Spotlight on…Television Creative

Glenn Dawes is a writer with Calgary-based AdFarm. For this latest instalment of Strategy's 'Spotlight on...' feature, we asked him to spend some quality time in front of the tube, and offer comments on some of the TV spots that caught...

Glenn Dawes is a writer with Calgary-based AdFarm. For this latest instalment of Strategy’s ‘Spotlight on…’ feature, we asked him to spend some quality time in front of the tube, and offer comments on some of the TV spots that caught his attention.

As an Olympian couch potato, I didn’t find it much of a stretch to watch four hours of TV for this review.

Mostly, what I recall from that evening of flipping is a lot of great shows. Plus a lot of advertisers working REAL HARD to get my attention.

Now, I’ll admit that getting my attention is easy. But holding it? That’s another story.

Of all the ads that held my remote in check, surprisingly few were of the I-dare-you-to-run-this variety. I chuckled at these ‘edgy’ commercials (and there were dozens of them) the same way I chuckled at that kid who farted on the bus the other day. It was funny, and I noticed him – but I wouldn’t sit beside him ever again. Flip!

Here are four TV ads that did manage to stand out. They made an impression on me – not by indulging in adolescent humour or breaking taboos, but by being simple, tough, human and relevant. All in 30 seconds.


‘In families, everyone shares everything.’ What a great premise for a Kleenex commercial. At the supreme risk of grossing me out, the advertiser took me through a wonderfully gooey series of family snapshots – replete with all the usual licking, touching, dripping, splashing and germ-spreading. And it’s a credit to the advertiser’s maturity that what holds the spot together isn’t the shrewdness of the insight (it could’ve been really icky), but rather the love that the parents clearly share with their children. I didn’t know that Kleenex had three layers of tissue to help catch cold germs. Or that the ecstasy of living in a family could be so lovingly expressed in 30 seconds.


Ah, the snap of a prophylactic glove! Prostate awareness is a difficult topic, all right – but this ad succeeds by playing on the innate fear of being, um, anally probed to humorous effect. ‘Hey, man,’ it supers, shamelessly. ‘If you’re over 50 and haven’t had your prostate checked for possible cancer…’ In fact, it’s the shamelessness that makes this ad stand out, although the ‘gloving’ does go on a little long. When the glove finally snaps, we get the tagline ‘Put the fear behind you,’ and those two dreaded fingers form a peace sign. Or is it a V for victory? I still wince at the pun, but the image is pretty memorable.


Remember that cool Rolling Stones video in which giant rock stars roamed amid skyscrapers, bridges and trees? The effect was so awesome that advertisers jumped on it instantly. Today, it’s everywhere – and most of the spots that use the technique are pretty thin on ideas. ‘Wow,’ they say, ‘look how big I am! Everything is soooo tiny!’ And then this Jeep ad comes along: the giant hand of God, releasing animals into existence, musing about life and pondering what to create next. It ends with the Almighty placing a Jeep – huge hand, tiny Jeep – at the top of a rocky peak. Jeeps, sheep, mountains and God. And not a human being in sight. Is such exalted Jeep worship meant to boost the brand image? Or it is a witty commentary on our culture’s materialistic values? Do I care? Can I see it again?


At first, I wanted to condemn this spot on principle. A Michelina’s frozen dinner being served by a butler? It’s not just any butler, though – it’s a snobby, cynical butler who’s having a little fun with a cheesy parody of that even cheesier ‘Macarena’ song. That the fun is at the expense of his baby-boomer master is what won me over. When the butler retorts, ‘Quite’ at the end, he might as well have added, ‘…idiot.’ And I come away remembering how easy the product is to cook, and how much you save. Overall, the tension between the frozen dinner, the mansion, the regular guy and his butler is executed very skillfully, making this the kind of commercial that could run for years with very little wear. Plus, I like saying, ‘Dona mucha costa soya gonna lotta sava.’ Whatever.

Creative Agencies:

1. J. Walter Thompson (New York)

2. Young & Rubicam (Calgary)

3. BBDO (New York)

4. The Ongoing Partnership (Toronto)

Also in this report:

- It’s a harsh realm: In today’s network television environment, the chances of a show’s success are slimmer than ever p.TV2

- Consolidation of specialties a mixed blessing: Upward pressure on price is offset by plethora of choice p.TV16

- Specialties take branding to the Web: Treat online presence as destination in and of itself p.TV21

- Drop the Beat busts an interactive move: Alliance Atlantis hip-hop drama invites viewers to participate via Web site and interactive TV p.TV23

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