Brand the Jewels – How RTJ Stole Hip-Hop’s Crown

How We Got Here

Hip-hop dynasties aren’t supposed to start like this.

A Tribe Called Quest formed between high school classmates. Run-D.M.C. began when two kids from Hollis, Queens recruited Jam Master Jay shortly after starting college. And thanks to “Straight Outta Compton”, even your little sister is now familiar with the origin story of N.W.A.

Since hip hop’s Golden Age, Brooklyn’s El-P (Jaime Meline) was blazing new trails for alternative music by experimenting with dystopian beats and delivering paranoid lyrics with stream-of-consciousness ferocity. While releasing several fantastic albums for himself and others on his Definitive Jux label, El Producto never gained widespread acclaim beyond his underground notoriety.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Killer Mike (Michael Render) was earning his moniker, murdering on wax with guest appearances on OutKast cuts while scoring a minor radio hit on his debut album in 2003. But similarly, Mike never realized his full potential, dwelling on the “LA Clippers” of record labels with little fanfare.

It wasn’t until a chance introduction in 2011 by Cartoon Network exec Jason DeMarco that Jaime and Mike (then both in their mid-thirties) finally began collaborating on Mike’s masterpiece “R.A.P. Music”. Since then, the duo has formed into the “new Avengers” of rap; a supergroup that has taken the hip hop world by storm with two classic albums and a third on its way for early 2017.

How They Did It

Run the Jewels functions as far greater than the sum of its parts – not only sonically, but also as a brand. Here are some of the things they are doing right that marketers can draw inspiration from.

1. Iconography

The name “Run the Jewels”, inspired by an LL Cool J lyric, perfectly captures the hardcore, take-no-prisoners mentality that Mike and El-P take on when they step in the booth. It’s badass at its surface while respecting old school hip hop culture the way both emcees do.

Taking it a step further, the duo developed a logo which can be easily reproduced by RTJ and fans alike as a hand gesture. It’s literal, instantly memorable, and has been successfully been reproduced with alternating styles of hands since the original version that graced their debut album cover. The teal green zombie hands have already inspired a curated assortment of RTJ merch by Daylight Curfew including sticker packs, a “Love Again” duvet cover, bandanas and countless hoodies.

Their unique style has already inspired some amazing Marvel Comics tributes on covers of Deadpool and Howard the Duck.

2. Creativity

Releasing music for fans to download free online isn’t exactly a new concept, but that’s exactly what Killer Mike and El-P gave to fans for RTJ1 and RTJ2. Nor is it unique to up-sell “bonus packages” to hardcore fans, offering the music in various formats and bundled up with merch. But our fearless heroes took things way further than that… here are just a few highlights of such packages:

* This package inspired a successful Kickstarter campaign, garnering over 2,800 backers and raising over $65,000 (the profit from which was donated to help provide legal support for social activists). And yes, “Meow the Jewels” is real.

More recently, Run the Jewels became one of the first brands to experiment with virtual reality, releasing a video for “Crown” that works with NYT VR.

3. Relevance

If embracing tech’s hottest trend and delivering on a fan-created crowdfunding campaign weren’t enough, Run the Jewels happen to be (arguably) the most socially relevant group in music today.

“Run the Jewels 2” (Pitchfork’s Best Album of 2014) took the dynamic duo to new heights, largely due to their aggressive social commentary on relevant topics. “Early” became an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. “Lie, Cheat, Steal” explores corruption of the 1% (including Donald Sterling). Even the libidinous locker room boasts of “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” deferentially give way to a decidedly feminist third verse that would make even Sasha Fierce blush.

RTJ3 promises to continue this trend, with Mike rapping “Went to war with the Devil and Shaytan / He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan” on lead single “Talk to Me”. Shows in 2016, including Coachella, featured visuals of a demonic Donald Trump, and even their August appearance in Toronto inspired a rousing “fuck Trump” cheer.

Beyond the music, Killer Mike has become a high-profile social activist, whether it’s calling out Bill O’Reilly, speaking out about Ferguson, or talking shop with Bernie Sanders. Harking back to the era when hip hop’s greatest acts like Public Enemy were making political statements with their work, RTJ manages to weave these messages into music that’s also fun enough for a boisterous party.

Very few brands are able to effectively endear themselves with fans by openly supporting social or political causes – too often, it feels forced and inauthentic. However, hip-hop has a deep history of activism, Killer Mike has been rapping about the same topics for years, and the duo manages not to overextend themselves into any territory that feels too contrived.

4. Connection

In today’s post-iTunes landscape of pervasive streaming and YouTube sensations, it’s clear that artists need to engage with fans to stand out among the endless options. Similarly, the best brands recognize that meaningful connections need to be made in order to establish credibility and foster loyalty.

Killer Mike and El-P both seem to get it, as both artists have been active on Twitter since early 2009. More unusual is their mastery of email marketing. In a perfect example of quid pro quo, RTJ collected email addresses in exchange for free downloads of their first album back in 2013. Most fans forgot all about it for a while until September 2014 when they sent this masterful email thanking their fans and announcing the exclusive preorder packages of RTJ2.

The email-for-download was so successful that it drove a 66% lift in the Run the Jewels email list according to a case study on the MailChimp blog. Their emails aren’t overly frequent, they include relevant (and highly visual) content, and they arrive casually addressed by “Mike and El-P” or “Jaime and Mike”.

Extending their digital reach further, Mike and El-P have found a new home with Apple Music. Their WRTJ show on Beats 1 gave the duo yet another platform to showcase their personalities, share a curated mix of music that inspires them, and (often sarcastically) answer questions submitted by fans via Twitter.

Regardless of how long the RTJ phenomenon lasts, Jaime and Mike have proved their ability to create a brand that sets itself apart in the modern music industry with Run the Jewels. Marketers, take note.

Which artist/group are you most impressed with from a branding perspective? Share in the comments below!


Sport Chek Shows #WhatItTakes to Win Olympics Mindshare

Our athletes may not be the only Canadians striking gold at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

Sport Chek’s path to these Games began in 2013 when parent company Canadian Tire signed a huge eight-year partnership with the COC. The strategy for Canada’s iconic sporting goods retailer was further revealed during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi as Sport Chek launched its #WhatItTakes campaign in partnership with creative agency Sid Lee.

Let’s take a look at how Sport Chek has evolved this concept as it takes centre stage at the Rio Games.

Real-Time Relevance

From the onset, a sponsorship with the Canadian Olympic Committee is obvious as a strong brand fit for Sport Chek. But it’s par for the course for sports manufacturers & retailers to employ athletes and teams in promoting their brands.

Sport Chek took things to the next level, taking notes from the real-time marketing playbook popularized by Oreo. Drawing the attention of Adweek, Sport Chek has set up a ‘war room’ with its content team, agency partners from TBWA\Chiat\Day and an editor from CBC.

