Molson ponders HHCL’s hold on Ex

Molson Canada is expected to make a decision in mid-March on the future of its relationship with HHCL, the agency of record on its Export brand, when the contract for the British ad boutique is due to expire. HHCL was awarded...

Molson Canada is expected to make a decision in mid-March on the future of its relationship with HHCL, the agency of record on its Export brand, when the contract for the British ad boutique is due to expire.

HHCL was awarded a six-month contract to work on Export last October, but sources say Molson has been unhappy with the long-distance relationship, and there is speculation in Canadian agency circles that the brewer may drop the agency and assign Export to another shop.

Molson spokesperson Marilyn McCrea acknowledges the contract with HHCL is nearing its term, but says no decisions have been finalized.

‘(HHCL) was selected before we had a crew in on Export,’ she explains, referring to the recent overhaul of Molson’s marketing department. ‘Whether they were going to be a long-term partner or not was always a question mark, and they knew that going in.’

McCrea admits that Molson may have to stage another review, but says it shouldn’t affect the brewer’s advertising timelines, since it hadn’t planned to launch any new creative on Export until late summer.

‘We did an exhaustive look at agencies last summer, so I don’t think we have to start from square one. But we didn’t have the team in on Export last summer, either,’ she says. ‘Business changes all the time, and whether we would do a full fledged review or not really depends on what the guys feel they need at the time.’

In January, Molson named Michael Downey as its new senior vice-president of marketing, and hired a pair of vice-presidents to oversee its major brands: Rob Guenette was placed in charge of Export, while Brett Marchand was handed responsibility for Canadian.

The assembly of a new marketing team prompted speculation that Molson might rethink its Export assignment. That speculation only intensified last month when former senior vice-president of business development Richard Kelly, who helmed Molson’s last review and was largely responsible for hiring HHCL, left the brewer.

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