Edgy creative sets Short Film Fest apart

Is Miss Kitty a whore?...

Is Miss Kitty a whore?

That’s the probing philosophical question posed by a new television and cinema spot for the Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival in June. The ad is part of a multi-media campaign created by Toronto-based TAXI Advertising & Design to promote the event and spur ticket sales.

The festival, now in its sixth year, is one of the largest of its kind, attracting submissions from more than 40 countries. However, it’s also just one of many film festivals that now form part of Toronto’s entertainment calendar, from the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, to the Canadian International Documentary Festival, to the big kahuna itself, the star-studded Toronto International Film Festival in September.

"The challenge was how to differentiate and distinguish the short film festival," says Sarah Jue, account director with TAXI. "How do we get it noticed?"

The creative strategy called for edgy, attention-getting executions that would underline just how far removed this festival is from the sort of event that showcases typical Hollywood product.

The TV and cinema spot features a cowboy and his teenage son on horseback, conversing in the manner common to rugged men of the old west. (That is, they pause a lot.) The pair first discuss the strange dearth of short films about cowboys, then move on to the question of Miss Kitty’s occupation. The tagline for the spot is "Miles from Hollywood."

A radio spot plays a variation on the same theme. A gravel-voiced woman of…um, a certain age is heard reminiscing about the many Hollywood stars she’s bedded in her day. But she’s a bit confounded by the short film festival, since she’s never heard of any of the "meaty young" actors who

appear, let alone slept with them. "Where are they keeping those boy toys?" she wonders. "Because they’re not in Hollywood."

The campaign also includes print and out-of-home executions, with headlines such as "Boat hits iceberg and sinks. Does the movie really need to be 3 hours long?" and "Crappy movie or crappy short film? Which would you rather see?"

Jue says the campaign broke in mid-April, and will run through the close of the festival.

"I think we’ve carved out a little niche for them and helped create a different positioning," she says.


Client: Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival

Agency: TAXI Advertising & Design

Account Director: Sarah Jue

Creative Directors: Paul Lavoie, Zak Mroueh

Copywriter: Terry Drummond

Art Director: Alan Madill

Media: Television, radio, print, transit, outdoor

Start Date: April 17

End Date: June 11

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