Tag Archives: Advertising

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 Expedia.ca.

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). Expedia.ca 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 “Puppyswap.ca”, 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.


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 internet.org initiative also enjoys the spotlight.

Transit poster for internet.org

While the message is somewhat different for the internet.org 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.

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 Players of the Week – NBA Tip-Off Edition

Tipping off this past Tuesday, the 2014-15 NBA season represents a year of many compelling storylines. Rookie phenoms Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker kick off their pro careers amidst massive expectations. Anthony Davis (and his trademark unibrow) looks to break out and become a household name, while Derrick Rose returns from injury to bring the Bulls back to title contention. And a player by the name of LeBron James returns to his quiet home of Cleveland, Ohio.


Since day one when he signed an endorsement deal with Nike for $90 million while still in high school, LeBron James has been a perfect fit for the Beaverton-based sportswear giant. According to Forbes, LeBron’s brand is worth $10 million more than last year and he has replaced Tiger Woods as the most valuable sports brand in the world.

Brand partners including Sprite, Beats by Dre, and McDonald’s have already celebrated his return to Cleveland, but it’s Nike that most effectively brings this to life in their advertising.

In a masterful short film by Nike’s longtime agency Wieden+Kennedy, LeBron gives a goosebump-inducing speech in the pregrame huddle, joined by not only the Cavaliers players and staff but what seems like the entire city of Cleveland.

His words are expertly crafted in the fashion of classic locker room speeches by sports leaders. The black and white effect paired with the ominous score contribute to the drama. Hoards of Cleveland faithful bow their heads in reverence, almost religiously. It’s perfect.

Accompanying this spot was a gameday launch of his LeBron 12 signature shoe, and the installation of a 10-story banner, with “Cleveland” replacing his name on the jersey to symbolize James putting the city on his back.

Remember the aftermath of The Decision in 2010 when fans burned his jersey and parodied his Nike ad? It seems like a distant memory now, as scars have healed over time while LeBron (and his PR team) have made all the right moves in process of his return to Cleveland.

Yes, ‘LeBrand’ is alive and stronger than ever in 2014. And his corporate partners – Nike especially – will gladly benefit from their associations with King James.

Los Angeles Clippers

New management, new era. The upstart LA Clippers, longtime basement-dwellers of the NBA, were finally able to split ties with disgraced former owner Donald Sterling when Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer took over the team for a record $2 billion.

As any brand would be wise to do, the Clippers have made moves to distance themselves from any associations with their past owner’s baggage (Lululemon, take note). Ballmer attending a Dodgers game with Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Magic Johnson (who was disparaged by Sterling) was a fantastic way to extend the olive branch and signify a new beginning. Now, the NBA club seeks to reinforce to fans that the Clippers are entering a more positive era.

The ‘Be Relentless’ spot by RPA avoids any mention of the controversy or ownership change, but hints at the changes with overt imagery of Ballmer and references to a “beginning” in the script. Most of all, it is successful because it focuses on the basketball court, which is all that Clippers fans will care about assuming the team continues to emerge as a leader in the NBA’s Western Conference.

Sport Chek

Embracing the Toronto Raptors’ successful ‘We The North’ campaign, Sport Chek looks to make itself the retail destination for basketball fans across Canada.

Canadian Tire Corporation has made a big bet on Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment brands with a recent sponsorship deal, and Sport Chek is even selling an exclusive Raptors clothing collection by Adidas this year. Tapping Sid Lee to re-create the magic of ‘We The North’, Sport Chek is releasing several videos for a #MyNorth series.

Starting with a heartfelt tribute to Toronto basketball legend Phil Dixon, the videos take on a grassroots approach and will feature amateur ballers from nine communities in the GTA, according to Russ Martin at Marketing Mag. It’s a strong content play, and complements the Raptors’ own 2014-15 campaign quite well.

Sport Chek took it a step further by involving Raptors forward Patrick Patterson as an ‘Undercover Pro’ working at a Sport Chek store. It’s a cute stunt, but lacks the polish and emotional resonance of the Sid Lee videos.

