Meet the Creatives Behind the Holiday Card That Went Viral

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It was a simple assignment for two Miami Ad School interns: make an agency holiday card for DraftFCB that could be sent to clients and well-wishers of the agency, while also raising awareness for charity organization Coalition for the Homeless.

Michael Grosso and Josh Yeston's creation allowed recipients to see their homes encased inside a virtual snow globe. More than a year later, the duo is finding that the project has gone viral -- as we noted in this piece about an Ad Age staffer who had the card forwarded on from her mother, a schoolteacher in Ohio.

We spoke to Mr. Grosso and Mr. Yeston, who have since moved on from Miami Ad School to land jobs at Sid Lee, New York, and Pereira & O'Dell, respectively. They chatted with us about their unusual experience creating a breakout adland card and having no one know they were the brains behind it.

Ad Age: How do you go about creating something that goes viral?

Mr. Grosso: I'd say to aim for a concept that would hit home for you personally. Starting from that truth is a great way to attempt to make something that could resonate with other people.

Mr. Yeston:The whole idea had to live in the context of the holidays, so we wanted to give everyone something fun to use that felt very personal. I think any good piece of creative that goes viral always has a way to make the work feel very personal, like you were in on it. The holiday card worked because it was personal to anyone that interacted with it and it felt innovative. It didn't hurt that it was supporting a great cause, too.

Ad Age: Usually, if something's going to go viral, it begins making the rounds soon after it's released. But your creation had a delay -- and it became popular a year later. How do you capitalize on late success?

Mr. Grosso: I think it's a great idea to take a viral success you've had and show it to your creative director, or whoever you're working under. Viral success can be elusive, and it's important they know you're capable of it.

Mr. Yeston: When you're talking to CDs hoping they like you and hire you, you want them to remember stories. They look at hundreds of books. The work is a lot of the same. Especially student books. If you can craft stories around the work, it becomes sticky and not just another innovative social app. And that means everything is an opportunity. A creative director told me in my first quarter at Miami Ad School that even if you're a student or an intern, you're a pro. No one is going to believe in you if you don't believe in yourself. You're not a student studying art direction, you're an art director. Having that mentality was so important for me. It gave me the confidence to think about ideas as if they could really happen.

Ad Age: How can you make sure you make the most out of a hit that you never planned to become big? Something you just stumbled upon?

Mr. Yeston: I'm happy the Coalition for the Homeless is getting another round of exposure. And getting recognition for work you're proud of is always great -- even if it's a year later. The people in New York are a great group. Roald Van Wyk was the creative director on this project. It was nice to reconnect with him over this. He was fun to work for. From getting work produced as interns, to having my mom be a part of the virality, to Creativity writing about it. It's one of those things that makes great conversation.

Ad Age: In the ad business, you don't always get credit for what you create, and that is something you guys are experiencing first hand. What has the experience taught you about this?

Mr. Grosso: Because we created this idea while still being students at Miami Ad School, it's something you just take in stride. It's always great to get credit for your idea. But the advertising world is collaborative by nature. If you focus on the quality of your work, and you bring great ideas to your creative team then that's the most important thing.

Mr. Yeston: This was for DraftFCB and the Coalition for the Homeless, first and foremost. And at the time, just the opportunity for our idea to be produced was recognition enough. Everyone involved knew we were working on it. This business is so collaborative it's hard to pinpoint who did what a lot. I don't let it bug me. I love what I do. Having others know I did it is secondary to me. But let's be honest, we all Google ourselves once in a while. It's neat to see your name next to what you do.

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