This real-time approach allows Sport Chek to incorporate recent footage of Canada’s athletes from Rio competition, serving viewers with the utility of actual highlights and news instead of generic B-roll footage.

Inspiring Message

While Canada is known as a legitimate force in the Winter Games, our country’s relationship with the Summer Olympics has been more about ups and downs. Sport Chek & TBWA embraced this insight to craft a refreshing spot that celebrates Canada’s role as an underdog nation whose setbacks only make us better.

The drama that unfolds in this manifesto undoubtedly feels inspiring for its viewers, a quality that has been shown to be especially effective for millennial males by Unruly, a digital marketing firm specializing in emotional intelligence. As explained in another Olympics article from Adweek, “inspiration is one of the top emotions. If that is present at all in an ad, they tend to experience it”.

Right Platforms

#WhatItTakes shows up in the right places to get noticed by modern viewers. As the Olympics viewing experience gets more mobile (with free streaming available on all devices), Sport Chek focused nearly 80 percent of its Rio 2016 spend on digital media, over 60 percent of which is dedicated to mobile.

Furthermore, the campaign has fully embraced social media, weaving the #WhatItTakes hashtag into its content across all Sport Chek’s social channels and posting frequent updates from the Games as it happens. Canadian Olympic athlete profiles, similar in style to Sport Chek’s previous #MyNorth campaign, incorporated the campaign’s integrated message and showed how personal challenges have made them better.

As the Rio Olympics continue, look for Sport Chek to capture Canada’s biggest moments and emerge as one of the brands that best associates itself with these 2016 Summer Games. And when it comes time for the annual marketing awards season, don’t be surprised if you see Sport Chek on the podium.

What’s the most memorable ad campaign you’ve seen in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics? How about your all-time best Olympics spot? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

My Place or Yours? How Brands Hook Up with Content Creators

When Drake unveiled his photoshopped album cover for Views in late April, it was not only a brilliant viral marketing ploy to encourage fan-created parodies, it was also intended as a heartfelt tribute to the city of Toronto. But the image of the ‘6 God’ sitting atop the CN Tower is also an unquestionable nod to the subculture of “rooftopping” that has recently emerged among daring young photographers in major cities around the world.

Frank & Oak, a brand that targets young urban creatives (are we calling them “yuccies” yet?), had the ingenuity to tap into this trend for their latest campaign. To promote its new Frank & Oak SC collection of premium utility gear, the Montreal clothier teamed up with Toronto photographerJamal Burger (@jayscale) for a killer content collaboration.

The brand & content creator pairing also yielded a web takeover on the Frank & Oak site, and several posts that reached the photographer’s 176k+ Instagram followers. As told by Frank & Oak co-founder and CEO Ethan Song in an interview with Marketing, “It’s the first time we’ve gone that deep into storytelling.”


With collaborations like this, brands are able to associate themselves with influencers that already hold a strong cachet with their target audiences. They are also able to align their brand values with lifestyle attributes and ideologies on a higher level, such as Burger’s quintessential Millennial mantra of incorporating “personality into what you’re doing on a daily basis.” The cherry on top, of course, is for brand messages to benefit from extended organic reach through influencer channels.

Regardless of whether it’s paid or earned, influencer marketing continues to gain mindshare – and share of budget – with savvy brands. According to a poll by Tomoson, influencer marketing was rated as the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channel, with 59% of marketers planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next year.

However, it’s definitely no slam dunk. Without the right approach, influencer campaigns can come across as contrived and can damage both the credibility of brands and the influencers that partner with them. Here are 3 key lessons to keep in mind to maximize success with influencer marketing.

1. Authentic Fit

Finding a natural fit between brand and influencer is key, otherwise followers will see right through the collaboration. It’s not in the best interest of either side for content creators to be perceived as paid shills – just like any endorsement, it should be believable that the endorsee is genuinely excited about the featured product.


Fashion & beauty Instagram star Krystin Lee was a natural fit for TRESemmé to help promote its new Beauty-Full Volume collection, teaming up with the brand for a sponsored post about haircare tips on her blog. It’s an intuitive fit, both for the beauty products category and with TRESemmé’s accessibly-premium positioning.

2. Engaging Content

Online influencers are all internet-famous for their own unique reasons, and many of them have hustled to improve and showcase their talents while building a community of engaged followers. They are able to maintain and grow their respective communities by consistently posting the types of quality content that initially drew in their core audiences.

For this reason, it’s a big mistake for a brand to come in with its chequebook expecting to control the message on an influencer’s channel with an iron fist. Branded content, while respecting the brand’s guardrails and positioning, should be respectfully developed as a collaboration and directly from the voice of the content creator.


Chicago photographer Paul Octavious was able to tie a personal story into Capital One’s #walletstories campaign concept, which itself centres on individual stories as a spin on their “What’s In Your Wallet?” slogan. It’s storytelling that fits the brand message, but it’s still a story told through the influencer’s eyes and in his words.

3. Channel Relevance

Finding an authentic fit and the right concept for some engaging content is a great start, but the practice of actually hooking up with influencers can be a complicated challenge – especially if it’s a brand’s first time. Yikes!

Thankfully, the folks at Kissmetrics put together The Definitive Guide to Influencer Targeting, which is a helpful resource to start with. It defines the right influencers as having context, reach, and actionability to help drive a brand’s objectives. The guide also recommends giving the influencer an image before reaching out, as a specific genre or personality may work best for a specific brand.

It’s also important for marketers to choose a social media channel that aligns with their brand objectives. While Instagram might work best for some premium brands, perhaps a channel like Snapchat might be more effective for brands going for a fun, youthful approach.

That’s exactly how the Paramount Pictures approached their famous teaser stunt for “Zoolander 2”. Vine’s biggest star, Jerome Jarre, was conveniently on hand at Paris Fashion Week in 2015 for Ben Stiller (as Derek Zoolander) to “steal” his phone for a Blue Steel selfie.

Also worth noting is that some advertiser categories have proven to be more successful than others with influencer campaigns. A 2015 study from RhythmOne indicates that Alcoholic Beverages, Travel & Tourism, and CPG Food outperform the $11.20 in earned media value (from $1.00 invested) averaged across all industries.

Not that it can’t be done with some creativity, but influencer campaigns in Electronics, Telecommunications, and Baby Care don’t have a strong track record. It’s not surprising – just try to think about an influencer campaign for wireless plans without cringing.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that influencer campaigns will continue to gain prominence within the marketing mix. So whether it’s on YouTube or Snapchat and whether it’s being posted by brands or content creators (or both!), the love affair is growing stronger and stronger every day. Don’t you get that feeling?

What’s the best influencer campaign that comes to mind for you? Or, even better, what’s the worst brand + influencer hookup you’ve seen?

The Top 5 Christmas Ads of 2015 (So Far)

Boy, that escalated quickly! Here we are, barely over a month away from Christmas, and many brands have (naturally) been making their cases for our holiday dollars for the better part of November.