While it’s important to draw a connection to the stores, this video does little to sell fans on the merits of their basketball section, nor does it take advantage of their impressive in-store digital technology.

In fact, the ‘Undercover Pro’ concept itself is derivative of a much funnier video that involved Landry Fields as “employee of the month” at Modell’s. Given that Fields now plays for the Raptors it seems baffling that Sport Chek would recycle this concept with another Raptors bench player. Thankfully, this stunt is just a backup to the much larger role played by the ‘#MyNorth’ videos, which should suffice just fine in their starting role for Sport Chek.


What’s your opinion on LeBron James since his return to Cleveland? Do you have a favourite NBA tip-off campaign that deserves mention? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Marketing Players of the Week – Halloween Edition

Warning: this blog post makes reference to ad campaigns involving creepy mannequins, fake genitalia, and D.I.Y. craft recipes not for the faint of heart.

October represents a quirky time in advertising – we’ve long breezed past the carefree indulgence of summer, Back to School is history, and it’s still #waytooearly for marketers to broach the lucrative holiday season.

So along with pumpkin spice everything (reaching staggering levels this year), many brands embrace Halloween with the fervor of Jack Torrance’s temper.


Arguably the best big-box retailer at tapping into both seasonal momentum and the latest in consumer trends, Target has leaned heavily into Halloween in recent years. And as one of the most savvy brand users of Instagram, it’s a no-brainer that their Instagram account would be taken over with spooky-themed imagery.

As part of their annual Fright Done Right campaign, ‘Tarjay Boutique’ (as they’re affectionately known) created a choose-your-own-adventure style Halloween experience on their Instagram profile. A series of posts from the fictional “Halloween Hills” each reveal two homes – one ‘trick’ and one ‘treat’. These are each associated with a Halloween-themed craft idea (trick) or recipe (treat) involving products found at Target stores.

The real “trick” is Instagram’s policy of no links in posted photos, which Target has craftily eschewed by creating dedicated Instagram profiles for each featured ‘trick’ or ‘treat’. According to an article by Ashley Rodriguez of Ad Age, Target partnered with Carrot Creative on the initiative, which will feature 15 taggable images in total.

Taking innovation on Instagram a step further, Target integrated Like2Buy for several posts, making it easy to convert for online purchases from their Instagram Shop.

Virgin America

Imagine being stuck on the most boring, uncomfortable flight of your life – for six excruciating hours. That’s exactly the type of fear Virgin America has attempted to invoke with BLAH Airlines, their latest stunt campaign.

Along with a website for the (thankfully) fictional airline, Virgin and creative agency Eleven Inc. created a six hour pre-roll video starring only mannequins on a plane. The simulated flight parodies our most loathed aspects of commercial airlines, following one inanimate protagonist trying to survive a flight to San Francisco, surrounded by a bevy of intolerably irritating fellow passengers.

While Eleven’s creative director Bryan Houlette acknowledged in this Adweek article that he doesn’t anticipate people to watch for the entire 5 hours and 45 minutes, it sure is fun to scan through for some of the most hilariously boring moments. And thankfully, with a media buy through YouTube TrueView, involuntary viewers are able to skip the entire thing (in what is safe to assume will be most cases).

It’s a very clever execution, and impressive commitment to produce the entire film with literally no appearances from human actors. The video functions as a minute-by-minute commentary of everything that needs improvement in the flying experience; presumably pains that Virgin has made efforts to reduce.

National Women’s Law Center

If the thought of being next to mannequins on a plane for six hours doesn’t terrify you, imagine this: losing $435,049 over the course of your career due to circumstances completely out of your control.

That’s the reality for the average woman in the US workforce, as females are paid only 78% of what their male counterparts are paid, according to the Census Bureau. And that’s the reality that the NWLC is trying to change, by advocating for wage equity.

The Equal Payback Project is a movement by NWLC to help reduce the total $29,811,746,430,000 wage disparity for all working women in the US. With a slick, infographic-heavy website and well-executed video, agency partner Droga5 definitely brought their A-game for this initiative.

