields. She was formerly the editor of ad industry publication Boards and has written for Huffington Post and Marketing Magazine.