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.


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