While we haven’t seen anything yet from perennial holiday advertisers such as Apple and WestJet, some fantastic campaigns have already emerged. Here are my five top picks from what we’ve seen from the holiday season so far.

#5: Toys R Us – “Like Father, Like Daughter”


One of the main reasons Star Wars is so transcendent is its appeal across generations; with films now spanning across 5 decades. From the original trilogy and onwards, the movies are not only family-friendly but they have included family as a dominant theme. And based on the teasers for Episode VII, it’s evident that family connections will remain prominent in the next three films.

Toys R Us is understandably (and smartly) betting big on “The Force Awakens” to be a massive force to drive toy sales this Christmas season. By appealing to Gen-Xers’ profound affinity for Star Wars and their desire to share that love with the next generation of children, Toys R Us positions itself as the definitive Star Wars retail destination.

For a 60-second spot, the adorable scenes with great interplay between the actors combine for some strong emotional resonance. While the final setting in the toy aisles somewhat detracts from the raw storytelling, it effectively shows the priority that Toys R Us has dedicated to the Star Wars franchise for Christmas 2015.

#4: Interac – “Toy Store”


In advertising, the months of November and December function primarily for marketers to convince holiday shoppers to loosen their purse strings and spend joyfully with their credit cards. Interac faces an uphill, unsexy battle to persuade Canadians to think about the financial consequences and consider paying with debit.

“Toy Store” by Zulu Alpha Kilo imagines a holiday reality where product costs are more overtly stated than price tags could ever afford. Classic (unbranded) Christmas toys like nutcrackers, stuffed bears, dolls, and 1980s robots break into a chorus of ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ with the warning of impending debt.

The message “Have a Merry January” frames the message in a positive way in Interac’s continuation of the successful “Be in the Black” campaign. A prominent outdoor campaign with some cheeky copy (ex: “Debt is a real nutcracker”) neatly puts a bow on the integrated campaign, although the online-only spots don’t quite strike the same chord.

Interac's OOH media features wittily knit copy.
Interac’s OOH media features wittily knit copy.

As stated by Rob Feightner, Zulu Alpha Kilo’s client services director, “Canadians are being influenced and pressured to spend more and to spend sooner”. This campaign might just play a part in bucking the trend.

#3: Target – “The Holiday Odyssey”


We’ve all seen commercials where brands reimagine “The Night Before Christmas” where the product is, in one way or another, the hero. But few of them genuinely embrace the spirit of storytelling in a way that actually entertains.

Target (U.S., obviously) is hoping to bring the magic of animated storybooks to entertain and woo its guests with another major adventure in branded content. Centred on a digital storybook narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, Target and agency 72andSunny have created an immersive “Holiday Odyssey” including five holiday spots.

With Toys R Us already owning “Star Wars destination” status, Target managed to get brands like Minions, Barbie, Ninja Turtles, Lego, My Little Pony and Sesame Street to play in the same toy box and appear in the animations. To say this spot must have gone through many approvals would be a massive understatement, which makes its effectiveness even more impressive.

A great article from Adweek details the full scope of this campaign, which includes a kid-friendly wish list app and a tentpole event with Disney to air “Mary Poppins” on network TV for the first time in over a decade. We’ll have to wait and see if this trove of branded content is the ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ that will make it easy for Target’s guests to swallow the bitter pill of their holiday shopping bills.

#2: Duracell – “Battle for Christmas Morning”


The folks at Duracell have smartly featured toys in their holiday ads for many years now, working directly with strategic partner Hasbro since 2012 to show various toys coming alive through the power of their batteries.

With “Battle for Christmas Morning”, Duracell amps it up to a whole new level by bringing the excitement of the Star Wars universe into their commercial through an extended partnership with Disney/Lucasfilm. The production quality delivers in an impressive way that only the direct partnership with Lucas could have yielded.

The casting for the child actors is strong, especially the decision to write a young female Jedi into the script given the lead role Daisy Ridley will play as Rey in the upcoming film.

According to the press release, Duracell is one of the lucky seven global brands selected to participate in the “expansive, historical promotional campaign” to support the December 18th release of “The Force Awakens”. It’s a great alignment for both Duracell and Hasbro, as Star Wars toy sales are expected to bring in close of $2 billion over the last four months of 2015.

If this spot (nearing 9 million YouTube views) can help Duracell become the battery of choice for just a fraction of the electronic Star Wars toys gifted this Christmas, it could mean sales of galactic proportions for the batteries trusted everywhere.

#1: John Lewis – “#ManOnTheMoon”


This UK-based department store is well known (and well loved) for their Christmas ads adverts, and they managed to top most expectations this year with their 2015 spot by adam&eveDDB.

“#ManOnTheMoon” captures some of the best qualities associated with the season: the joy of giving, being kind to our neighbours, and the connections made between generations. In what promises to be a continuing trend in advertising, a young girl was written as the ambitious, resourceful protagonist; discovering a literal man on the moon and earnestly searching for a way to connect with him.

The choice of a cover from the Oasis classic ‘Half the World Away’ fits the story’s plot and emotional tone perfectly, with fantastic acting and art direction ensuring the production is truly cinematic. In a year where “The Martian” became a top box office draw, the concept is perfectly timed to make us sympathize with the lonely old man on the moon.

Of course, this is no small production, costing a full £1 million according to The Telegram. But with 15 million YouTube views and counting, John Lewis hardly needed to spend a fortune in paid media to make the investment worthwhile. And while the spot doesn’t prominently feature many brands – or even the retailer itself – the brand clearly has been getting mentioned as this spot propelled the brand to trend on social, not to mention word of mouth.

John Lewis took the concept a small step giant leap further by launching various initiatives related to the ad, all detailed on one impressive #ManOnTheMoon microsite. An app was created to bring a downloadable poster to life. John Lewis is supporting old people and giving guests a number of ways to view and learn more about the moon, including educational resources for children. Visitors can even shop for Man on the Moon products, including those shown in the ad.

Overall, this is a holiday ad to aspire towards and will be hard to dethrone as the best of 2015. After all, Christmas is a time for believing – and this campaign is enough to make anyone a believer; marketers and consumers alike.

HBC Tells Canadian Stories Through Inspired Marketing

When Canadians think of 60-second heritage videos about our past, the typical reaction is to either shudder with repulsion or yawn with boredom. It’s not our fault. It’s this very (dark) Canadian history in film that we have painfully engrained in our consciousness.

Unlike our star-spangled friends south of the border, we Canucks never had a “Saving Private Ryan”, “Forrest Gump” or even an “Independance Day” to capture our imaginations and inspire patriotism. We too have a rich history, but Hollywood just doesn’t make films about Frederick Banting and Tommy Douglas. Almost all of our iconic films are comedies, and our commercials often follow suit.

Thankfully, The HBC History Foundation has launched a new series to tell some of Canada’s most adventurous stories.

