Billy Bee boards create a buzz

Remember Billy Bee? Little guy. Black and yellow. Wings. Kinda cherubic. You know who we mean. Billy has been keeping something of a low profile in recent years. But if you've been out and about in the major centres of Ontario...

Remember Billy Bee? Little guy. Black and yellow. Wings. Kinda cherubic. You know who we mean.

Billy has been keeping something of a low profile in recent years. But if you’ve been out and about in the major centres of Ontario or Atlantic Canada in recent months, you’ve almost certainly noticed that familiar, smiling face.

This past fall, in an effort to renew brand awareness, Billy Bee Honey Products of Toronto launched a high-profile outdoor campaign. And the star of the production? None other than that much-loved mascot, little Billy Bee himself.

The company, which is Canada’s largest private honey packer, has traditionally relied more on radio, print and point-of-purchase advertising. The fall campaign was Billy Bee’s largest in recent memory – and its first outdoor effort in at least 10 years.

‘We knew we didn’t want to rest on our laurels,’ says Elie Grossman, vice-president of operations with the 50-year-old, family-run organization. ‘With our character, we have a well-known salesman to strengthen our image and remind consumers of Billy Bee – through a highly visual medium.’

The campaign, which was created by Toronto’s Zeppelin Communications & Design, had two phases – the first focused on pure brand awareness, the second devoted to introducing Billy Bee’s new family of honey products.

Phase one rolled out in October, and ran on billboards for eight weeks. The clean, simple creative execution featured the brand icon and a headline intended to promote Billy Bee honey as a healthier substitute for sugar: ‘Bee Healthy – Billy Bee, the natural sweetener.’

Phase two, which added bus panels to the mix, promoted the new Billy Bee products – among them honey mustard, honey barbecue sauce, honey-roasted peanuts and honey lemon candies – with such headlines as ‘Bee Nutty’ and ‘Bee Saucy.’

‘We had to keep it simple,’ says Christine Fox, director of promotions with Zeppelin. ‘With billboards, you only have a few seconds for people to see it, so we used brilliant background colours to grab attention, and the bee to provide instant [brand] recognition.’

The campaign employed billboards positioned in the vicinity of grocery stores in order to catch the eye of the target audience – namely, women 18-plus with children, and other health-minded adults.

Although packaged goods companies are not generally the leading users of outdoor, Fox says advertisers in these categories can make highly effective use of the medium.

‘You can put stuff on shelves or use displays at retail [to encourage an instant purchase],’ she says, ‘But that’s not necessarily what we were doing in this campaign. It was more of a message to remind people about Billy Bee – that it is natural, and that there is this family of products. And the best way to do that was the way we took.’

Also in this report:

- Let the good times roll: Demand is up, credibility is no longer an issue and turnaround is faster than ever. So why doesn’t outdoor garner a greater share of the advertising pie? p.21

- Video Board a standout: Largest of its kind in Canada, board will showcase DaimlerChrysler, TV spots for next five years p.25

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group