Picture perfect

There are at least several hundred ways to say that a hair care product locks in colour. Zak Mroueh should know: He considered and rejected most of them in the process of developing a print execution for Salon Selectives Colour Shield....

There are at least several hundred ways to say that a hair care product locks in colour. Zak Mroueh should know: He considered and rejected most of them in the process of developing a print execution for Salon Selectives Colour Shield.

‘We had some ideas that came out of our TV work, which has been running for a while,’ says Mroueh, associate creative director with Toronto-based TAXI Advertising & Design, and copywriter on the assignment (Gord Marshall was the art director). ‘We had ideas that got into aspects of the target group’s lifestyle, like boyfriends and relationships, and so on. We were trying to define a fresh way of saying this.’

Their solution was, in the end, almost ingenious in its sheer, blatant obviousness: To get across the notion that the product locks in hair colour, the ad used the image of a padlock. Made of hair.

The Salon Selectives print execution began running this winter – not just in fashion and beauty magazines, as one might expect, but in Toronto alternative weekly newspaper Now as well.

As a newspaper ad, it stands in sharp contrast to the kind of work readers are used to seeing. In a medium dominated by headline- and copy-driven advertising, the Salon Selectives piece is almost purely visual. Aside from the three-word headline (‘Locks in colour’) and the product name, there’s virtually no text to be found on the page.

‘When I saw it in the paper, I went, ‘Holy shit, this really pops,” Mroueh says. ‘Newspaper is wall-to-wall copy, and that’s part of the reason this ad stands out.’

The dearth of strong, visually-driven advertising in newspaper is somewhat perplexing. As just about any creative will tell you, a full page in a broadsheet is a gloriously expansive canvas on which to work. So why do so many advertisers keep painting the same drab pictures?

The best newspaper ads do tend to be highly visual, says Trevor McConnell, vice-president, creative director with Vancouver-based Palmer Jarvis DDB. Too often, however, advertisers and their agencies overlook newspaper’s visual potential, using it instead to communicate a lot of supplementary information that can’t be accommodated by other media.

‘Newspapers are regarded as the junkyard of the ad business,’ he says. ‘There’s only so much that can be said in a 30-second television commercial or a magazine ad, and the agency will defend the purity of those media to the death. They’ll tell the client, ‘All of that other stuff you want to say, we can cover off in newspapers.”

John Farquhar, executive vice-president and co-creative director with Toronto-based Young & Rubicam, agrees. ‘There’s a tendency to be a bit lazy with newspaper. We understand that there’s only so much stuff that can go into a TV or radio commercial. But if I have a full page in newspaper, the assumption seems to be that I can toss in everything and the giant clam.’

True, newspaper is a text-driven medium. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that newspaper advertising should be text-driven as well.

‘There’s a tendency for clients to assume that the general public cares about their product a lot more than they really do,’ says Ian Grais, one of the principals of Vancouver-based Rethink. ‘And because of that, they assume that if you put a ton of copy into newspaper, people will be interested in reading it. But I’m skeptical about that. If you can get across one idea in newspaper, you’ve accomplished more than you could with a copy-heavy ad that won’t get read.’

Grais says some of the newspaper advertising that makes him proudest is work done at his former agency, Palmer Jarvis DDB, for the Vancouver-area amusement park Playland. (The account has since moved to Rethink.) Because there wasn’t the budget to do a separate newspaper campaign, he says, the ads were simply adapted from the outdoor creative – an approach that proved remarkably successful.

‘We found that outdoor creative works really well in newspaper,’ he says. ‘It’s much more simple and visual.’

Probably the best reason to consider a visual approach in newspaper, Grais adds, is the fact that so few other advertisers are doing it.

‘If you’re looking at wall-to-wall copy all around you, then all the more reason to break away from that,’ agrees Karen Howe, creative director with Toronto-based Due North Communications.

Zak Mroueh, for his part, says that newspaper advertisers should be looking closely at their strategies, and asking themselves whether they are as focused as they could be.

‘Sometimes strategies are too complicated,’ he says. ‘And so you’ll have people trying to solve it through the long-copy, headline-driven approach. Because it’s too hard to say it in a visual way.’

There are, of course, certain practical considerations that also limit the use of newspaper as a visual medium. As Michael McLaughlin, executive vice-president and joint chief creative officer with BBDO Canada points out, a lot of newspaper work tends to involve fairly tight turnaround times, which leaves little opportunity to develop original photography or illustration.

Then there’s the longstanding reputation that the medium has for delivering poor reproduction quality.

‘Every creative team I know has been burned by newspaper reproduction at some point in their career,’ John Farquhar says. ‘You run the blue ad, it comes out green and you have very unhappy clients. Old hurts like that die hard, and it takes a while for people to get over it.’

Things are, however, beginning to change. While there is by no means consistency throughout the industry, the consensus is that dailies have gone a long way toward improving reproduction. And as quality increases, so too should the confidence of advertisers.

‘Reproduction has come so far forward from where it was even five years ago,’ Karen Howe says. ‘We have to shake off the feeling that newspaper is this backwater of advertising. It can be an incredibly powerful medium.’

Also in this report:

- Launch of Post good news for advertisers: Upstart daily has jump-started the industry, prompting offers of better rates, bonus ads and new loyalty programs p.NP3

- Stop the presses: Dailies are changing: No longer acting as simple order-takers p.NP4

- Telcos reward readers with a laugh: MTT and Bell Mobility employ unusual formats to nab attention p.NP6

- Savingumoney.com builds awareness offline: Coupon portal uses newspapers as linchpin of media strategy p.NP7

- Cadillac takes the long view: Used frequency of newspaper creatively by telling a different story every week p.NP10

- Edmonton Journal: Time for a change: Daily goes for a facelift p.NP10

- Whistler taps fast turnaround times: Newspaper lets ski resort react quickly to changing circumstances p.NP13

- Talvest co-brands funds with FP Index: Helped Montreal financial services provider to crack Ontario market p.NP14

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.