Feeling less like “Heritage Moments” and more “We The North”, the first spot by Toronto agency Red Urban vividly re-creates Canadian heritage in a way that can resonate with even the most modern, cynical viewers.

Many Canadians likely had no idea who John Rae was, but this 19th century badass has a story that clearly deserves to be told. An interactive history journey has also been created for the “Country of Adventurers” campaign website.

Hudson’s Bay Company may now be owned by American private equity firm NRDC, but its history is unquestionably Canadian. The brand’s roots go back as far back as 1670, including a remarkable claim as the onetime largest landowner in the world.

While its brand image today is in fantastic shape, HBC is more closely associated with the domestic bliss of #stripespotting than its history as North America’s oldest company. This campaign, with national television buys including programs such as the Emmy Awards and MLB Postseason, appeals to viewers’ adventure-seeking attitudes.

Outdoorsman Les Stroud, host of Survivorman, was enlisted because “the best people to tell Canadians about our past adventurers are modern adventurers,” according to Red Urban Creative Director Christina Yu.

Modern-day adventurer Les Stroud tell the story of arctic explorer Dr. John Rae in the first installment of a new campaign for the HBC History Foundation (CNW Group/Hudson's Bay)
Modern-day adventurer Les Stroud tell the story of arctic explorer Dr. John Rae in the first installment of a new campaign for the HBC History Foundation (CNW Group/Hudson’s Bay)

While Hollywood increasingly relies on biopics and adaptations to entertain us, brands should take a page from this book and tell their own stories. The mythology is all there – and often communicated impeccably well to employees – but it’s rare to see the same effort employed in consumer-facing brand campaigns.

As posed by Adam Toren of Entrepreneur, “Stories are what people remember. Even when they forget names and faces, they rarely forget the story and how it made them feel.” We look forward to seeing HBC tell more stories about men (and thankfully, women!) such as David Thompson and Maud Watt as “Country of Adventurers” continues.

Let’s look for more Canadian brands to entertain and endear us with authentic, relevant stories like this. After all, we’ve got plenty to tell – Jose Bautista’s bat flip  has already been immortalized by the CBC in a “Heritage Minute” of its own.

Marketing Awards 2015 – An Unauthorized Preview

The golden “M” trophies awarded by Marketing each year represent the gold standard within the Canadian marketing industry. This year, the 2015 Marketing Awards will be presented on Thursday, June 4th.Unauthorized Marketing Awards

You can view the shortlist here, or if you’re feeling ambitious, read on for my (completely unauthorized) predictions of this year’s winners.


Television Single: 30 Seconds and Under

Humour is the prevailing theme in this category, perhaps a result of fatigue in the industry around the “sadvertising” trend. Netflix and Nissan both earned two nominations, but the standout in my books is “World Traveller” by

A bearded, road-weary traveller gives a stirring monologue, undoubtedly inspired by Game of Thrones’ Jorah Mormont. His mesmerizing speech is jarringly interrupted by a tablet-toting modern lady, who expertly sells Expedia’s key benefits. A perfect example of how an unexpected opening can draw in the viewer, whether the platform is television or pre-roll.

Television Campaign: 30 Seconds and Under

Last year’s winner of the preceding award also took home this award for TV Campaign (DDB and their fantastic work for KY). may have had a fantastic single spot, but the creative wasn’t tied together with a bigger campaign.

“Milk Every Moment” by the Strategic Milk Alliance has been running for many months now and it’s a truly memorable campaign. The sentiment is powerful, and the brilliant creative by DDB Canada captures childhood nostalgia like few ads can.

Television Single: Over 30 Seconds

It’s telling that a phenomenon like “Dad Bod” can become part of the zeitgeist, as our society continues to celebrate the role of fatherhood – whatever shape it takes. Look no further than the ads of Super Bowl XLIX and it becomes apparent that marketers are tuned into the insight that men are now taking a more active role in household spending for products such as groceries.

General Mills was bold enough to lean heavily into this, out-executing their marketing peers south of the border with some brilliant creative by Tribal Worldwide. “How to Dad” is a manifesto for the contemporary father, as the tightly written and produced spot portrays “dad” less of a juvenile Phil Dunphy and more of an aspirational Man Your Man Could Smell Like.

Television Single: Small Budget

All three contending client/agency duos created some impressive ads with their small budgets, but the work by Les Evades for Bell Media’s Virgin Radio stands out as the best.

My vote for best spot would go to “Staplers” simply due to the absurdity of a work colleague spouting the most profane of Bruno Mars lyrics, completely out of context.

Television Campaign: Small Budget

Again, the “#approvedforwork Campaign” for Bell Media should be a winner. According to the Les Evades website, Virgin was struggling to challenge its perception as “party music” and was holding a narrow lead for #1 in afternoons.

The work by Les Evades cleverly illustrates how ridiculous it would be to not approve of these top-40 hits by contrasting the music with office behaviour that would make even make Creed from The Office blush.

Online Single

This category might include some of the toughest competition of them all, but one spot stands out above the rest. Leo Burnett’s “#LikeAGirl” for P&G’s Always brand earned worldwide acclaim this year, deservedly so.

Not only was this ad a massive brand-builder for Always – and so good that it was edited to a 30-second cut for the Super Bowl – but it has influenced perceptions and stimulated conversation on a global level.

Online Campaign

Strong content marketing can take many forms, exemplified perfectly in this category. While “#MyNorth” was a great showcase of underappreciated Toronto hoops legends, it’s hard to imagine it winning given that Sport Chek and Sid Lee have parted ways. Besides, hockey always seems to reign supreme in Canada.

TBWA\Toronto developed a stirring campaign centred on NHL stars joining a group of sledge hockey athletes for a pick-up game, helping Gatorade align itself more closely to a sport with which it traditionally hasn’t had strong associations.

Other Broadcast Single

Two agencies (John St. and Union) managed to hilariously lambast some of today’s marketing clichés in self-promotional spots, but my favourite for this award is JWT’s “Canadian Zombie” for Canadian Film Fest.

Battling the stigma around Canadian films, this ad features a “real-life zombie” who just happens to be Canadian. It’s fresh, funny, and the charismatic actor delivers an outstanding final line to sell the Canadian Film Fest.

Other Broadcast Campaign

Canadian Film Fest and JWT may not be a lock for the award above, but they are guaranteed a win for this award as the only nominee. See another great ad from this campaign below.


Radio Single

Johnson & Johnson and DDB Canada earned three nominations for this category, making them the clear contenders. Their campaign for KY Touch 2-in-1 Lubricant makes “old love feel new again” in ads that sound feel like late-‘90s slow jams – until you pay attention to the lyrics. “Sweaty Pitts” might be the frontrunner of them all.

Radio Campaign 

With three nominations in the category above, it would be hard for Johnson & Johnson not to come away with this award. Here’s “Bald Spot” for your listening pleasure.


