Those cool Chupa Chicks

Britney Spears meets Tank Girl. That's the latest look for the Chupa Chicks....

Britney Spears meets Tank Girl. That’s the latest look for the Chupa Chicks.

If you’re on the wrong side of…oh, 30, then the statement above probably didn’t make a lot of sense to you. But if you’ve got the youth and stamina to go clubbing in downtown Toronto on weekends, then you’re probably familiar with the Chicks – two enthusiastic young women who buzz around the city’s entertainment district on scooters, handing out Chupa Chups lollipops to those standing in line outside the local dance clubs.

The Chupa Chicks are the brainchild of Tania Koster, creative director with Toronto-based Ground Control Marketing. Their new look – "cheerleaders with an edge," as she puts it – was culled from a number of sources, including music and film.

"It’s all about taking a lot of different images, putting them together and hoping that they work," she says.

That pretty much sums up Koster’s job. As promotional agency for Chupa Chups, Ground Control is responsible for helping the Spanish confectionery maker develop grassroots efforts aimed at building the brand in Canada.

Rather than tap current trends, Chupa Chups wants to establish its hip credentials by getting ahead of the curve. So Koster’s role is to predict what’s going to become cool for the youth demographic, and then make every effort to associate that image with the brand.

While Chupa Chups lollipops have been available in Canada for several years now (the distributor is Koffman Foods of Mississauga, Ont.), support for the brand has been somewhat fragmented, Koster says. However, the company is now trying to integrate all of its Canadian marketing efforts.

What that means, in practical terms, is that Ground Control works in complementary fashion with the brand’s advertising agency, Toronto-based Harrod & Mirlin/FCB.

The strategy is two-pronged: Ground Control targets the "influencers" (the image-conscious 18-34-year-olds who effectively define what’s cool), while Harrod & Mirlin targets younger teens through more traditional avenues.

While mass-media advertising makes an important contribution to the brand’s overall image, it’s the grassroots activity orchestrated by Ground Control that determines how well it registers on the street-cred meter.

Koster says a key to the global strategy for the Chupa Chups brand has been to involve itself with the entertainment industry. "Entertainment is driven by image," she says. "It’s a way to get people to notice you in the media."

In this market, that has meant establishing a presence for the brand at film and CD release parties, as well as other entertainment events such as the North By Northeast music festival and the MuchMusic Video Awards.

As on-site spokespeople for the brand, the Chupa Chicks play no small part in building its "street image." Their look changes frequently, to ensure that the image stays just ahead of the trends. (They started out last year as Geisha Girls, and went through Viking Chick and Boogie Girl phases before entering their latest incarnation.)

As long as they’re memorable and create a fun climate for the entertainment-seekers they’re targeting, then the Chicks have done their job, Koster says.

"The brand is fun, and we want to keep it that way," she says. "When all is said and done, the consumer is going to remember the girls when they hand them candy."

On the advertising side, Harrod & Mirlin/FCB is currently working on a new campaign for Chupa Chups that will run in outdoor and specialty television.

While the creative won’t borrow any of the imagery developed by Ground Control, it will communicate the same emotion, says Branka Stavric, group account director with Harrod & Mirlin. "We’re trying to integrate the efforts."

The challenge, she says, is to convey cool without appearing to be telling kids what to buy – a delicate exercise, given that this is exactly what the advertising will be doing.

Stavric says the media-savvy target prefers to find its own products, rather than having something shoved down their throats. "We’re just trying to make it easy for them to find the product," she says. "We want them to feel like it’s their brand."

The target also dislikes slick advertising, she adds, so it’s important that any effort by the brand to establish cool appears to be unconscious. "You want to be a cool, hip brand – but a brand that’s not trying too hard to be a cool, hip brand."

As an addition to these efforts, Ground Control has found a novel way to establish a national television presence for the brand. The agency has created a special Chupa Chups bench for the MuchMusic set. The bench, which will be presented to the music station this month, is made of Plexiglas and filled entirely with the lollipops, in their colourful wrappers. (The Chupa Chups logo, by the way, was originally designed by Salvador Dali.)

While the Chupa Chicks street program remains a Toronto-only effort at this point, Koster says the brand also gets involved in national promotions, in order to target some of Canada’s other major urban centres. It partnered with Zomba Records, for example, on a series of parties across the country for the Groove Armada CD release. And the brand has done product sampling at Alliance Atlantis film screenings and Snowboard Canada events.

So how does Ground Control go about predicting which trends the target group will embrace next?

Koster says the Chupa Chups brand identity – irreverent, fun and sassy – crosses all cultural barriers, so she approaches the search for cool with a similar notion in mind. One of the best places to go trend-hunting, she notes, is Asia.

Stylistic cues can come from any number of sources, including music, fashion and film. But there’s no formula for predicting cool, Koster says. Much of it is simply based on her own instinct, and those of her colleagues at Ground Control.

"I don’t really know how I do it," she says. "It’s just something I’ve always been good at doing."

Also in this report:

- Labatt employs dry humour: Moderation campaign relies on insights from student target p.B4

- Advertising to kids in Quebec no picnic: Know the rules or suffer the consequences p.B10

- Dentyne Ice locks lips with youth target: Has built ongoing campaign on theme of anticipating first kiss p.B14

- Grads more valuable than you know p.B15

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.