Editorial

National pastimeThe question raised recently by creative director Brian Harrod - of whether Canadian advertising measures up to the best in the world - is in itself a provocative and soul-searching issue.But just as interesting is Canadians' reactions to it.Boris Damast,...

National pastime

The question raised recently by creative director Brian Harrod – of whether Canadian advertising measures up to the best in the world – is in itself a provocative and soul-searching issue.

But just as interesting is Canadians’ reactions to it.

Boris Damast, now a commercial director, and, before that a leading agency creative director, has been in the eye of this storm for years and arguably has a better perspective than most. Not only has Damast worked in various advertising markets internationally, but he has also been a prime mover in trying to establish a credible creative benchmark for Canada as president of the Advertising and Design Club of Canada.

Under Damast’s leadership the club (formerly the Art Directors Club of Toronto) has stood firm in its somewhat controversial decision to use top flight creative people from outside of Canada to judge its annual awards show. The club says the mandate of its awards program is not to hand out prizes, but to recognize only exceptional work. And to do so, the club maintains the position that, in addition to its creative credentials, judges of the club’s awards program must be free of any hint of favoritism.

Damast says there is no doubt that universal standards of creative excellence exist. And, he says, not only were Harrod’s observations that Canadian standards are slipping fair, but Damast says he believes they were also made in good faith and with the betterment of the Canadian ad industry in mind.

‘But people will try to take him apart for saying what he did, and therein lies perhaps our biggest problem – the national pastime of bringing people down.’

Damast says this must change.

‘We have to ask ourselves, `Who is capable of delivering work that measures up to the highest standards?’ And once we’ve identified them, we must do more to promote them and support them. We need to be able to believe in ourselves. We need our own, legitimate stars.

‘One of the reasons so many talented people get syphoned off from this market – and I’m not just talking about the advertising business – is because we don’t provide the right atmosphere for their survival. It’s understandable that they would go to where they and their work are better received.

‘If you are working in an environment of cynicism, coming from both your peer group and your clients, it becomes very difficult to do good work no matter how much talent you have.’

The Advertising and Design Club is struggling to help turn things around. Despite pulling together a regular lecture series, organizing special screenings of foreign awards programs and hanging tough in its own vision of a high level awards show, membership and support of the club are waning.

There is a danger, Damast says, that the club may fold if this year’s show on Nov. 4 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre falters.

‘I would love to know how people in the industry really feel about this,’ Damast says. ‘Do they want an organization that is a true champion of creativity? Do they want a platform that will recognize and applaud excellence, and that will encourage others, particularly the young people just making their way into the business, to reach for the same standard?

‘Or is survival of the fittest enough to keep us going into the 21st century?’