Magazine Single

Accessible Media Inc. and TBWA\Toronto will likely come away with this award from one of their three nominations. In particular, “Bobby Orr” resonates as an iconic photo that every Canadian can relate to – yet can only read the description for – in this magazine ad that makes clever use of the medium.

Magazine Campaign

Again, it’s hard to deny the fantastic creative by TBWA\Toronto for AMI’s “Everything Described” print campaign. A smart approach with superb copy.

Newspaper Single

Zombies continue to be a trend in Canadian advertising this year, as Calgary Horror Con and Wax teamed up for an attention-grabbing take on the classifieds with “Rebirth Announcements”.

Readers are encouraged to attend the horror convention to celebrate several “rebirths”, and the lack of branding leads them to think more about why they are seeing zombies in their papers.

Newspaper Campaign

While there are some great contenders here, it’s always impressive when an agency makes innovative use of the medium they are using. TD and Leo Burnett teamed up to create value for Blue Jays fans with their full-page ad, as readers could rub ink off the page and add it below their eyes for the ultimate “Game Face”.

Business Press Single

Fearless prediction – “Bobby Orr” comes away with this award as well.

Business Press Campaign

Let’s be real – in all likelihood, “Everything Described” will likely secure the win for this award too.


Out-of-Home Transit/Posters Single

Bus commuters are exposed to many bus stop ads, but rarely are they as clever as last summer’s McDonald’s ad for their Freestone Peach Real Fruit Smoothie. With some savvy work from Cossette, people entering the transit shelter received shelter from the sun as the motion-sensing blinds shut to reveal the marketing message.

Out-of-Home Transit/Posters Campaign

LG2 was tasked with nothing short of creating magic with this outdoor campaign for the Quebec City Magic Festival. Passersby could “Make the Poster Appear” by snapping a photo (with flash on) to make a secret message appear above a seemingly innocuous top hat on posters around the city.

This is one unstoppable partnership as the agency-client duo have been winning these awards for years now.

Out-of-Home Billboard Single

Two nominees (McDonald’s and Reno-Depot) crafted smart billboards that used real-time data to display custom messaging late last year. The product tie-in for Reno-Depot is especially relevant, which is why “Sky Swatches” by Sid Lee should win this award.

Designers and aspiring home-decorators alike were delighted by seeing the sky’s colour reflected with the specific hue of Sico paint available at Reno-Depot. Fantastic application of technology to create something truly remarkable.

Out-of-Home Non-Standard Format Single

While it didn’t go viral in the likes of WestJet’s “Christmas Miracle”, Toyota created some holiday magic of their own with “Toyota Wishmaker” by Rain43.

A giant, 60-foot advent calendar was installed with 24 boxes, each containing one special wish for deserving people in the community. It’s a shame this didn’t receive more national buzz, but the team that created it deserves an award for this ambitious execution.

Out-of-Home Non-Standard Format Campaign

Proud FM with agency partner Saatchi & Saatchi will be taking home this award for this cheeky campaign that was designed to “poke fun at ultra-conservatives”.

Out-of-Home Small-Scale Ambient

In this creative category, experience matters, as Ikea has been delivering small marketing pieces with ‘youtility’ for many years. Right on time for Back to School 2014, Leo Burnett and Ikea used an on-brand vending machine to deliver “The Most Helpful Measuring Tape in the World” to Canadians.

We’ve all experienced the challenge of buying furniture to fit our apartments and houses, which is why this measuring tape is marked with relevant products at various lengths. Another reminder to marketers – stop selling, and start helping.

Out-of-Home Large-Scale Ambient

Leo Burnett claims to have “created a new medium” for their entry in this category, which earned four nominations. Their “Kings & Queens of the Court” campaign features vivid murals of tennis stars paired with hard-hitting taglines – all created with tennis balls on a fence.

The pointillism technique gets the point across, and shows up in a completely unexpected place that couldn’t be more relevant for the sport. An ace of a campaign for TSN and the US Open!

Point-of-Purchase Single

McDonald’s didn’t want to merely give out coupons – they wanted to give Canadians a memorable experience that they could share with a friend. “Friend Fries” by Cossette was an interactive game that challenged people to team up with friends and earn their rewards (free medium fries).

Point-of-Purchase Campaign 

While this award could go any way, Mucho Burrito may be the frontrunner, as their World Cup inspired posters by DS+P earned nominations in various categories. The piñatas (designed as opposing team’s flags) are an easy read, and it’s a fun campaign for the Mexican quick serve restaurant chain.

Out-of-Home – Experiential/Special Events/Stunts 

What better way to promote a waterpark than to give consumers a preview of what they’ll be experiencing? Rethink developed an excellent stunt promotion for Splashdown Waterpark by planting tickets for the park all around Vancouver – in places where people could only get them by getting soaked.

Great proof that winning stunts don’t always need to be high-tech or big budget to get noticed – just smart and on-brand.


Online Single

While there’s some tough competition, Always’ “#LikeAGirl” is a surefire bet to win this award, especially given that it was originally conceived as an online single.

Online Campaign

At their core, good marketers know to solve consumers’ problems – some just happen to be more serious than others. McDonald’s Canada, realizing what really happens between friends when fries are purchased, decided to take action on the widespread issue of fry theft, or “freft”.

The “Fry Defender” function (housed within the McDonald’s Canada app) has delivered fun for fans of fries while spreading virally – an effective online campaign.

Websites/Microsite – Advertising

Many of these microsites serve a purpose for a very limited promotional window, yet there are some creative entries. The standout here is “Junkface” for Neutrogena Men by DDB Canada and Tribal Worldwide.

Similar to fry theft at McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson is bringing attention to an issue that many might not have considered, and effectively manufactures a problem that their target market needs a solution for. The microsite is funny, well-designed, and incorporates real consumer data from a collaboration with Ipsos Reid.

Websites/Microsites – Corporate

In a category that stresses both style and substance, the new “Agency Diving Society” website is an impressive entry. SapientNitro developed a sleek site for job seekers interested in learning more about agency life – and the panel of judges will likely show their appreciation for its user-friendly functionality.

Best Use of Social Media

Too many marketers try in vain to make their campaign “go viral” or recreate the Ice Bucket Challenge, and it’s often painful to watch. PepsiCo Foods Canada succeeded in creating a viral campaign that didn’t feel forced, extending their “Doritos Roulette” into the social sphere with a contest encouraging entrants to tag their friends.

An effective way to grow awareness of their new product for their target market of value-conscious, social young consumers.


This category features some of the best creativity in Canadian marketing all year, with several executions that created value while achieving brand objectives. Most impressive might be MiO POV by Taxi 2, which allowed NXNE concert-goers to use their smartphones to broadcast live onto the big screens.


Even if it doesn’t win the preceding award, the Ubisoft app for “Watch_Dogs Live” deserves recognition for some incredibly engaging features. Gamers could preview the (delayed) Watch Dogs game with hacker-inspired stunts that were unveiled through the app – an impressive example of “full-service advertising” capability from Publicis Canada.