Comedian Sarah Silverman is a  natural fit to bluntly deliver the message with her trademark self-deprecating humour and witty quips about the wage gap. The use of prosthetic penises draws attention to the absurdity of men making more money than women, all other things being equal.

With a crowdfunding element on the site (powered by Tilt), users can help chip away at the massive wage gap, although the impressive $96,345 raised to date is still only enough to pay back one working woman’s wages over 9 years.

Do you love or hate the BLAH Airlines stunt by Virgin America? Seen any other hauntingly-good Halloween campaigns? Add your thoughts in the comments!

Marketing Players of the Week – Bright Lights Edition

This week we’ve seen a variety of exceptional campaigns introduced, each employing a drastically different tone of communication.

Let’s take a look, shall we?


For a multi-billion dollar company that’s existed since 1971 and is widely considered as “high growth”, it’s almost unfathomable to imagine that Starbucks has never created a global ad campaign. But with competition for the Third Place heating up internationally and continued concern that the brand’s ubiquity is a weakness, it appears that it’s now time for a unified rallying cry.

Partnering with up-and-coming California agency 72andSunny, Starbucks compiled 220 hours of footage at 59 retail stores across the globe, all within a single 24 hour window.  “Meet me at Starbucks” is a feel-good message that ultimately “lets the consumer be the hero”, in the words of Tim Nudd at Adweek.

From postcard purists in the Czech Republic to bikers in Denver, the five-minute video celebrates Starbucks as a welcoming meeting place rather than pushing their latest seasonal offerings. From a Canadian’s perspective, it’s the antithesis from what we’ve grown accustomed to from incumbent coffee powerhouse Tim Horton’s.

Watch the full interactive video on YouTube – and keep an eye out for the retro computer-toting Toronto PET Users Group, who set up a network of ’80s-era Commodore hardware right inside their local Starbucks.

By removing product from the equation, “Meet me at Starbucks” allows Starbucks to focus on people and places – two extremely important elements for continued success in an industry with a plethora of choices. The ‘Third Place’ status continues to be a valuable point of difference for the brand, and Starbucks clearly recognizes that this needs to remain at the forefront of their marketing efforts.


General Electric has “become known for its quirky advertising” in recent years, according to Lara O’Reilly in an article for Business Insider. Taking an offbeat approach is a clever way for GE to break through the clutter and spread awareness for some (often) boring household products.

Case in point: the conglomerate which formerly owned NBCUniversal took so much pride for being constantly satirized in ’30 Rock’ that it created ads inspired by the irreverent TV series.

So while it shouldn’t come as a surprise that GE paid Jeff Goldblum to star in a self-aware infomercial parody for their new Link lightbulbs, it’s still quite the shock to see such a level of schlock in tone. And I mean that in the absolute best way possible.

The execution is flawless, and Goldblum is well-cast as the “successful guy” infomercial celebrity. The video far surpasses what a brand would typically conceive for a product like a lightbulb.

Let’s hope GE takes this one step further and takes further inspiration from the recurring infomercial segments on ‘Saturday Night Live’ for their next luxury product launch.


Probably the first automotive brand you would associate with the quality of ‘safety’, Volvo benefits from perceived quality of safety features, yet suffers from the flipside of this benefit. This makes it harder to sell on cool technology, vehicle performance, or breakthrough design.

From my personal perspective, Volvo has been (quite literally) my father’s car brand since at least 1998.

But the tide is turning, and Volvo’s recent advertising shows that the brand refuses to play it safe. The ‘Eplit Split’ stunt video with Jean-Claude Van Damme from late 2013 is perfect proof of this.

The new global spot by Grey London employs a cinematic filming technique to capture the spirit of adventure with a surfing heroine taking on the nighttime waves as her Volvo XC60 waits patiently under the moonlight.

Described as “quietly epic” in an article by Adweek, ‘The Swell’ is the beginning of a new chapter in reshaping Volvo’s brand identity. The tagline, “Seek Feeling”, represents a bold new direction more aligned with thrill-seekers than risk-averse soccer moms.

