PNC's Christmas Price Index is Back -- With a 3D Twist

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Deutsch and PNC have for years delighted us with the Christmas Price Index, an annual campaign where they calculate the cost of the items in "12 Days of Christmas" -- in today's prices. According to PNC exec VP and chief communications officer Donna Peterman, it adds personality to the bank's brand, but also is a learning opportunity, as teachers use it for lesson plans on basic economics.

This year, the campaign gets a techie twist, thanks to 3-D Printing. For the first time, "Gift Maker" will let you build the toys in an online workshop, find out prices, then enter for a chance to actually get their 3-D toy collection. Deutsch partnered with design company Invisible Creature to design the toys and their customizable accessories, which will be printed using MakerBot printers.

Jeremy Bernstein, EVP, Group Creative Director at Deutsch said that it's the 30th anniversary of the campaign, so the agency wanted to do something special. "The gifts in the song are kind of mysterious and antiquated, so we thought it would be really cool to reinterpret them as 3D-printable toys that kids of all ages could customize and, if they're lucky, win their creation," he said.

There were some challenges -- many printers don't create solid and durable products, which was why the agency went with printers that use a hard plastic called PLA. However, the printer doesn't print multiple colors at the same time, so the agency is printing individual parts of toys, then reassembling it. 20 printers are going simultaneously, since each toy takes three hours.

Another limitation of the emerging tech is that the end-product isn't "smooth," said Mr. Bernstein. "They have very small ridges that are the result of the 3D-printing process, a bit like pixels on an old dot matrix printer. We think this actually ads a lot of charm to our toys and is a reminder of how new this technology is. In just a few years, I imagine, we will look back on this time in a nostalgic way," he said.

Each toy has fun twists -- for example, you can start with a french hen, but customize it with a french fry body or a Picasso shirt, or a beret. Calling birds can be customized with a London phone booth.