Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Creative Professionals

The (over)abundance of toy commercials, holiday decorations and glossy catalogs are unavoidable reminders that the holiday season is here. As a creative professional, you’re probably thinking about what gifts to get your clients and colleagues. It’s hard enough shopping for close friends and family, but how about the people you work with? What’s the gift-giving etiquette between professionals?

The Creative Group surveyed advertising and marketing executives about the most creative and memorable gifts they’ve received from clients or business associates. Using their responses as a holiday gift guide, here are three do’s and one don’t when it comes to spreading seasonal cheer in the workplace.

Know the Policy and Protocol


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Before you start shopping for your clients or accept that thoughtful gift from a new vendor, check your company’s policies. Several survey respondents said their company has a strict no-present policy, which means employees are not allowed to give gifts to clients or vendors, nor can they accept them. More commonly, companies place limits on the amount a gift can be worth, so don’t go over the top with your selections. If you have clients who aren’t able to receive gifts, send handwritten cards thanking them for their continued business. There are no rules against compliments, politeness and good manners.

When it comes to exchanging presents with coworkers, ask about the gift-giving etiquette before splurging on something or receiving packages from outside business associates. If inter-office gifting is frowned upon, you can still share the holiday spirit by presenting a beautifully decorated fruit tart or a big box of macarons to the team.

Rein in Self-promotion

Sure, it’s fine to include a company mug or sweatshirt in your goody baskets. What’s not so cool is to give clients nothing but logoed items or, worse, a CD or flash drive loaded with your firm’s commercials and promotional materials. When in doubt as to the appropriateness of certain presents, here’s a holiday gift guide of goodies that are always in good taste:

  • Green plants
  • Fruit and/or cheese baskets
  • Boxes of cookies or chocolates
  • Edible arrangements
  • Assorted coffees and teas

Get Creative


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You can wow business contacts by putting thought into your gifts. Creativity is your forte, so use it. There are plenty of DIY ideas that won’t cost much but will mean a lot:

  • Design blank notecards using your own art or photography
  • Sketch, etch or paint on blank tumblers, mugs, wine glasses, etc.
  • Create your own stamp and give people one-of-a-kind wrapping paper

Holiday Gift Guide Do Nots

When following gift-giving etiquette, there are some definite landmines to watch out for. Unless you know the person extremely well, don’t get too personal – jewelry, personal care items, clothing (except for company swag), joke/gag gifts, or anything of a risqué or religious nature, for example, are generally taboo.

Avoid odd or unusual items that could raise eyebrows or make you the butt of jokes.

A few examples from our survey:

  • A pig’s nose (We’re hoping this one was made of plastic and was not the real deal.)
  • One tiny toy helicopter for the entire office (This idea may not fly.)
  • A kickball with a thank-you note (At least it wasn’t a “kick me” note.)

Use this holiday gift guide to give thoughtful items that show clients and colleagues your appreciation. Knowing the do’s and don’ts will not only alleviate gift-giving etiquette anxiety, it will also let you focus on more important tasks – like surviving the office party.

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