Creatives’ insights: The heart behind ‘Cook This Page’

Leo Burnett's Anthony Chelvanathan on the perseverance and passion it took to create (and revive) the IKEA campaign.

ROM18005

Following a record-breaking year for Canada in Cannes, strategy is diving into a few of this year’s award-winning campaigns, asking the top creatives behind the work to tell us more about the process and their learnings. Here, Leo Burnett group creative director Anthony Chelvanathan explains how “Cook This Page” came to life, after a few deaths. Be sure to read FCB Toronto’s co-CCOs’ story behind “Down Syndrome Answers” and check back throughout this week for more.

With it’s fill-in-the-blank instructions on oven-friendly parchment paper, “Cook This Page” is all about making cooking easy. Bringing the IKEA Canada campaign to fruition was anything but.

“This was the hardest project I ever worked on in my life,” says Anthony Chelvanathan, group creative director a Leo Burnett Toronto.

But it’s also a lesson in the power of passion.

It only takes a few minutes after meeting Chelvanathan for his love of food and cooking to reveal itself. (After whipping up meals in Cannes, the art director also celebrated Leo Burnett’s multiple Lions with a Sri Lankan meal as a thank-you to his team this week).

The concept for “Cook This Page” began in early 2016 with Chelvanathan noodling the idea of a cookbook with Leo Burnett’s Canadian CEO and North American CCO Judy John, fellow group CD Steve Persico and SVP, head of art Lisa Greenberg. The group ultimately decided that something instructional fit perfectly with the DNA of then-client IKEA.

The idea for the paint-by-numbers way of cooking was pitched as an add-on to an 80-page deck related to a food-centric spring pop-up in downtown Toronto for the retailer. Immediately, the client jumped on it.

“The sell was the easiest – that’s the best part,” Chelvanathan says, quick to credit Leo’s strategy and account team on its work throughout the process of bringing “Cook This Page” to market.

He teamed up with print producer Anne Peck, a partner on several of Chelvanathan’s projects who he describes as equally excited to make the project a reality, especially ahead of her retirement. They found a printer and the ball was rolling.

But with government and legal approvals (would the ink catch fire in the oven?) the printer ultimately backed out – all the more frustrating as Leo would miss its deadline for the IKEA pop-up, Chelvanathan says.

“So, this project died.”

But Chelvanathan and Peck remained committed to the idea, working on finding another printer who could check all the boxes, from government approvals to making it all happen within budget.

The perseverance paid off and the team found its printer about a month before Christmas, just in time to launch “Cook This Page” for Family Day in February.

But over the holidays, Chelvanathan received a call from Gord Cathmoir, yet another committed Leo Burnett producer alongside Franca Piacente, who Chelvanathan notes was also crucial to “Cook This Page.” It was bad news. Between paper size, ink and even thickness of the type, some design changes needed to be made to make it work.

The team tried, again making adjustments to have the paper printable and oven-safe, but the printer had to walk away.

“And this project died.

“At this point, I was literally crying,” Chelvanathan says. “I asked everyone to pray.”

But Family Day was fast approaching and as he puts it, “even God can’t extend time.”

Still, he had some good karma on his side.

Along with texting Leo Burnett’s worldwide chief creative officer Mark Tutssel for help and asking about possible printing resources, he also reached out to Leo Burnett Thailand, who he’d helped throughout the year by reviewing work.

With email chains growing longer, Leo’s Toronto team ended up with a list of eight or nine printers who could do the job. Just not within the right timeframe or budget.

“So it died again.”

And then, at long last, another call from Cathmoir. Despite walking away and needing potential design changes, the second printers from Christmastime had found a way.

“It was right down to the wire, to the last second,” Chelvanathan says.

They made it to Family Day.

Quite appropriate, given that creating “Cook This Page” was a family affair. It was a project done on nights and weekends, with Chelvanathan working in the kitchen with his mom to perfect the recipes, drawing and redrawing designs on parchment, like making circles bigger when more salt was needed, and testing them with all of the real IKEA products and ingredients.

Between his mom, fiancée (now wife) and his Leo Burnett family, “Cook This Page” finally became a reality after about a year of hard work.

“There’s the brain and there’s the heart,” Chelvanathan says of his line of work. “This project – to bring it to the end phase – is all heart.”

And that’s really the lesson behind the instructional cooking campaign. “If you believe in something, go for it.”