Shaw builds brand with

Here's the thing about television: It isn't like real life. It's better....

Here’s the thing about television: It isn’t like real life. It’s better.

Consider the weird next-door neighbour who bursts into your apartment unannounced and starts eating your food. On TV: a zany recurring character. In real life: a good reason to dial 911.

Or how about that Lassie? You fall down a rocky embankment, and she’s off to fetch the paramedics. Would your dog do that? Not for all the rubber chew toys on God’s green earth.

Let’s face it: Most of us secretly wish life could be a little more like TV, where everyone’s smarter and better-looking, the impossible is possible, and there’s no problem that can’t be solved inside of 60 minutes.

Or so the folks at Shaw Communications are convinced, anyway. The vast gulf between TV reality and the world we actually inhabit is the prevailing theme of the Calgary-based cable provider’s current branding campaign.

This multi-media effort, which launched at the end of October, is a response to a changing marketplace. Faced with increasing competition from telcos and direct-to-home satellite television providers, Shaw needs to build a stronger brand identity, says advertising manager Debbie Dalen.

‘We traditionally focused on ads that were price-point-driven or product-based,’ she explains. ‘The point now is really to relay our personality.’

Sara Lamb, senior account director with Shaw’s agency of record, Vancouver-based Bryant, Fulton & Shee, agrees. ‘In research we’ve done, consumers said they looked at cable TV as if it were another utility, like hydro or gas. Cable was just a pipeline into their homes. We wanted to move them up the ladder – to make it far more interesting from an emotional standpoint, and to start to generate a trust association with the name Shaw.’

Ultimately, the intent is to position the company as a provider of great entertainment. The essential message of the campaign? Simply put, that life is better with Shaw.

To get this idea across, the ads play up the contrast between the wonderful escapist world of television and the harsh realities of everyday existence.

One television spot, for example, opens with small, nebbishy guy walking into a seedy bar. Accosted by a beefy trucker type, he glares and issues the David Banner-esque warning: ‘Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.’

With that, he roars in animal fury, trembles and clutches at his contorting face. But he conspicuously fails to turn green, sprout massive biceps or show any other overt sign of turning into the Incredible Hulk. Embarrassed, he turns on his heels and flees. (A 60-second version of this spot is also running in cinemas.)

Another spot shows a woman shuffling into her kitchen, to be confronted by a sink full of dirty dishes. She crosses her arms, blinks and nods her head in time-honoured I Dream of Jeannie style, but the dishes stubbornly refuse to vanish. The patented Bewitched nose twitch doesn’t work for her either.

Two additional TV ads make sly references to Seinfeld and Lassie. There’s also newspaper, outdoor and radio that plays on the same theme. The tagline for the campaign is, ‘Too bad we can’t do for life what we do for television.’

The campaign will continue through the early part of 2001, running in regional media in all markets currently served by Shaw, with the exception of Vancouver and environs. (Shaw just acquired Rogers Cable’s B.C. operation last spring, in exchange for its own operations in Southern Ontario and New Brunswick, and is still in the process of managing that transition.)

While no hard numbers are yet available, early indications suggest that the campaign is scoring well in terms of awareness and recall. Deb Avis, vice-president of marketing for Shaw, says that if brand tracking results prove favourable, then the company will probably roll out more ads in the same vein later this year.

With this current campaign, Avis says, Shaw has taken a major step toward its larger goal of building an umbrella brand for the company that encompasses all its offerings, including cable, digital cable and high-speed Internet access.

‘We’re heading towards an uber-brand,’ she says. ‘That’s the motherlode.’


Client: Shaw Communications

Agency: Bryant, Fulton & Shee

Senior Account Director: Sara Lamb

Account Executive: Jessica Mills

Senior Account Planner: Angela Harvey

Creative Directors: Lisa Francilia, Dan Scherk

Art Director: Darren Bennett

Copywriter: Pam Fraser

Media Planner: Jane Williams

Producer: Valerie McTavish

Production Company: Radke Films

Director: Chris Hooper

Media: Television, cinema, radio, newspaper, outdoor

We’re always on the lookout for great new campaigns to feature in this column. If you’ve got a suggestion, please contact David Todd at