Viewpoint: Bits and bobs

I was cleaning out my mind the other day, and I realized I had enough strange little fragments in there to make a whole column.Which is very appropriate for this time of year.I figured, hey, I could fill up space just...

I was cleaning out my mind the other day, and I realized I had enough strange little fragments in there to make a whole column.

Which is very appropriate for this time of year.

I figured, hey, I could fill up space just like the real honest-to-goodness columnists do.

I’d call it The Year in Review, maybe even make a poem, like Marni Jackson and Susan Kastner and all them.

But, then, I thought, no, I don’t want to give anybody the opportunity to say that Burghardt’s gone from bad to verse.

So, here are the fragments, unadorned, sort of like leftover turkey – not much to look at on their own, but maybe they’ll boil together into good soup.

1. ‘Agencies of the Year.’ Fascinating.

This publication chose MacLaren, and that other one selected a conglomeration of McKim and Baker Lovick. What is this, 1965? Next year, Cockfield Brown?

I’m not knocking the selections, I’m knocking the fact that, with all the turbulence out there, nobody’s doing any better than these reeling old behemoths.

Next thing, you’ll be telling me that George Foreman is heavyweight champion of the world.

2. Polar Bears. Speaking, as I just was, of unexplained phenomena, I wrote a column back in April about the Coca-Cola polar bears.

I wondered aloud why they worked, and a surprising number of you wrote to tell me. Well, they’re still working.

Just last month, Rory Lesperance of Coca-Cola Bottling, Toronto, was kind enough to send me a stuffed Coke polar bear wearing a Blue Jays shirt. Thank you Rory.

He is great. I have named him Olerud, because he is the ultimate in whiteness and doesn’t talk much.

3. The Information Highway. The Globe and Mail proudly announced that they wrote 513 stories about it in 1994. I still don’t know where it goes, and neither do they.

But, now that it’s clearly in the hands of the crtc and Ted Rogers, can somebody direct me to the exit ramp?

4. People trying hard. There still, thank God, are many, and they are worthy of praise. I will pick one.

Joanne Lehman, an outstanding copywriter, is convinced against all evidence that copy is still important, and is proving it.

She has been the driving force behind the establishment of a whole new copywriting curriculum – not just a course – at Humber College in Toronto.

Her students are a) obviously talented, and b) obviously being well educated.

I have seen their portfolios, and four-fifths of the people now earning a living as copywriters should be having sleepless nights.

5. A personal note to Peter Lanyon.

Peter, you and I had lunch maybe three years ago, about two weeks after you left Cossette, and you were among the happiest men on this planet. So, why, why, why, why, why, did you ever go to MacLaren in the first place?

6. The Canadian lobster joke.

(If, for some reason, you don’t know the joke, fax me at (416) 693-5100 and I’ll send it to you). It is illustrated by both of the following:

a) Red Dog Beer. A beer launch, built from scratch by the brilliant creative team of Creet and McLaughlin.

Innovative, highly visible stuff, including a marvellous media idea of peppering single newspaper issues with literally hundreds of small-space red dogs.

What do I hear on the street?

‘It’s a flop.’

‘Yeah, the insiders are calling it Dead Dog.’

‘Yeah, and if anybody does buy it, it’s just to hold the label upside down and look at the dirty picture.’

Uh-huh. So, why, then, do I see the same brand on u.s. football games, rolling out in the States, virtually 100% unchanged?

Nawwwww. It can’t be any good. It’s Canadian.

b) Geoffrey B. Roche.

More awards than anybody else. More new business than anybody else. And, after four or five years, showing no signs of slowing down.

What do I hear on the street?

‘Imitative stuff.’

‘Recycled Art Directors’ Annuals’

‘One style….and, besides, he’s arrogant.’


Several years ago, I introduced an awards ceremony by saying that our one judging criterion was envy….and, by that standard, I rate Geoffrey Roche sky-high.

Apart from accomplishments like memorable-and-funny advertising for the Ontario government, of all things, just look at his campaign for Toronto subway advertising. (If you can’t see it where you are, move here.)

It is nothing more than white type on a green background, talking about advertising, and it absolutely compels you to read it.

And, rewards you when you do. And, in so doing, becomes an extraordinary product demo, proving that people will read subway advertising, if that advertising is any good.

But, nawwww. That agency can’t be any good. It’s Canadian.

John Burghardt, formerly president of a national Canadian advertising agency, now heads his own communications firm.