Labatt employs dry humour

Watch out for those sensitive bullshit meters. If there's one thing that Labatt Breweries of Canada has learned from its efforts to promote responsible drinking to the campus crowd, that's it: If you want smart, skeptical university and college students to...

Watch out for those sensitive bullshit meters. If there’s one thing that Labatt Breweries of Canada has learned from its efforts to promote responsible drinking to the campus crowd, that’s it: If you want smart, skeptical university and college students to take your message seriously, then you’d better make sure it rings true to them.

Labatt has been preaching moderation on Canadian campuses for more than a decade now, says Sharon McKay, the brewery’s director of public affairs. And in developing and refining its message, the company has relied on insights gleaned from ongoing conversations with the target audience.

Indeed, Labatt’s current on-campus "responsible use" program – known as "Fresh Heads" – was essentially designed by and for students.

"It’s their program," she says "They’ve developed it. And it’s their input, ownership and reaction that determines the program’s success."

Fresh Heads is now in its second year. Created with the assistance of Toronto-based agency Axmith McIntyre Wicht, the program employs "dry" events and elected student co-ordinators to spread the moderation message.

This year’s effort, for example, will include orientation week comedy shows and mid-term pajama parties at the 12 Canadian post-secondary institutions that take part in the program.

Popular events like comedy nights fit into the campus lifestyle, and help get the point across to students in their own language, rather than in a preachy or parental fashion, says Brian Howlett, partner and associate creative director at Axmith McIntyre Wicht. "We’ve learned that’s the best way to deliver the message."

The program is supported with ongoing awareness advertising. Howlett says the ad campaign is essentially a "guerrilla" effort designed to weave naturally into the fabric of everyday campus life. Stickers are plastered in locations such as pay phones and laundromats, while specially designed tray liners and pillowcases pop up in cafeterias and residence halls. Ads designed to look like handmade "for sale" or "lost and found" notices also appear on bulletin boards.

"The campus is its own little world and I think what we’re doing is acknowledging the rules of that world," Howlett says. "The ads have that wonderful unpaid-for feel – it’s more street-wise advertising."

The 18-24 target group is quick to tune out slick advertising, he adds. So the "responsible use" creative is meant to look cheaply produced, "as if a bunch of students were doing it."

One bulletin board poster, for example, advertises a room available: "Hardwood floors, lots of lighting, furniture, spacious, etc…. Rent negotiable. Last roommate kicked out of school. No partyers." The only indication that this is, in fact, a corporate message is the presence of the Labatt "Know When to Draw the Line" slogan.

"It’s advertising, and we’re writing it," Howlett says, "but we’re writing it after having heard [students] tell us what they’re thinking about. I doubt we could have come up with this stuff without them."

During the conceptual stages of Fresh Heads, Labatt partnered with Toronto-based youth marketing consultancy d-Code, which conducted online research with Canadian students via chat rooms.

Students were later brought in to assist with the development of the program, McKay says – and the brewery continues to consult with them in its efforts to improve Fresh Heads. Campus wellness centres and student unions have also proven invaluable in identifying areas of student concern.

Labatt is now in the process of rolling out a Fresh Heads Web site ( Initially, the site will be purely informational. But with the help of students, McKay says, the brewery hopes to develop it into a "community- and content-oriented destination" for the target audience.

"We’d like to create a sense of community through the program, whereby students can share ideas to get this message out," she says.

Also in this report:

- Those cool Chupa Chicks: Chupa Chups’ grassroots efforts to lick Canada has edgy scooter girls taking to the streets and talking up the club crowd p.B2

- 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.