ONtv radio campaign achieves what its outdoor didn’t

A couple of months back, I wrote in this space that the Southern Ontario ONtv 'Sucks' campaign ('Traffic jams suck, what's on TV?', 'Decaf sucks, what's on TV?') sucked. I didn't say it in precisely those words, because I'm a very...

A couple of months back, I wrote in this space that the Southern Ontario ONtv ‘Sucks’ campaign (‘Traffic jams suck, what’s on TV?’, ‘Decaf sucks, what’s on TV?’) sucked. I didn’t say it in precisely those words, because I’m a very proper gentleman, but the message got through.

Hoo boy, did I get response. Normally when I sweat buckets to churn out this column, the letter floods in. But when I did the ONtv number, I really started something.

I received several letters and e-mails complimenting me for dumping on what the readers thought was a loathsome campaign. (I hadn’t particularly said it was loathsome, just strident and wit-free.) These readers objected to the campaign’s attitude, and also to its language.

Then the creative director on the business wrote an articulate but maybe-a-little-bit imprudent letter, pretty much saying that the campaign had been fine when it left his desk, but the client screwed it up. He also gave Strategy permission to publish his letter. This did not turn out to be a real swell career-enhancing move.

Several more letters followed, essentially repeating the old disclaimer, ‘The opinions of that creative guy over there do not reflect the opinions of us suits over here.’ And the creative guy left the agency, though everybody swore it was a coincidence.

Well. After all this sound and fury, what do you think ONtv has gone and done? They’ve gone and done some good advertising!!!

They’ve switched their medium from outdoor to radio, and they’ve stopped saying everything sucks. But otherwise, they’ve stuck to their strategy, and I think they were very wise to do so.

All along, they’ve been trying to say – and the ‘sucks’ message just got in the way – that there are times in life when watching a dumb TV show is vastly superior to your other options. (Sort of like those bumper stickers that say ‘I’d rather be fishing’, or golfing, or whatever.) I think we can all relate to that. Nobody likes to admit it, but there are moments when watching a little Hollywood Squares can be downright medicinal.

So they’ve created some little slice-of-life playlets in which the hero is in an uncomfortable position – a business problem, a boring conversation, etc. The spots have some nicely shaped dialogue; for instance, the one with the father trying to explain the facts of life. DAD: Well, er, um, see the plug on the toaster over there? SON: Dad, I thought this was about sex.

Then the uncomfortable hero says – out loud, though he doesn’t mean to – ‘I wonder what’s on TV?’ In other words, ‘I want to get out of this rat’s nest and go mindless.’ OK, folks, that’s a decent selling proposition for a non-intellectual TV channel.

And when the name of your company is ‘ONtv’, and your slogan line is ‘What’s on TV?’, you’re doing a lot better in the memorability wars than when you’re promoting sucking.

It’s never easy, when things start going badly, to stop and regroup. It’s even harder to assess what’s baby and what’s bathwater – people often tend to throw out everything.

Instead, ONtv threw out the ‘sucks’ part – at worst, offensive, at best, distracting – but kept their basic strategy. And they’ve added, finally, a bit of wit and style. And the result is a phenomenal improvement.

It couldn’t have been easy. My compliments.

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 burgwarp@aol.com

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.