While the automaker will need to step up in backing up this new positioning with appropriately rugged-yet-refined new vehicles (and probably a website redesign), it is apparent that Volvo is not afraid of stepping outside its comfort zone.

What’s the best ad you’ve seen lately? Please share it in the comments below.

Marketing Players of the Week – Dadvertising Edition

Men haven’t had to deal with nearly as many negative stereotypes as women through the years. The lone exception being, perhaps, modern advertising.

While ads since the Golden Age have frequently celebrated Mom as the household hero, fathers have long been the punchline of jokes; portrayed as boorishannoyingly incapable humans. Sure, there have been many exceptions on both trends, but even The Globe and Mail acknowledged that men in ads are usually “dumb, goofy, or completely inept” back in this 2009 article.

Peanut Butter Cheerios

According to a recent article by Russ Martin of Marketing Magazine, General Mills relied on Nielsen insights and realized that Canadian men are now taking a much more active role in grocery shopping for their households. Determined to appeal to dads in a non-traditionally reverent tone, the Cheerios brand team partnered with Tribal Worldwide Toronto to create a brand anthem for their new Peanut Butter Cheerios launch.

The new YouTube video features a modern dad waking up and effortlessly helping his kids through their morning routines; simultaneously instilling positive values and encouraging them while showing his tech-savvy and pop culture relevance. The campaign also features an outstanding Tumblr page with hilarious infographics and irreverent words of wisdom for modern dads.

The casting/acting is brilliant, and it’s fantastic execution with witty copyrighting and a smooth performance in one take. It’s a triumph for “dadvertising”, and I hope as a self-respecting man to see more ads like this in the future. Sorry, Vicks Nyquil guy.

Neutrogena Men Canada

Okay, so it’s not targeted at “dads” per se, but this new campaign by Neutrogena Men is too good to pass up. Also based on insights – okay, the Ipsos Reid research was likely conducted to support the messaging – this campaign is also highly effective.

To promote their repertoire of mens’ face cleaning products, Neutrogena pulls off a classic marketing ploy by creating a problem that didn’t exist. While this is a tactic that many loathe about marketing, you can’t argue with its historical success. Even Seth Godin has acknowledged that many of the world’s most disruptive innovations must first create a problem before solving it.

The problem? Junkface.

With a dude-targeted tone not unlike recent Old Spice, Boston Pizza, and Wisers, the brand speaks to its audience directly from the bathroom from the perspective of a well-dressed, funny-yet-condescending man. The creative by DDB Canada and Tribal Worldwide Toronto (again) stays funny without insulting its audience too much; a feat noted by Sarah Barmak of Marketing Magazine.

Tesla Motors

In a completely different vein, here’s another ad targeted towards grown men (including dads). Instead of using the standard formula used in many automotive ads, this new Tesla commercial relies heavily on imagery.

Conjuring up imagination with beautiful visuals of desert terrain, lightning storms, and rattlesnakes, this spot by director David Holm feels raw yet refined. According to design blog The Fox Is Black, “the commercial focuses on bringing to light the idea that Tesla is creating the future”.

With disruptive innovation and a $35,000 Model 3 due out next year, some standout advertising like this could be Tesla’s ticket to widespread adoption.


Do you have any other favourite ads you’ve noticed this summer? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Marketing Players of the Week – Super Hero Edition

The FIFA World Cup looks to be a massive cultural event this summer, and Nike is making a case to be the top-of-mind brand associated with it.

Nike Football

Building on their “Risk Everything” campaign that I touched on earlier this month, Nike released a brilliant 4-minute digital short yesterday that has already racked up over 10 million views on YouTube.

Although most digital experts will reinforce that there is no science to which videos go viral, this video by Wieden + Kennedy features all of the elements for a piece of content begging to be shared. Not only does it include icons of soccer royalty, with the likes of Christiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and Neymar Jr. (just to name a few), but there are cameo appearances by Kobe Bryant, Irina Shayk, and Anderson Silva to appeal to those of us that aren’t deeply initiated to the culture of futbol.

