Trident, Swiss Chalet boards win a Johnny for degree of difficulty

I once made a proposal, which got absolutely nowhere, that the judging of advertising awards should include a factor called 'degree of difficulty'. Diving and gymnastics already have it. If you just leap off the springboard and cut smoothly into the...

I once made a proposal, which got absolutely nowhere, that the judging of advertising awards should include a factor called ‘degree of difficulty’.

Diving and gymnastics already have it. If you just leap off the springboard and cut smoothly into the water, you can only multiply your ‘Oooooohhh!’ score by, say, 1.3. But if you do three flips, two twists, and half a gainer, whatever that is, you get to have the judges’ opinion tripled.

Same thing ought to apply to ad scores. If somebody hands you a new $80,000 convertible or a villa on the Barbados beach and says, ‘Make this exciting!’ – well, you don’t get a real big boost when it comes to the scorecards. On the other hand, if your assignment is a new laundry detergent with green crystals instead of blue ones, and you manage to make THAT exciting, you should get a big enough bonus to put you in the Olympics.

I thought of my old proposal recently, while looking at a couple of new billboards. Nice billboards. Bloody tough assignments. Not likely headed for any podiums, though. So hey, they’ll get some ink here.

First, put yourself in the shoes of the creative team on Trident gum. You’re invited to an important meeting in the boardroom. A lot of senior brass is there. The client has a major announcement for the agency, and the brass is smiling, so you know the business isn’t about to go to Roche.

The client tells you, in tones of great importance, that Trident is expanding its consumer offering. They are introducing the product in two new flavours, cherry and raspberry.

The account team hands you an enormous deck of research explaining the target group’s intense fascination with cherry and raspberry, which you never get around to reading. The meeting ends, and you go back to the Creative Department, restraining your cries of whoopee.

You start plastering the walls with ideas. Every one seems like a cliché, an overpromise, or both. You’ve got great huge raspberries and cherries, you’ve got cute little moppets with smiles, you’ve thought up a new hockey guru named Don Raspberry as your spokesman.

And then you start thinking laterally. And instead of visualizing lovely-but-boring tons of fruit, you start to picture the lack of same. And it all falls into place.

You photograph an empty pie crust, with the headline, ‘WHERE’D ALL THE CHERRY GO?’ And a scraped-clean jar of jelly, with ‘WHERE’D ALL THE RASPBERRY GO?’ And the viewer gets a nice little complete-the-picture spark gap, and supplies her own appetite appeal where you’ve left it missing. And it becomes a believable promise, even for a gum. And you lean back and say, ‘It was a tough assignment, but we done good.’

Now, you’re a different team in a different agency, and Swiss Chalet hands you a contest with first prize of a trip to Hollywood. You mutter about how they sure blew the budget on this one, and sit down to communicate. You carefully don’t overdo it. You create a visual in which the giant Hollywood sign is replaced, in the exact location and the exact typeface, by a giant Swiss Chalet sign. (My real-world awards ceremony is also going to have bonus points for putting the client’s name in big letters and somehow making it look clever.) you add a no-frills headline saying ‘WIN A TRIP TO HOLLYWOOD’ and you knock off for lunch.

You too have done good. Your billboard is simple, arresting, and conceptually clear. The assignment was tough, but you were up to it. You win a Johnny.

John Burghardt’s checkered resumé includes the presidency of a national agency, several films for the Shah’s government in Iran, collaboration with Jim Henson to create the Cookie Monster, and a Cannes Gold Lion. The letterhead of his thriving business now reads ‘strategic planning – creative thinking’. He can be reached by phone at (416) 693-5072, by fax at (416) 693-5100 or by e-mail at

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