Wasserman: No entrenched practices

Great advertising arrives unannounced, heritage adds nothing. A sparkling idea is an upstart, plucked seemingly from nowhere. No wonder there is a relentless search for the new, an obsession with the different.If there is a West Coast advertising mystique, it comes...

Great advertising arrives unannounced, heritage adds nothing. A sparkling idea is an upstart, plucked seemingly from nowhere. No wonder there is a relentless search for the new, an obsession with the different.

If there is a West Coast advertising mystique, it comes from the fact that so many of its practitioners are from other places. Searchers.

These transplants appear to outnumber natives. The natives, in turn, have done their time elsewhere and have returned, changed. There are no entrenched practices for them to adhere to in the West.

The land is young, the slate clean. People on the coast tend to create on a blank canvas each time out. The truly rootless do interesting work. This is one theory. But I prefer the one about aliens.

Aliens theory

What planet do the people who do the ads out West come from anyway? Have you ever heard of seven Kokanee Beer commercials back-to-back? What is an Okee-Dokee? And that dog. That sasquatch.

And with no salivating lifestyle shots, how could these be real beer commercials anyway? Must be all the sprout juice Darrel Shee quaffs at lunch. So what if the brand beat the stuffing out of Blue? It’s just a regional.

World of their own

Yes, the television campaigns here often do inhabit a world of their own. Budgets have been habitually smaller, forcing a characteristic reliance on having an idea before proceeding to the shoot.

Not that people out West are not seduced by the latest executional wonders we see on reels. We love them all. First the quick cut of beautifully art-directed shots, then the black-and-white period, then the slow-motion phase, followed by the quick cuts with slow-motion black-and-white phase.

Neat ideas

We love it all, but since we do not have the budgets, we have to settle for just plain neat ideas. We missed the computerized moving logo and talking product rage completely. Frankly, we felt left out.

That is another theory. But I prefer the one about sailing in the morning and skiing in the afternoon.

Sailing in the morning and skiing in the afternoon theory

Of course the work there is different, they do not work at it. Whenever you phone from the Toronto office at nine, they are never in. You just know they are out there, knee-deep in newly fallen powder. No wonder they did that wacky Ikea stuff.

First Toronto agency to get hold of that account sure showed them a thing or two. Did you not love those black-and-white slow-motion dramatic spots?

Blackcomb

At least they take their ski resort advertising seriously. Like that Blackcomb work.

This is another wild stab. Anyone having worked back East will notice the almost complete lack of this essential advertising ingredient out West. Layers.

Lots and lots of sharp-thinking agency management types. Layers of insightful, helpful, client types. Layers of associates – vice-this and vice-that – everywhere, including in the creative departments.

All these players tend to alter campaigns from day one. The kicker is what happens not too long after a campaign is launched. The urge to tear it up and start again is strong. The momentum for change is irresistible. The system gets tired of the spots before they ever run.

Meanwhile, back on the coast, some campaigns have been left in place long enough to gather momentum.

That is one theory. I prefer the sleepy lotus land theory.

The sleepy lotus land theory

Do you know how long they have kept up that Chevron Town Pump campaign? More than 15 years. Snooze city. In that time, white cycs have gone in and out of style twice. Esso has had seven positioning lines and 12 campaigns since then – they will never catch up.

So what if Chevron is the market leader against the nationals and their mgm production budgets? Does it really matter that research says people still love their spots? They will never wake up.

Then again, many would conclude that all this postulating does not matter. The fact is, the West does not count much in marketing circles. Head offices are not there. Why look to the coast for a different point of view when everything is perfect in Toronto? I believe that is the theory.

Alvin Wasserman is creative director of Wasserman Cozens Dundon in Vancouver.