Bronze – BBDO Canada

Lately, it's rare to see an agency the size of BBDO muscle its way into Agency of the Year medal standing. The shop last showed up in the top three back in 1998. But stellar work this year has made its impressive showing all but inevitable, and folks have noticed.

Lately, it’s rare to see an agency the size of BBDO muscle its way into Agency of the Year medal standing. The shop last showed up in the top three back in 1998. But stellar work this year has made its impressive showing all but inevitable, and folks have noticed.

‘That’s your first question,’ says Shawn King, CD, Extreme Group in Dartmouth, N.S. of the BBDO ‘comeback’ over the past year. ‘What the hell is going on? Obviously something’s changed. You can find [agencies] that can do [good work] here and there, but to be able to do it that consistently and as a larger shop, it’s definitely tougher.’

The answer is threefold, says Jack Neary, president and CCO of BBDO Toronto: fresh talent, a recommitment to quality and encouraging clients to take risks with the work. For example, hires in Toronto include Ian McKellar, SVP/deputy CD, who returned to the agency after a brief stint at Cossette, VP/associate CD Mark Mason from Saatchi & Saatchi in South Africa and VP/associate CD Patrick Scissons from ACLC.

‘We’ve ratcheted up our focus on the work as well,’ says Neary. ‘There’s a recommitment to quality; we’ve been even tougher on ourselves than before.’ To get to this point ‘starts with leadership sending that signal and sending the work back when it’s not quite right. And obviously working more closely with the client to help them take that leap.’

And that they have. Consider BBDO Montreal’s risky, inspired work for Labatt Bleue and ongoing creative for long-time client La fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec. Both resonated with the politically savvy, highly nostalgic population.

‘BBDO’s Parti Bleue showed some really innovative thinking in a notoriously tough category,’ remarks AOY judge Karen Howe, VP/CD, at Toronto-based Due North Communications of the campaign that saw the creation of a fake political party during the last federal election. ‘And the fact that they didn’t take the path of least resistance – tits and ass – is terrific.’

The Pepsi Mini Cans campaign, designed by the Toronto team, also wowed judges securing a spot on many of their top three lists. ‘BBDO gets my top marks for its ability to consistently generate innovative ideas when repositioning a product and hitting the bull’s-eye within a broad consumer segment,’ says Nancy Modrcin, marketing director, Universal Studios Home Entertainment Canada. ‘The Pepsi Mini Cans campaign was a product positioning success in every way. It was gripping, because it was so simple. And they didn’t let the modest budget become an obstacle. That shows resourcefulness.’

But it’s not just sexy categories like beer and pop that are turning heads. Points out judge Tammy Scott, VP, Canada brand building, MasterCard Canada: ‘I’m always impressed by brands in low-involvement categories like FedEx when they deliver breakthrough and relevant work because the challenge is greater.’

‘BBDO is very interested in our opinion about how they’re doing and what they’re doing for us in terms of communicating what [FedEx] needs to do to move the business,’ says Laura Ramsay, manager, marketing communications at FedEx.

Ramsay says the shop’s work has been consistently good, but the ‘Chameleons’ spot, which had workers blending into an office workspace, was a particular gem. ‘We got a flood of e-mails and calls from people who just wanted to say, ‘I love that ad….’ Every kind of goal that we set for ourselves, really bumped up as a result of [it].’

It all comes down to BBDO’s rallying cry, which is quite simply: The Work. The Work. The Work. And it’s starting to show.

PARTI BLEUE

‘Vote for fun.’ That was the rallying cry and idea behind the most lauded multi-media campaign in Quebec last year. And it put a welcome new spin on the federal election in that province.

It all started when BBDO launched a candidate running for a new political party in Quebec. The candidate was Jonathan Bleue. The party was Parti Bleue. The brand was Labatt Bleue. The campaign combined guerrilla elements and PR events with mass advertising to create an unprecedented groundswell of support for the brand.

True to the brand idea that Bleue creates social movements to help followers experience fun, this campaign overturned the convention that politics in Canada is boring. The political platform: raise the Gross National Fun Index.

How did this candidate fare? Actual newspaper polling had at one point placed Jonathan ahead of all the real party leaders. The initiative garnered $2 million in added value from media partners, and more than 35 million impressions were generated. To boot, ad awareness was up 80%. Just one of the reasons why it won Best of Show at the 2005 Coq D’Or awards and Best of the Best at the 2005 Canadian Marketing Association awards.

PEPSI MINI CANS

A great philosopher once said: ‘The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.’ The creative brief to launch the new 237ml Pepsi can was not only wise, but small. Printed on a document the size of a business card, it read: ‘Small is the new big.’

BBDO faced a strategic imperative from its client: Do not denigrate regular size Pepsi cans by talking about portion control. They needed another hook.

The winning insight came from an observation by the creative team that a can this small could get lost in some pretty interesting places. And so a big idea was born.

Like the serving size, the media and production budget of $300,000 was modest. Results of the three TV and print ads, however, were anything but: The overall carbonated soft drink category grew, with new drinkers going to Pepsi. In fact, 3% of the total mini-can volume came from category expansion. It was also Pepsi’s largest share gain of any new pack launch.

LE LAIT/MILK

Talk about brave. Last year, Le Lait abandoned a popular five-year campaign that captured Quebecers’ hearts in favour of a new direction designed solely to stimulate milk consumption.

The creative – written knowing that ‘parental’ lecturing does not change behaviour – has charmed the Quebec consumer into drinking more milk with a very simple idea: Un verre de lait c’est bien, mais deux c’est mieux. In other words, one glass of milk is good, but two is better.

The work revolved around a visual symbol featuring two fingers forming a V: the ‘peace’ or ‘victory’ sign. The TV and print arsenal was strengthened with a special music CD and video to round out the mix.

People have long known milk is good for them. It stood to reason that consumers would agree two glasses are better than one. And they have. To the tune of a 3% volume increase in one year.

ALS SOCIETY

The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) Society was struggling to raise funds because people weren’t aware of the disease, nor its horrific nature. BBDO offered to help. In talking to the client, the agency found out that when visiting people with ALS, you learn not to ask: ‘How are you doing?’ because the answer is always the same: ‘I am dying. I don’t know when. I don’t know which part of my body I will next lose the use of, but the one thing I do know is that my mind will remain clear and lucid through it all.’

From this, BBDO settled on the idea: ‘What would you do while you still could?’ In the case of one TV ad, a man who is losing the use of his arms hugs everything in sight. In a second ad a man runs. Meanwhile, three long-copy print ads tell the ALS story in more detail.

FEDEX

FedEx’s brand positioning is shipping reliability. Its challenge, though, is to defend that ground against heavy-spending competitors.

Some might look at reliability as a functional benefit. FedEx, rather, achieves it with a dizzying array of systems, technology and people. As a result, BBDO chose an emotional route based on the common truth that shippers want an easy life without surprises. They want stress-free shipping. To dramatize this, the agency told a story of courage and cowardice in a culture of blame. In a TV spot, a tyrannical boss storms out of his office to ask, ‘Hey! Who shipped the 200 boxes to Boston?’ The viewer watches as office workers scurry for cover like chameleons blending into their surroundings. All except one: poor unsuspecting Lewis, who stands his ground and receives rarely given praise from the big guy.

‘Chameleons,’ supported by outdoor work, drove FedEx’s highest ever unaided advertising score, far beyond scores for big-spending UPS and Purolator. This was achieved through an idea that was executed flawlessly, one that made a small, specialty-channel TV buy look and act like a big, mass national campaign. The awards are still being delivered right on time.