The concept of “Winner Stays” is relatable for anyone who has played a game of pickup sports, as a group of young men each decide on heroes to replicate. The energy and tension build with the music, in vintage Nike fashion, to the climactic moment of a penalty shot. In a series of many fast cuts, players morph bodies (often in humorous fashion), with a light product feature where Ronaldo shows off his “boots that aren’t even out yet”.

Also, a goalkeeper takes form as The Incredible Hulk (in all his CGI glory) in a moment that takes the already high budget video over the top in its wow-factor. Another player grounds him in the conventions of this imagined reality, remarking “You can’t be The Hulk”. A very nice Marvel cameo which recognizes that kids don’t just imagine playing as their sports heroes – some of them also aspire to be super heroes.

As noted in an article by Tim Nudd of Adweek, this spot shines by creating a mini-narrative that makes the athletes seem “both completely rarefied and yet eminently approachable”, while celebrating the everyman in true World Cup 2014 fashion.


A brand that has been remarkably consistent in its approach for the past several years, Heineken has continued to feature bearded protagonists completing impressive acts of showmanship amidst crowds of people; usually acquiring the iconic green bottles of beer in dramatic fashion en route to wooing attractive women. Case in point, “The Odyssey Interactive Film” released in February, with a cast of fully-bearded yet refined men who were each cast for their uniquely legendary abilities. Their latest endeavour is also a mini-film, although this time it takes short form content to another level.

While it isn’t quite 6-second-Vine-short, Wieden + Kennedy helped Heineken produce a 15-second feature film for their sponsorship of the Tribeca Film Festival. Using user-submitted movie ideas from their #15secondpremiere hashtag contest on Twitter, the brand chose the aptly named @awsommovieideas submission of a movie about Abe Lincoln’s evil clone.

The 15-second spot is as entertaining  as one could expect, with Hollywood-style production as billed, and the contest winner was given the VIP treatment at TFF with a flight to New York and chance to meet Robert De Niro himself. It’s a perfect way to celebrate their association with the film industry, and a marquee contest prize that allows them to get credit and earned PR coverage due to its desirability.

Embed from Getty Images


Kraft Peanut Butter

For a traditional CPG company, Kraft delivers some excellent content in a new spot for their classic peanut butter brand. It’s an emotional, family-centric commercial by Taxi 2, focused on developing the bears as Canadian icons now that they are featured more prominently on packaging.

“Stick Together” decidedly strays from a rational product-features approach, as explained in an interview by Michelle DiPardo of Marketing Magazine. Instead, it celebrates the brand heritage and how closely associated Kraft Peanut Butter can be with many of our memories of growing up.

With excellent music selection (Ellie Goulding’s soulful cover of Elton John’s “Your Song”) and inspired creative direction, it’s a winning ad. It’s not clear why the young couple’s baby is given a teddy bear with a red bow (is the baby predisposed to eating Crunchy peanut butter for life now?), but overall it conjures up nostalgia and positions Kraft as the leader for the hearts of Canadian peanut butter lovers.

If you’ve seen another great campaign lately, please share it in the comments – what’s your favourite out there right now?

Marketing Players of the Week – Return of Mad Men Edition

It’s a very exciting time in advertising, with the return of Mad Men withSeason 7 premiering tonight on AMC. Accordingly, this edition of MPOTW is dedicated to everyone’s favourite high-functioning alcoholics at Sterling Cooper & Partners.

AMC – Mad Men

As profiled over at Adweek, AMC’s marketing department recently launched a countdown promotion for the final season by installing 10-foot-tall, 200-gallon highballs of Scotch outside of Penn Station in New York and in Hollywood.

The glasses of Scotch are slowly draining (like boozy sand timers) to count down for Episode 1 of Season 7 tonight. It’s a smart way to build excitement for the launch, as well as paralleling the sentiment that time is running out for Don Draper as his marriage and career continue spiralling out of control. The execution is reminiscent of how Season 3 of The Walking Dead was promoted in Toronto last February, with rotting zombie hands losing fingers each day. We’ll see how AMC’s ratings – and Don Draper’s struggles – fare once Season 7 debuts.

