Campaign House Worldwide: The hardest thing in advertising is saying OK to an ad somebody else has created

CEO, owner and creative director of Campaign House Worldwide describes his company as 'an agency that hasn't sold out to the mediamonster, cookie-cutter media plan.' Not selling out and conforming to the status quo is something Truman has made a career...

CEO, owner and creative director of Campaign House Worldwide describes his company as ‘an agency that hasn’t sold out to the mediamonster, cookie-cutter media plan.’

Not selling out and conforming to the status quo is something Truman has made a career out of since he started as a copywriter in Nigeria during the Biafran Civil War. Today, after gaining advertising industry experience around the globe, the Toronto company Truman heads up employs a modest 18 people, while having offices in Montreal, Dusseldorf, London and Johannesburg and affiliated offices around the world.

With its horizontal structure, Truman says, Campaign House eliminates ‘the usual agency red tape and encourages an unexpected partnership between ourselves and clients.’ It’s this peculiar and untraditional work relationship that has made Campaign House one of Canada’s most successful multi-service communications agencies. ‘We are what clients have asked for,’ he says. ‘That means bringing strategic experience, delivering on an agreed positioning and strategy, having outstanding creative, acting quickly and costing at least 50 per cent less than the multinationals – and, we’ve brought the fun back into the


While proudly 100 per cent Canadian-owned, Campaign House has the unique ability to solve sales and communications challenges in 38 major world markets. ‘With one simple conference call, we can give our clients the advantage of marketing globally. It’s an advantage that no Canadian multinational network could ever pretend to have.’

Clients pay for what they need

Armed with a mission to deliver the highest-quality product and service while saving clients time and money, Campaign House is a multi-service agency that offers specialty communications divisions to eliminate the financial burdens often associated with larger organizations – clients only pay for what they need.

Campaign House clients include: Aramark (Versa) Food Services, Arthritis Society, Canadian Cosmetic Toiletries & Fragrance Association (Look Good Feel Better), Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, 50 Plus Magazine, 50 Plus Net, Goodyear Canada Inc., Health Canada-Go For Green, Health Canada-Summer Active, Heritage Scholarship Trust, Invensys Brook Hansen, National Post, Operation Lookout (Against Drunk Driving Toronto), Scican (dental products), Transcontinental – Plesman Publications, Trexx (travel insurance) , UK Mail, World Vision Canada.

Among its areas of expertise, Truman considers Campaign House an industry trailblazer in reaching consumers in the all-important over-50 population segment. With publishing clients such as the National Post and 50+ Magazine, business-to-business operations such as Goodyear, Honda, Invensys and the not-for-profit segment, the company has successfully targeted this wealthy demographic.

‘Canadians 50-plus represent the most affluent slice of Canadian society,’ says Truman, ‘with 80 per cent of Canada’s wealth held by the 50-plus and women controlling 80 per cent of the purchase decisions. There are more millionaires over 50 than in any other segment, and the 50-plus group will represent 50 per cent of the population by the year 2010.’

The Hardest Word in Advertising

Any successful advertising campaign is an amalgam of pieces of special expertise. Of course, strong creative is key – whether it be applied to print, television, direct marketing or shelf wobblers. But even with stand-out creative, there is no assurance of a successful campaign.

‘Is the core competence the creation of advertisements? Well, actually it isn’t,’ says Truman. ‘Creating good advertisements is both demanding and difficult, but sometimes not as demanding and difficult as evaluating advertisements and approving them to run. The hardest thing in advertising is saying ‘okay’ to an ad that somebody else has created.’

And why does ‘Okay’ seem to be the hardest word?

Truman explains: ‘One of the myths of advertising is that agencies create terrific ads that don’t run because clients just can’t see how good they are. Well, it does happen, of course, but more often it seems to us, both parties agree that an ad is terrific and it still doesn’t run. Why? Because it’s irrevocable, because the brief may have been wrong, because things have changed, because somebody new had joined the decision group, because it doesn’t look like the Sistine Chapel or read like Shakespeare. Because if I say, ‘Okay,’ to this ad, everybody will know I was the one who said it.’

Truman points out that long before anyone at Campaign House approaches a client with an ad, he and the senior people there have had to say, ‘Okay,’ as in, ‘Okay, we think this ad will achieve its specific objectives, reinforce our client’s brand, and reflect well on Campaign House. Then we will put it forth to a client.’

Getting to okay

In order to reach that all-important moment of okay-ness, Truman says there are five things that need to be done along the way. The first is: Get the Brief Right. ‘If we think we’ve given you a stunner and you think we’ve given you a dud, the first thing to look at is the brief,’ says Truman, ‘to check that there isn’t some deeper lack of match, somewhere behind the words. There sometimes is – it’s an imperfect world. If so, we suggest you use the ad as a starting point to get the brief agreed all over again, and then forget the ad.’

Number two is: Get the People Right. With a low staff turnover, Campaign hopes its clients have a low agency turnover. ‘It’s so much easier to say okay to people when you know they have a record of success. This means hiring talent and then investing in it. And then encouraging it. Working with people generates shared understanding and shared understanding generates confidence.’

Once the right people are in place, those people need clients to Get the Input Right. ‘About the worst thing you can do is keep your information to yourself and challenge creative people, ‘Go on, knock my socks off.’ A good creative team can sometimes make bricks without straw, but they can’t make bricks out of thin air. Give them the product to look at and play with. Tell them what worked in previous advertising. Let them go with your salesmen, talk to customers, see the research, sit in on focus groups.’

Next on the route to ‘Okay,’ Truman says, is Get a Test Going. Truman recommends setting up a test in real life, if possible, rather than using the more artificial environments of copy testing and focus groups. And be very wary of testing your ads on the guys in the next office. ‘Their input is likely to be hasty, partial and competitive,’ remarks Truman.

The last thing to do to Practise saying Okay. ‘If you’ve picked the right people with the right track record, added your experience to theirs, fed them the right information, worked with them and on them – aren’t your far more likely to be right than wrong?’

Even with all these steps firmly in place and checked off, Truman says the business of advertising continues to provide unforeseen challenges and surprises. ‘Make no mistake,’ he says. ‘It’s hard to say ‘Okay’ every time; but because it’s our business, and we do it many times a day, we’ve had a lot of ‘okay’ of practice and we’ve learned how to do it. And,’ he adds, ‘we have an extra incentive, which concentrates our minds wonderfully: If you okay a dud, it may not wreck your business. If we persistently okay dud ads, we won’t have a business at all.’

With a fresh, creative approach that offers Canadian businesses seamless global access and personalized, client-based attention, Richard Truman will certainly have a business to run for some time to come.

Also in this sponsored supplement:

- Overview p.S13

- Rapp Collins Worldwide: Taking its heritage in knowledge and customer-centric marketing to higher ground p.S14

- Cundari Integrated Advertising: Head, heart and gut p.S15

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.