Creative Use of Technology 

Taxi will likely take home this award for “The Priceless Bat”, an online batting contest created for the Canadian distributor of Louisville Slugger. The technology of using a smartphone as a virtual bat is difficult enough, and the app adds a further layer by providing discounts based on how far the ball is hit.

It’s a shame the microsite is no longer active, but client Lanctôt Ltée likely reached their budgeted level of discounts much earlier than expected given this campaign’s success.


It says something about cynicism in the advertising profession that almost all of these submissions involved ruthless satire of the industry. John St. might be a favourite with their strong follow-up from last year’s winner, but my vote would go to “How Union Rewards Its Employees”.

An agency willing to celebrate itself in an (exaggerated) interpretation of how hard it works its employees? Now that’s something a potential client can get behind.


Public Service Film Single

No entry in this category amassed nearly the level of media coverage and social sharing as “Kids Read Mean Tweets” for the Canadian Safe School Network. It’s a timely, smart spin on the popular Jimmy Kimmel segments, and it hits home as the laughter fades away while the insults get more and more damaging. A big win for John St. and awareness on the issue of cyber bullying.

Public Service Film Campaign

With three nominations in the preceding category, it’s likely that ParticipACTION and agency partner Zulu Alpha Kilo will come away with this award for the “Make Room for Play” campaign.

It’s a simple yet effective concept that breaks through the clutter as the video on-screen gets smaller and smaller. You have to also respect “Don’t visit our website” appearing in the final frames to drive the message home further.

Public Service Radio Single 

This award comes down to one of two nominees, and chances are that YWCA and Juniper Park will capture the victory with one of three jarring ads (“Change the Tune” being my guess). The descriptions are vivid and stop you right in your tracks – they also use the medium of radio to allude to imagery that couldn’t be shown visually in advertising.

Public Service Radio Campaign 

Again, the “#notokay Radio Campaign” for YWCA has a good chance at striking gold for this award. It’s a worthy campaign aimed at stopping the objectification of women in the media, and it arms listeners with a hashtag to take action when they see or hear something in the media that needs to be questioned.

Public Service Press Single 

Taking standard clothing tags and stretching them out to tell stories about unsafe working conditions is a concept that makes the reader question her or his choices about clothing purchases. The story on “Long Tag Hoodie” is especially powerful, and the Canadian Fair Trade Network with Rethink earned this award.

Public Service Press Campaign 

“Long Tag Sweater, Jacket, Hoodie” has a good chance of taking this award as well, and Rethink will continue adding to its substantial trophy case.

Public Service Out-of-Home/Ambient

Creativity is abundant here, with some cool tech-infused installations happening across Canada. One standout is “Raise the Pride” by JWT, as it garnered national – and international – exposure during World Pride last summer.

A rainbow flag was installed with capability of being raised up or lowered down based on positive or negative sentiment on Twitter. Thankfully, Canadians were overwhelmingly positive during the celebration in Toronto, and this turned into a good news story.

Public Service Online

The entrant here with the best online integration has to be “”, a fake website set up by Grip for the Toronto Humane Society. It cleverly masquerades as a startup-styled subscription service, and then reveals the sad truth when users click “Sign Up”. If nothing else, it should get people to think twice before rushing into the purchase of a new puppy.

Public Service Branded Content

John St. and the Canadian Safe School Network will probably make off with another award for the popular “Kids Read Mean Tweets” campaign.

Public Service Integrated

With many nominations across the public service sector, it would be easy to see LG2 capturing the award for their integrated “Consequences” campaign for SAAQ. Creative executions across print, radio, TV and web make this a strong contender. It’s a shame that drinking and driving continues to need so much awareness with PSAs, but with work like this hopefully the message is getting across more and more.


Collateral Single

Severed thumbs might be pretty shocking, but as a stand-in for the common “thumb drive” term, the connection isn’t otherwise strong for a photography promotion.

Rethink’s “No Tankers DM” stunt for The Dogwood Initiative should win for the audacity of shipping simulated oil in packages shaped like tankers. Sometimes people need a cause to be taken literally to their doorsteps before they consider it seriously, and the issue of oil pipelines affects BC citizens in the same way.

Collateral Campaign

“Kings and Queens of the Court” should come away with this one as well, earning nominations for each of the three individual executions.


The Ubisoft/Publicis team took home top honours from the CMA with their “Watch_Dogs Live” campaign, which is a favourite for this award as well.

With stunts like a shopping mall ATM hack, a tweet-activated car explosion, and a “hacked” takeover of Off The Record, Publicis really nailed this app-centric campaign and delivered huge results for Ubisoft.


 If the wind is going their way, Always and Leo Burnett will have another award on their hands with the deserving “#LikeAGirl” campaign (for reasons already exhausted).


Logo/Corporate Identity

LG2 flexes their branding muscles here, earning four nominations. Most impressive is their rebranding of Nourcy, a longstanding restaurant in Quebec. The client was open enough to embrace change in their logo, interior design, menu, staff uniforms, and more – and the fresh new look stays true to the brand promise.

Annual Reports (Print and/or Digital)

To celebrate the 40th year of Calgary Society for Persons with Disabilities, Wax created an annual report using balloons along with a companion site.

Brochures/Print Collateral

How do you break through the clutter with a brochure for photography? How about a brochure with no images whatsoever? That’s exactly what Sid Lee pulled off elegantly for Lisa Petrole Photography, as these mailers functioned as notebooks serving to drive readers to the photographer’s new website.

Environmental Graphics

It’s hard to believe Rethink only earned nominations in two categories for their famous Beer Fridge campaign given its global impact (over 1 billion unique impressions). With several iterations developed for Molson Canadian, Rethink deserves praise here for “The Beer Fridge – O Canada” – a branded beer fridge that opens only when the Canadian anthem is sung in perfect pitch.


LG2 earns two nominations here for some inspired premium packaging design for their clients. The standout here is their work for 29 Février, as they not only created a clean, differentiated design, but they completely rethink the method of packaging as they seek to redefine and “democratize” maple syrup.


Original Television/Broadcast

A plethora (more than 30) brands signed on to participate in “WelcomePack: ‘A Welcome to Remember’”, a multicultural marketing piece from Dyversity Communications. Their approachable animated TV spot features a friendly welcome to Canada, and was probably a big reason why WelcomePack Canada was so successful finding interested brand sponsors.

Original Print

It’s easy to see who the dominant players are in the multicultural agency space, as many entries appear here from a small handful of shops. The best execution might be the work by Dyversity Communications for Pepsi celebrating Diwali – it’s on-brand but also very on-culture.

Original Online

Maybe the best part of the WelcomePack Canada campaign is the collection of “Happily Ever After in Canada eBooks” developed by Dyversity Communications. With relevant titles such as “Toronto – A Big City with a Big Heart” and “Making Friends with School”, these cutely-illustrated titles are valuable content for new immigrants, available in either English or Chinese languages.

