Starbucks Red Cup Campaign

Starbucks Coffee once again have linked themselves with the Christmas season with the ‘Red Cup’ campaign. From November 10 each year Starbucks coffee (and egg nog) is served in red cups in honour of the Christmas holiday season. In 2004 a television commercial introduced us to the adventures of their red to-go / take away cup on the roof of a taxi. In addition Starbucks worked with Clear Channel Taxi Media to magnetically attach red cups to taxis in Boston and San Francisco. The ad was promoted online at in 2005.

Starbucks Redcup


In 2006 the Red Cup Campaign is online at in several languages. It’s that time of the year again and the web site is live once more. In fact it’s been live since November 1. The web site provides a new post everyday. So far Starbucks has featured ‘conversation cards’, good tidings tips, holiday cookie quiz, fire building 101, the reasons for the seasons (mistletoe, egg nog and stocking stories), a virtual snow flake maker, table setting 101. It’s all done in pseudo Victorian style.

Each Friday a viral film is posted in flash format – FLV to be exact. Apparently the ads are never run on TV. To see the ads click on the TV (Friday Features) and choose your video. So far we have:
November 4: Follow That Cup (1 of 2) – the 2004 taxi run
November 11: The Airport Pick-Up (1 of 3)
December 2 Men Decorate (2 of 3)
December 9: Follow That Cup (2 of 2) – the airport sequel to the taxi film.

What happened to November 18 and 25?

Follow That Cup (1 of 2)

Starbucks Red Cup on Cab in TV AdA traveller prepares to get into his taxi. As he sorts his luggage out, he puts his Starbucks red cup on the roof of the taxi. Inevitably he heads off in the taxi, red cup still on top. To the music of Christmas carol “Joy to the world”, the car whizzes through the streets of San Francisco, almost knocking over a pedestrian in the process. Finally they reach their destination in Front St, not far from Schroeder’s Restaurant. The traveller gets out and finds his coffee on the roof still. But at that moment Santa swipes the cup and running off. We finish the text, “FEAR SANTA.” Eric King, at Headquarters Films, Los Angeles, directed this first ad in the series.

Follow That Cup (2 of 2)

A traveller puts his cup down as he checks his bags in at the airport. His cup escapes – winding its way around the terminal. Finally just as the traveller is poised to board his plane, he finds his coffee again. But Santa strikes again, running off through security doors with the red cup.

Animated Shorts

Three commercials feature animation directed by Aaron Sorenson at Laika House with illustrator Patrick Long.

In Airport Pickup a young chap who’s gone to the airport to pick up his wife’s Aunt Doris. Starbucks give a travel tip: “Be sure to check the tags on anything and everything you pick up at the airport. Some items may look alike.”

In “Men Decorate” a group decorates the house with a cut-off Santa Claus.

In “Surprise Gift” a family shares Christmas gifts. A mix-up in labelling leads to Grandma opening Victor’s gift to his wife, leading to some embarrassment all round.

Blog Comments

For a behind-the-scenes look at the Red Cup campaign see Paul Williams’ posts at Ideas Sandbox: Starbucks:, with follow up posts Starbucks, Christmastime, and the Red Cup and – The Airport Pick-Up.

Jim Romanesko at Starbucks Gossip covered the campaign in January 2005. Thomas Hawk took a photo of a red cup driving around on a red car in San Francisco and posted it on his Flickr site. What’s fascinating is the variety of response to this campaign – ranging from antagonism and cynicism through to appreciation of the humour involved. Starbucks – you love them or hate them.


The advertising agency behind the ‘Follow That Cup’ series is Creature, Seattle, a small company started by creative directors Matt Peterson and Jim Haven. All of the other Starbucks advertising, including and all of the out-of-store holiday advertising, was created by Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Oregon. The three holdiay animations were also led by W+K in partnership with Laika Studios (formerly Will Vinton Studios).