Harry gets hip with casual campaign

What will Harry Rosen customers be wearing today?...

What will Harry Rosen customers be wearing today?

Chances are it’s not the standard corporate uniform of five or 10 years ago. The workplace environment is changing – and with it, traditional notions of what constitutes business attire.

It’s no surprise, then, that Toronto-based Harry Rosen – arguably this country’s pre-eminent menswear retailer – has decided to change its own look. Or at least, the look of its consumer advertising.

In March, the company unveiled a $3-million newspaper campaign, its first new effort since the launch of the much-lauded "Whatever Suits You" campaign in 1996. The ads, created by Toronto-based Roche Macaulay & Partners Advertising, take aim at a younger and more contemporary customer, by positioning Harry Rosen as a source for the full range of menswear – not just suits and ties.

(The campaign is also Roche’s swan song as AOR for Harry Rosen. In early May, the agency departed to take on the Holt Renfrew and Co. account.)

The "Whatever Suits You" newspaper ads, which depicted famous Canadians sporting their outfits for the day, attracted more attention than any other effort Harry Rosen had undertaken since the 1960s.

Increasingly, however, the upscale retailer has become interested in cultivating younger customers. As company president Larry Rosen notes, some 56% of its customers are now under the age of 40, and 22% are under 30.

"The more mature guy already knows us fairly well," Rosen says. "We wanted to speak in a fun, intelligent way to our younger customer."

With the rise of the new economy, many younger businessmen are dressing much more casually than their counterparts of a generation ago, Rosen adds. Lawyers and MBAs jumping from traditional firms to dot-com businesses are shedding their suits. And the company felt the need to acknowledge that shift.

"We wanted a campaign that was modern and that showed we’re current with what’s happening," Rosen says.

"What’s business wear today would have been defined as ‘casual Friday’ five years ago," notes

Geoffrey Roche, president and creative director of Roche Macaulay. "Harry has to attract a different audience, not just a suit-and-tie person."

At the same time, the campaign also needed to reinforce the retailer’s brand image as a source of expertise on men’s attire.

"We’re in the business of assisting men develop a confident personal image for any time, any place, any occasion," Rosen says. "We can’t help you with your daily life, but what we can do is make sure you’re dressed appropriately for any occasion."

The half-page newspaper ads depict businessmen – all clad in designer duds from Harry Rosen – suffering everyday mishaps. A hand-written daytimer entry in the upper left-hand corner of each ad provides ironic counterpoint. The campaign tagline is, "You’ll face a number of dilemmas in a day, what to wear shouldn’t be one of them."

One execution shows a man on a golf course, just completing a swing. In the distance is another man who has fallen to his hands and knees and is clutching his head in pain, having clearly been beaned with the ball. The daytimer entry reads, "Golf with Boss."

Another portrays a man casting a nonplussed glance at a teenage punkette, who sports a nose ring, tattoos and spiked collar. The caption: "National bring your kids to work day."

A third – clearly done with dot-com executives in mind – shows an executive reacting in horror as a faulty washroom tap splashes his crotch with water, just moments before a big Web site presentation.

While the somewhat edgy humour of the ads may be atypical for an upscale retailer, it’s very much part of the Harry Rosen tradition, says Sandra Kennedy, the company’s marketing manager.

"We’ve always been a touch irreverent," she says. "It’s part of our brand character."

(One execution may have been a little too irreverent. It featured a man standing on the subway, unaware that the doors have just closed on the leash he’s holding, trapping the unfortunate canine on the other side. The daytimer entry read, "Walk Nancy’s dog." Some unfavourable press coverage led to the ad being pulled.)

While Harry Rosen has explored various media options, Kennedy says, newspaper remains the most effective vehicle for maintaining the retailer’s brand.

The "dilemma" ads have been running in rotation in a number of major dailies – The Globe and Mail, the National Post, La Presse, Les Affaires, the Calgary Herald, The Vancouver Sun, the Winnipeg Free Press and The Gazette in Montreal – as well as on boards at Scotia Plaza in Toronto’s business district. The campaign will wrap up in June.

As for the "Whatever Suits You" campaign, its retirement is by no means permanent.

"We haven’t abandoned it," Larry Rosen says. "We may use it again in the future. People still refer to it. If we had the right person and the right event, we’d re-inaugurate it in a flash."

Also in this report:

- POP progress slow but sure: With the promise of credible data, point-of-purchase is poised to prove its worth as a medium p.25

- Interactive merchandising on the rise: Just one of several trends apparent at GlobalShop 2000 show in Chicago p.25

- North West Co. nurtures roots: Retailer supports local activities in remote communities throughout the north p.27

- Traditional retailers can thrive in online world p.27

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