H&R Block

Not only is it a big time for our beloved fictional ad folks on Madison Avenue, but April is a crucial month for the bean-counters that help many of us file our taxes.

H&R Block married up the two events by creating some compelling content – an infographic detailing how much the characters of Mad Men would pay in taxes today. In my opinion, this is a brilliant way to add life and entertainment to an otherwise-boring product, and it’s not even too much of a stretch given the relevant timing for both tax season and Season 7.

Check it out below:

Mad Men Taxes Infographic
Source: H&R Block Talk


IKEA Canada

Another marketer making waves recently is IKEA, with their major “#HouseRules” campaign launched with Leo Burnett. The approach is centred around the popular, unique, and sometimes-quirky ground rules that Canadian families have for their homes.

With a strong social media component – including a microsite hub for user-generated content – this campaign puts product in the background with the goal of associating IKEA’s brand with family living solutions. It’s a great concept, executed to perfection in the :60 spot with heartwarming family moments, humour, style, and a perfect choice of music – “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

For more details on this “#HouseRules” campaign, check out this article by Alicia Androich of Marketing Magazine.

Seen any other great ads or new campaigns lately? Excited for Mad Men Season 7? Add your thoughts in the comments.

Marketing Players of the Week – World Cup Fever Edition

With the FIFA World Cup beginning June 12 in Brazil, three of the world’s top 25 brands have already launched ad campaigns tying into the buzz around the tournament.

Nike Football

Not surprisingly, Nike was the first major brand to release a soccer football ad with international athletes. Their “Risk Everything” campaign clearly focuses on the theme of competition, with an integrated website encouraging fans to set up their own local tournaments, “winner stays” style.

The first :60 campaign spot features superstars Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Neymar of Brazil, and Wayne Rooney of England. The three athletes are shown simultaneously going through their pre-game rituals, living up to their countries’ expectations and media pressures, and sporting some mean game faces. Wieden + Kennedy delivers once again for their top client,  with a spot that inspires through the power of sport.


Another international powerhouse (and an official 2014 World Cup partner), Coke has taken a more uplifting, worldly approach. Stopping just short of the hilltop “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” ad from 1971, their latest ad certainly captures the spirit of global unity.

While it may fall short of their usual standards in entertainment value, “One World, One Game” manages to communicate how soccer football brings us together, in a very literal sense. Third world communities are profiled and likeable characters are introduced, culminating with lucky fans winning trips to Brazil to experience the glory together. The tagline, “Everyone’s Invite”, ties in nicely with Coke’s “Open Happiness” theme as well as their win a trip contest.


Not to be outdone, Coke’s youthful rival also released its own tribute to futbol on Wednesday morning. With cameos from six of the sport’s biggest stars, including Messi, along with a spirited cover of “Heroes” by Janelle Monáe, this spot takes a fun-loving, entertaining direction.

The real heart of the ad centres around a young protagonist that takes the viewer on an adventure with him through the streets of Rio de Janeiro; building progressive music wherever he goes.

More impressive than the two minute ad itself is the interactive version at Pepsi.com/FutbolNow. Give it a try on a decent browser, and you’ll be able to add to the experience by unlocking moments along the way. Very nice application of technology to add a layer of interactivity to an already strong ad.

Honey Maid

Completely unrelated to the World Cup, but extremely worthy of mention, is Honey Maid’s response video released on Thursday. After receiving racist and homophobic comments from their “This Is Wholesome” commercial, the Mondelez-owned graham cracker brand responded in the most beautiful way possible.

Their “Love” video features an inspiring art project, with negative comments literally flipped inside-out and repurposed to create something much more positive. It’s an admirable response, and shows how brands should respond when their statements are challenged – by standing up for themselves without getting defensive.

Of the three World Cup ads, which one do you think is most effective? Is Honey Maid’s “Love” video the best brand response ever? Drop your 2 cents in the comments!