Original Integrated

If Google qualifies for this award, it is definitely deserved for the inspired work by Anomaly for “Google World Cup Trends”. Smart stats along with fun graphics made this a fun site to visit during and after the World Cup, no matter what country you cheer for.

Adapted: Campaign

Barrett and Welsh will take this win as the only nominee with “TD Aerophan Visa: 1.5 x the Miles”.

Experiential/Special Events/Stunts

McCormick Canada is smartly leaning into the trend of Canada’s rising Filipino population, sponsoring and promoting an Online Cook-Off via Facebook. The result was many shared recipes using the brand’s new Filipino Recipe Mixes, a perfect way to reach this targeted population through social media and inspire them with content on how to use the product.

Do you agree or disagree with these predictions? Unhappy that I didn’t choose your submission? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

How to Brand – Logo Design with Christopher Cheong

A brand is composed of many elements, all of which are important to the holistic perceptions that people will hold onto. A strong logo is often the primary identifier that helps consumers immediately recognize the values and personality of the brand that marketers work so hard to build.

The word “logo” is derived from the Greek logos (word) and typos (type). Modern logos have evolved to become expressed in many forms, sometimes as graphic representations and sometimes as wordmarks featuring the name of the brand.

Just like ad campaigns, logos can range from confusing and mundane to bold and inspiring. In this post, I chose to interview someone who knows a lot about creating the latter.Christopher Cheong

Christopher Cheong is a rising star within the design community of Toronto; a Graphic Designer at adidas who also produces freelance work for Nickelodeon. In 2010, Chris started Bear Kid, a clothing and lifestyle company featuring original designs of his own creation.

Where did you develop your passion for logo design?

Christopher: Growing up, my parents enrolled me into various sport leagues. I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t the best at all the sports I took part in, but I did have a fascination with all of the team logos on our jerseys. Once I got my footing in creating graphics, I always found myself taking references to sport logos. I think it’s the fact that each team looks so unified; with the way the shapes, colours, and overall theme tie in together to make a cohesive brand. These are the things that drive me to logo design. The challenge of bringing everything a company stands for into one image entices me.

Many people view a logo as the primary visual symbol for a brand. Can you think of some examples of logos that stand out in truly aligning with their brand attributes?

Photo by Charlie Lyons-Pardue
Photo by Charlie Lyons-Pardue

Christopher: One logo that stands out to me would have to be the Philadelphia Flyers logo. Every time I see it I think about how well it was designed. It encompasses the “P”, the wings, and just enough shapes to include the city’s colour scheme of orange and black. Including all of the key elements is the easy part, it’s how you comprise all of the pieces together to make it visually appealing as well. The Philly logo definitely hits the nail on the head on that front as well.

Which logo that you’ve designed are you most proud of, and why?

Bean LinkChristopher: Out of all the logos I’ve designed, it’s hard to choose just one that I feel I’m the most proud of. It’s hard because I feel like every project I complete, I gain more experience to better myself for the next. So naturally I would choose the most recent logo I’ve done. But if I had to choose one, I would choose the logo I developed for a company called Bean Link (which has disbanded recently…but not because of my logo).

The reason why I enjoy this one the most is because I think it not only represents the company really well, but it’s a logo I was hired to do based on my illustration style. Being asked to do work based on your own style is the best because everything just becomes natural for you. It makes the job easier, and much more enjoyable.

Take us through the process of what you go through when you’re asked to design a logo.

Christopher: To start, I research. I look at what other similar companies are doing, and try to go against the grain yet still compete. Seeing what other companies are doing allows me to get the gears started and I can see what to do and what not to do.

Then I start the brainstorm session; sketching, thinking, and then more sketching. This part for me is the hardest because I feel that my skills don’t start kicking in until I bring into a digital space. Sometimes I can nail a solid concept in the first 3 sketches, and then other times I go to sleep stressed out and think to myself “I’m screwed”.

Once I get over the initial concept hump, it’s pretty smooth sailing for me. I know my way around the software enough that I can clean up the sketch and compose it into a nice, clean, tidy logo that they can use.

Do you have any advice on where people could get started if they wanted to develop a logo design (or redesign) for their brand?

Christopher: One thing for sure that I could suggest to people, that I feel is often overlooked, is to make sure that your logo works in black & white as well as small & large. Too often I see logos that look terrible small, or logos that need to be converted to white/black and no longer looks like the original, coloured version of the logo.

Also, making different variations of the same logo in different aspect ratios will help tremendously. In a world where there are multiple dimensions, it’s key to have a logo/design that works horizontally or vertically.

And lastly, I would have to say make sure you have a reason for a redesign. I see a lot of old companies rebranding themselves, trying to become new and fresh. Sometimes it works, but a lot of the times the redesign ends up sucking all the unique qualities the old, traditional logo had. (Re)Design should have purpose!

Check out more amazing logos and other designs on Christopher’s portfolio:

Ad Spotlight – Facebook Gets Friendly

Impersonal. Cold. Uncaring. Creepy.

These negative connotations of Facebook are quickly forgotten with one viewing of The Social Network‘s new brand anthem.

In concert with their in-house agency, The Factory, Facebook has rolled out their first wide-scale brand campaign since their widely-mocked (and highly pretentious) “Chairs” spot by “Birdman” director Alejandro Iñárritu and Wieden + Kennedy. With an improved approach, it appears that Facebook is learning from not only its plethora of consumer data, but from past missteps in advertising.

Three separate 60-second ads were produced, each weaving together a story with the common theme of friendship at the heart of it. As written by Tim Nudd of Adweek, “the writing is poetic and – maybe most critically – humble”. The characters appear authentic, with an air of hip quirkiness and diversity rarely seen from such a mainstream brand. The soft piano renditions of pop songs inspire nostalgia while complementing the optimistic, thankful tone of the visuals and script.

The executions for all three spots are stellar, so make sure to check out “Girl Friends” and “Friend Request” if you “liked” the video above. Of course, a common theme woven throughout the scripts is the Facebook-coined lexicon of “friend”, “likes”, and “shared”. The tone is so well finessed that this adds a deeper real-life meaning to the terms, rather than coming across as forced.

Which one of these brands do you want to be friends with? (hint - Justin Bieber isn't endorsing it).
Which one of these brands do you want to be friends with? (Hint – Justin Bieber isn’t endorsing it).


The campaign is tied together with this integrated message being communicated in a simple, approachable way with out-of-home advertising featuring realistic friends. While these don’t seem like much when removed of context, they support the overall campaign with scale to reach Facebook’s broad audience. These billboards and posters aren’t limited to just the “Friends” messaging though – Facebook’s initiative also enjoys the spotlight.

Transit poster for

While the message is somewhat different for the layer of this campaign, it combines with the other efforts to make Facebook seem like a genuine, human organization. Look no further than the individual stories Mr. Zuckerberg’s company is highlighting, like Lian and his record store in Jakarta. Lian’s story (among others) make a strong point that a more accessible Internet for all makes for a better world, and the microsite flows seamlessly (no matter what device it is viewed on).

