Elf Yourself: What It Is and How It Works

Skating elf

Elf Yourself is a fun little Christmas application that was dreamed up as a marketing project from Office Max. Each Christmas holiday season the campaign returns, letting users add their own faces to dancing and singing elves.

The Origins of Elf Yourself

The Elf Yourself phenomenon began in 2006, when Office Max invited web surfers to stop by, upload a photo of themselves, and then watch as their faces were added to images of dancing elves in videos complete with suitable music. After creating your elf, you had the option to send your video to friends, who would then in turn be invited to create their own dancing elves.

This free Christmas interactive program soon went viral, and it seemed that everyone had tried it. Videos of silly and funny photos used in the Elf Yourself format appeared on YouTube, and people were competing to see who could come up with the funniest or most ridiculous creations.

Growth and New Features

2007 was Elf Yourself's most successful season thus far. This time, you could add up to four photos to create a line of dancing elves with hilarious music and sound effects. You could also call a toll-free number to record a personalized voice message, which would be integrated into your finished video. The site recorded over 193 million hits over the holiday season, and won multiple awards for the campaign.Users once again got creative with the photos they used, and images appeared on popular photo sites such as Flickr. Links to the videos were shared across multiple platforms, such as e-mail, instant messaging, and social networks.

In 2008, the creators of Elf Yourself joined with Jib Jab, a company well known for their original animations and integration of web tools like file sharing services, social networks, and sites that ran on user-submitted content.

However, visits to the site declined a great deal, as there was now a requirement to register before using the program. Still, users could now add up to five photos, and choose between a variety of dance and music styles, including country and disco.

Christmas 2009

2009 saw many new developments in the popular Christmas application. Users no longer had to register, and they could share their videos with friends on sites like Twitter and Facebook at the click of a button. Facebook users could also sign in with the Facebook Connect application, and use photos from their Facebook albums to create their elves.Other offerings included:

  • The ability to download and store your videos for a small fee.
  • The option to use still photos from the videos on Office Max products such as coffee mugs and Christmas decorations.
  • Creating greeting cards, either by e-mail or physical cards, with images from the videos.
  • A widget that would allow you to add your dancing elf videos to personal websites and blogs.

Scrooge Yourself

With the success of the Elf Yourself initiative, Office Max came up with another option in 2007, called Scrooge Yourself. If you weren't quite feeling the Christmas spirit, you could upload your face to a dancing Scrooge character, complete with old top hat and walking stick.

The Elf Yourself Flash Mob

In an attempt to draw in more users, the folks behind the elf phenomenon organized a flash mob at Union Square in New York City. Hundreds of people dressed up like the elves flooded out of a subway car and began doing the elf dance, surprising passers-by. This was all filmed of course, and the videos appeared on all kinds of blogs and news sites, garnering more attention for the website.

Tips for Using the Site

If you're interested in trying the site, here are some suggestions and tips.

  • You can find the website at ElfYourself.com, which also contains the link to the Scrooge Yourself program when it's available.
  • The activities are available from November through January each year.
  • Choose photographs that clearly show the faces of those you wish to insert into the videos. Read and follow the advice given on the site for cropping and centering your pictures.

Be creative and have lots of fun with it, as it's only around for the holiday season!

Elf Yourself: What It Is and How It Works