Tag Archives: Zulu Alpha Kilo

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.


Marketing Players of the Week – Food and Drink Edition

The past week has seen three strong new campaign launches worthy of praise.

Note: Toronto mayor hopeful Doug Ford’s election campaign is not included in this list, although I highly recommend that you check out the parody site at electdougford.com. Apologies to any members of Ford Nation who may think it’s worthy of a Cannes Lion.

Loblaw – President’s Choice

First up is Canada’s  dominant grocery retailer announcing a massive rebrand for their successful President’s Choice label – and this is much more than a campaign launch.

Aiming to become more of a lifestyle brand rather than focusing solely on product in their communications, Loblaw has worked with John St. to develop a tone that resonates with the modern ‘foodie’.

The new content marketing strategy is as fresh as Loblaw’s produce, with a completely re-vamped website focused on ‘Food Discovery’. The retailer worked with Google to develop a real-time ‘Food Pulse Index’ for Canada, which is an outstanding custom application of Google Trends. For example, Nanaimo bars are trending in Ontario – and tortilla soup is so hot right now in Saskatchewan. Not surprisingly, poutine is dominating the conversation online in Quebec.

The new “Crave More” concept is further brought to life by TV spots launching soon with Rogers Media (jump to the Marketing Magazine article to view them before they air). A social media campaign encourages Canadians to share their #FoodDiscovery moments and vote either #YesNewFoods or #NoNewFoods (word to Drake).

As the campaign rolls out, you can expect President’s Choice to become a more integral part of many Canadians’ daily lives, as this combines with their PC Plus loyalty program to add value and inspire creative recipes for foodies.

Corona Extra

September is a welcome time of year for those fond of football, fall colours, cozy sweaters, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes. But it’s a harsh reality for patio-goers longing to extend summer as long as possible.

Corona, traditionally associated with beaches and sunlight, and usually focuses its media spend in the summer to maximize seasonal sales of its popular pale lager. But the Labatt-owned brewer is trying to help Canadians find the opportunity to continue enjoying their beverage as the weather cools off.

Assisted by Zula Alpha Kilo and The Hive, Corona created a reflective solar panel mounted on a giant crane to reflect sunlight onto patios that need a blast of sunlight. The first stunt installation was pulled off at Toronto institution Clinton’s Tavern, which was of course filmed and is now being used in a YouTube TrueView campaign.

The Corona Sun Beam was designed for Canadians who want to “make the most of summer” according to brand manager Becky Lindsay in a Marketing Magazine article by Chris Powell.

While it’s hard to imagine many Canadians opting for a Corona Extra with lime into October and beyond, it’s a creative execution that should strengthen their brand equity for vacation season and for endless summers into the future.


While Gatorade launched a bonafide hit in their “Sweat It To Get It” campaign which I wrote about here, it’s probably not a terrible idea to move the focus elsewhere while the NFL controversy continues.

In a classy tribute to Derek Jeter’s successful career with the Yankees, TBWA\Chiat\Day filmed a beautiful 90-second spot with Jeter taking a nostalgic walk through The Bronx to meet fans; thanking them for their support.

According to an Adweek article by Michael McCarthy, it was a “true collaboration” in which Jeter actually chose the music to sum up his career – “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.

Between the music and the black & white treatment, this TV spot has a golden age New York feel, and it’s the details that make it such a home run. Capturing the genuine reaction by the fans and showcasing Jeter’s marketable personality, it is a celebration of Gatorade’s ability to pick winning athletes to endorse their brand.

Does it introduce a new flavour, or speak to Gatorade’s benefits? No – in fact the “G” logo is only shown in a few well-framed seconds towards the end of the spot. But does it communicate the brand essence of Gatorade and its association with top-flight athletes? Absolutely – and it’s a home run.

Do you love or hate Derek Jeter any more after seeing this ad? Are you #YesNewFoods or #NoNewFoods to PC’s new campaign? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Marketing Players of the Week – NBA Playoffs Edition

The regular season of the 2013-14 NBA season concluded on Wednesday, and the league’s top 16 teams are currently preparing for the highly-anticipated Playoffs to begin this weekend.

It’s a time where many teams roll out uninspired brand campaigns to rally their loyal and bandwagon-jumping fans alike, most frequently with a call to action for a city’s fans to wear one unified colour at home games. For example, the Chicago Bulls’ “SEE RED” campaign is re-launching for the sixth time for their first round matchup against the Washington Wizards.

Toronto Raptors

Disclaimer: I am a die-hard Raptors fanatic and supported the team even through the unspeakably horrific years of Rob Babcock and Rafael Araujo. My opinions on this team are obscured by the misguided optimism of rose-coloured glasses, to say the least.

Canada’s pro basketball team clinched the Atlantic Division title this season with a franchise-best 48-34 record and is entering the playoffs for the first time in six years. As a kick-off to their re-branding efforts – and with an assist from “global ambassador” Drake – the Raptors unveiled a new brand anthem video.

Described by Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail as having an “old-school Nike-feel – plus fire, snow and wolves”, the spot definitely takes inspiration from “Game of Thrones” along with traditional Canadian beer ads and the Olympic “#WeAreWinter” campaign.

While “#WeTheNorth” isn’t exceptionally original, and adds some confusion when paired with the existing “Northern Uprising” slogan, it’s a positive direction for the team’s brand. The spot’s grittiness adds character to a usually corporate-feeling brand, while it invokes a sense of patriotism that seems easy for casual fans to embrace. Especially with the Maple Leafs missing the NHL Playoffs this year…

The Raptors kick off their first round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow at 12:30pm. At this time last year, Jay Z had just departed the Nets as part owner, while Drake had yet to join the Raptors as a ceremonial brand ambassador. Will the Raptors’ now-superior rapper affiliations and new campaign give them the psychological edge vs. Brooklyn? We will soon learn.


Interac’s latest campaign is completely unrelated to basketball, but no less of a slam dunk. The brand launched its “Be in the Black” campaign back in early March, and has stood out lately for coming together in a very integrated fashion.

With consistent messaging across various media (out-of-home, video pre-roll, social media, in-cinema, and TV), Interac is clearly urging Canadians to take control of their financial situations to avoid debt by using their own money for everyday purchases. The TV spot, while somewhat cheesy, is humorous and effectively uses “Back in Black” by AC/DC to drive home the communication.

Kudos to Zulu Alpha Kilo for crafting a concise campaign that delivers one message in a clear and direct manner for Interac. Special mention for a billboard across from Rabba Fine Foods daring potential shoppers to “flash your produce at Rabba”. Cheeky!

If you’ve seen another great campaign lately, I’d love to hear about it – please share in the comments.