Whoever wrote "The 12 Days of Christmas" must have had some pretty deep pockets. With a lengthy shopping list that includes large fowl, prancing performers, and a handful of gold rings, showering one’s true love with so many gifts can cost a pretty penny. $25,431.18 to be exact (for one of everything).
For 29 years PNC Wealth Management has tabulated the total cost of all items gifted in the classic holiday carol in its Christmas Price Index (CPI). A whimsical take on the Consumer Price Index, the CPI serves as a seasonal economic benchmark, and in 2012, an improving economy and a severe drought that drove up the cost of feed for large birds means the price tag for Christmas is $1,168 more than last year, a 4.8% increase. In 2011, the CPI increased by 3.5 percent and in 2010 it jumped 9.2 percent.
To put that into real-world context, PNC says the CPI’s increase outpaced the Consumer Price Index, which stands at 2.2 for the past 12 months, and the Core Index, which is at 2.0 and omits volatile food and energy prices. To mirror the government’s Consumer Price Index practices, PNC also measures a Core Index, which in this case would include swans, which rose by 11.1% this year and are the most volatile gift in the index. PNC’s CPI Core Index is up a modest 2.6% this year, largely because six key items—the partridge, two turtle doves, four calling birds, eight maids-a-milking, nine ladies dancing, and 10 lords-a-leaping—remained the same price as 2011.
Other notable price increases this year include: 11 Pipers Piping ($2,562.00) and 12 Drummers Drumming ($2,775.50), both of which are up 5.5%; pear trees, which jumped 11.8% to $189.99; three French hens went up 10.0%; and the five gold rings soared 16.3%, playing catch-up with the dramatic rise in gold prices in 2011.
As has also been tradition over the past four years, PNC worked with agency Deutsch New York to make the data approachable with an online interactive representation of the CPI. Meant to illustrate the economics behind the gift giving, it’s geared largely toward educators, who can use the site to make broad economic concepts more tangible to students.
Where last year the agency created a miniature world full of games, this year’s Christmas Price Index Gift Hunt sees all of the gifts scattered around the world. Using Google Street View data, the 12 gifts are hidden in exotic locations around the world. Animated elements are then embedded in those locations and users have to decode how to find the gifts. Water a sprout in New York and a partridge in a pear tree is revealed; crumble some breadcrumbs to attract three French hens at the Eiffel Tower; move some giant statues at a Mayan temple and unlock five gold rings; 10 lords-a-leaping are found shredding the slopes in Canada and 12 drummers drumming reside in South Africa.
Jeremy Bernstein, SVP, Group Creative Director at Deutsch, says that because the primary target is middle school kids, the goal was to use gaming in a compelling way to engaged them with the complex economic content.
"We thought about a novel way to create a game experience. What we haven’t seen is anyone tapping into what we think is a really unique thing that Google’s doing with Google Street View. We liked the idea of creating a scavenger hunt of these 12 gifts and get that immersive feel of being in a different place," says Bernstein. "In contrast to last year’s fantastic stop-motion concept, we thought it would be fun to take a more reality-based approach with this novel use of technology."
Created in HTML5 by digital shop B-Reel, the decision not to use Flash (which was used with last year’s site), created challenges and opened up opportunities. "We avoided using Flash to make sure it was accessible on tablets and iPads," says Bernstein, adding that the biggest challenge was figuring out how to layer the animations in the right place and then move in sync with the image as users pan around in search for the gifts.
"We thought about how to make it as rich as an experience that as many people as possible can take advantage of. The style of animation we used was intentionally rough and crude so that we could keep the files small so that the download times aren’t bad. We illustrated the characters as if they’re made out of paper and they move in a slightly jumpy way," says Bernstein. "By choosing that rather than a super high definition style we could keep the files quick and still add a dimension of sound design that makes it much more immersive. We’ll never compete with games like Halo so we focused on something that we could uniquely do on the web and anybody could experience and that’s why we landed on using Google Maps in this way."