Of course, Facebook benefits quite selfishly from a larger base of worldwide internet users as it expands their potential consumer market. And yes, those “friends” in their advertising are almost certainly paid actors and models. But in a competitive tech world, this campaign helps Facebook stay as a brand that people will gladly interact with.

Does Facebook’s new campaign get the “thumbs up”, or are you searching for a “dislike” button?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Top 10 Ads of Super Bowl 2015

Super Bowl XLIX was a night of back-and-forth football action, climaxing with an all-time great catch and an atrocious play call by the Seattle Seahawks. Katy Perry’s halftime show featuring beach balls and dancing sharks had the internet buzzing, and Kanye still managed to look unhappy the entire time.

But of course, all of this is pales in significance compared to the truly important part of the night – Super Bowl advertising!

Always – “#LikeaGirl”

The best of the night by almost any measure. A stirring commentary on the socialization of negative stereotypes of girls.

Clash of Clans – “Revenge”

A hilariously intense monologue by Liam Neeson makes this one of the most memorable ads. Far better casting and execution than the World of Warcraft spots with William Shatner and Mr. T.

Snickers – “The Brady Bunch”

With all due respect to Clash of Clans, Snickers wins the “Best Celebrity Casting” award with Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi crashing an episode of the classic TV show. Check out the ‘making of’ video to truly appreciate the technical mastery involved in pulling this off.

BMW – “Newfangled Idea”

Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel (like many of us) had no idea what to make of The Internet in 1994. They also had the humility to play caricatures of themselves in this ad for BMW, featuring the gorgeous new I3 hybrid.

Budweiser – “Lost Dog”

Clydesdales, rural America, a good-looking farmer, and an adorable labrador puppy – it’s certainly not original, but its effective. Adding a soulful rendition of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” makes this even more of a tear-jerker.

Note: Budweiser also released the polarizing “Brewed The Hard Way” Super Bowl commercial, which touts Bud as a “macro beer” and openly mocks craft breweries. Microbrewery they are not, but this clearly alienated many, with over 6,000 dislikes on YouTube.

Weight Watchers – “All You Can Eat”

An extended metaphor of unhealthy eating as drug use. A witty, snappy script. Evocative, cinematic visuals. A frenetic, recognizable score that perfectly sets the pace. And a bold choice to advertise a weight loss program during a TV event aggressively associated with binge eating of junk food.

Toyota – “My Bold Dad”

A common theme with this year’s big game ads was the celebration of fatherhood. This one uses incredible storytelling, a more progressive role of femininity, and a pro-military ending – if the father/daughter story doesn’t get you, the Team America patriotism will! Audiences will remember this ad, but will they recall the brand?

Kia – “The Perfect Getaway”

Pierce Brosnan’s days as 007 are well behind him, but he’s still highly identifiable as the spy action hero. Kia “brings a little dose of reality” according to a review by Ken Wheaton of Ad Age. Brosnan’s fantasy scenes about adversaries and explosions add the grandiose escapism we love about Super Bowl advertising.

Esurance – “Say My Name”

Walter White is “sorta” a pharmacist in this humorous spot with pop culture appeal. The gag clearly illustrates why consumers should be treated as individuals (not demographics) by their insurance providers.

Squarespace – “Om”

This one makes the cut just because of its creativity as an integrated campaign. Jeff Bridges not only stars in a disturbing ad, but actually partnered with Squarespace to make a “Sleeping Tape” that people can actually purchase online. It’s worth a look at just to see the insanely great madness that proves almost anything can come to life with a beautiful website.


Did you see something else worthy of recognition during the Super Bowl? A favourite social media activation? Pass it along into the comments below – no interceptions, I promise!

Marketing Players of the Week – “Together” Edition

Whether or not you view advertising as art, it’s impossible to deny that it imitates life. Between global acts of solidarity such as “We Are Ferguson” and “Je Suis Charlie”, socially-conscious individuals have boldly come together amidst acts of racism and terrorism.

Fittingly, the most effective ads of January 2015 have embraced this concept of togetherness.


Arguably the most global-minded and progressive of North America’s Big 4 sports leagues, the NBA recently hired Translation as its advertising agency after a creative review. The new partner came through impressively for the league’s Martin Luther King Day tribute spot, helping the NBA become only the third entity to gain authorization to use King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Featuring black-and-white footage of monumental events of NBA history layered with audio from MLK’s powerful speech, the 60 second commercial shows how basketball brings people together. Images of Red Auerbach with Bill Russell and Phil Jackson with Michael Jordan celebrate not only teamwork (and winning) but the unity between races that King dreamed of.

Transcending race, the video goes on to include the NBA’s first female ref (Violet Palmer) its first openly gay player (Jason Collins).

Recent controversies such as Donald Sterling’s blatant racism prove that the league (and America) have a long road ahead of them to improve race relations. However, from protests about Sterling to players wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts during warmups, it’s been encouraging to see players come together to more actively join social movements. Thankfully, the league is supporting these causes and even bringing them forward with its marketing messages.

Newcastle Brown Ale and Brands of America

Also in the world of sports, we are only a few weeks away from The Big Game. It’s also Oscar Season, and former Newcastle endorsee Anna Kendrick was busy as a quirky Cinderella in December’s “Into the Woods”. With Newcastle Brown Ale striving to maintain its indie brand image, the beer manufacturer needed to find a slightly less mainstream spokesperson.

Enter deadpan specialist Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation fame. In a call to arms for brands across America, she expertly lambasts the cliches of big budget Super Bowl advertising while asking small brands to join the first ever crowdsourced Super Bowl ad.

The #BandofBrands campaign extends to social media, as independent brands such as Armstrong, Beanitos, McClure’s Pickles, and Sharper Image have joined the collective. Only time will tell how many others will sign up, but the email application process on their website will undoubtedly find many interested parties.


According to many, their “Signs” ad during the Golden Globes received a negative response for using events like 9/11 in an attempt to grab at consumers’ heartstrings. But McDonald’s elicited a much greater reaction when the brand released “Archenemies” earlier this month.

The animated 60-second spot imagines lifetime rivals making amends and coming together by sharing various McDonald’s products, all to the cheerful tune of “Love Is Endless” by Mozella. According to an article by Maureen Morrison of Ad Age, the company with the Golden Arches is “reigniting” its commitment to the “I’m Lovin’ It” tagline which launched back in 2003.

It’s a bright, happy, and moderately funny approach for a fast food brand that aims to appeal to the masses. We can expect to see more of this from the burger giant, although it’s hard to imagine anything embodying the concept of ‘together’ better than Wile E. Coyote making nice with The Road Runner.

Are you lovin’ it again, or not so much? Share your thoughts on these ads of togetherness in the comments below.

Marketing News: Distilled to the DNA