Extreme Group weighs in on Starbucks' red cups

Extreme Group responds to the Starbucks red cup controversy

Stunt sends up consumers complaining about Starbucks' lack of Christmas spirit

red cups 3Extreme Group has a message for all those vexed by Starbucks’ plain red holiday cups: It’s just a cup

The agency has hijacked the media frenzy surrounding the coffee chain’s red cups with its latest stunt. Earlier this month, staffers from Extreme Group hit the streets of Toronto’s financial district armed with red cup sleeves that featured faux Starbucks branding.

Designed by art director Jonathon Ciordas and copywriter Luke Skinner, the cup sleeves served up what some complained the plain red cup design was lacking – Christmas imagery. In lieu of the Starbucks mermaid, the creatives set the face of Santa Claus in the green and white logo.

The text on the cup sleeve, however, tells a different story. Underneath the logo, the agency set the tagline, “It’s Just A Cup,” and on the back of the sleeve it printed, “Getting outraged that a red cup isn’t Christmas-y enough is the least Christmas-y thing you can do. Donate your time and energy to charity this holiday season. Let’s focus on the issues that actually matter.”

Extreme Group Toronto creative director Phil Sylver said the Starbucks red cups fiasco became a big talking point around the office. Staffers felt the company was getting a raw deal – and those lodging complaints didn’t have a leg to stand on.

“I didn’t know what people were so upset about,” Sylver said. “It’s not really Starbucks’ job to complete the holidays for you. We felt a brand was getting dragged into something that was beyond their responsibility.”

As a response to the complaints, the team decided to come up with a way to put the onus back on the naysayers and challenge them to get into the Christmas spirit by acting charitably rather than complaining. Within 48 hours, they’d designed and printed the sleeves and set out to distribute them.

The agency also interviewed Starbucks customers on the street near high-traffic locations, asking for their opinions on the controversy. Those interviews were compiled for a case study video, released Wednesday, which is also serving as the agency’s annual holiday card.

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