Canadian talent challenges crossborder European advertising

'There's no point trying to sell crash helmets to Italians riding motorbikes - they won't wear them because they make their hair look bad.' This, according to Canadian expat Scott Goodson, sums up the key difference between Canadian and European advertising. 'Canada has a product-and-price based marketplace whereas everything in Europe is totally hype and image related,' he explains.

‘There’s no point trying to sell crash helmets to Italians riding motorbikes – they won’t wear them because they make their hair look bad.’ This, according to Canadian expat Scott Goodson, sums up the key difference between Canadian and European advertising. ‘Canada has a product-and-price based marketplace whereas everything in Europe is totally hype and image related,’ he explains.

He departed these shores three years ago to set up global ad agency, StrawberryFrog, which operates out of Amsterdam and makes use of multinational talent. Since then Goodson and his team, including co-founder and fellow Canadian, Brian Elliot, have been privy to some of Europe’s best and craziest ad campaigns.

Goodson, who previously worked as executive CD at J. Walter Thompson in Toronto, attributes much of his success in the global market to his Canadian education and experience. ‘As well as being excellent creative thinkers, Canadians have a great sense of humour, and that goes down really well in Europe. Not being American really helps,’ he adds.

As Europe continues to open up, advertising opportunities can only get bigger, Goodson anticipates. ‘Cross-border advertising in Europe is a market that’s only in its infancy so we’re really only competing with a handful of other agencies for international products.

‘One big advantage of advertising in Europe is that so many borders are breaking down. You can move goods and services between countries without a worry. It’s a whole new marketplace and the opportunities for Canadians here are huge.’

The gap between European and Canadian advertising is narrowing, Goodson says. ‘In Europe 10 years ago there were no particular rules in the advertising world, whereas in Canada there was 50 years of history set in stone as to how to do a good commercial. Nowadays, things are less fun in Europe but a lot more professional,’ he says.

One of the best and boldest European campaigns of late, according to Goodson, is Dutch agency KesselsKramer’s newly launched Diesel campaign, ‘Happiness sponsored by Diesel.’ While an older campaign for the denim brand (which was also shown in Canada) told people to drink urine to stay healthy, the latest campaign to hit billboards across Europe makes use of a terrorizing ‘devil clown,’ who aims to demonize youth and put spells on them to be happy. ‘It’s very in-your-face and irreverent, a lot bolder than anything you’d see coming out of Canada,’ says Goodson.

Another European campaign which Goodson admires is the Bjorn Borg underwear campaign entitled: ‘Fuck for the future,’ which encourages women to wear sexy underwear in order to aid their chances of reproducing. As Goodson points out: ‘This one might not go down so well in Canada, but Europeans are much more open-minded and don’t get hung up over silly sexual taboos. Maybe in Quebec they’d appreciate it,’ he adds.

In one of StrawberryFrog’s own creations, a global ad campaign is poised to launch for international communication company Sprint’s high-speed IP network and data networking services. Targeted at IP industry visionaries, StrawberryFrog’s second print campaign for Sprint plays upon the idea of customers achieving utmost success once they choose Sprint for their IP needs. ‘We based the ad around people who have become giants through choosing Sprint,’ explains Goodson. ‘In other words these people have become larger than life in their businesses and are taking giant steps, so everyone looks up to them and admires them.’ The ads will run in European and Asian-Pacific markets, and eventually in Latin America.

StrawberryFrog’s client list includes UPC Digital, Nokia, Microsoft, Credit Suisse and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.