Is your strategy made in Canada?

Has your firm's decision-making power moved south? You're not alone. The good news is you can clot the bleeding. Our panel shares ways to really - truly - own your brand

Has your firm’s decision-making power moved south? You’re not alone. The good news is you can clot the bleeding. Our panel shares ways to really – truly – own your brand


(A) Joan McArthur, consultant, Black Bag Creative Recruitment


(B) Jason Anderson, head of marketing, Xbox Canada

(C) Brett Channer, CEO/ECD, Saatchi & Saatchi

(D) Tony Chapman, founder/partner, Capital C

(E) Cynthia Fleming, EVP, Carat Canada

(F) Tony Matta, director of marketing, Frito Lay Canada

(G) Geoffrey Roche, founder/CD, Lowe Roche

Worrywarts view the recent southward slide of brand strategizing as a death threat to the Canadian advertising industry. But Tony Chapman, founder and partner of Toronto agency Capital C, sees a maple-leaf-shaped light at the end of the tunnel.

Reiterating the rallying cry he first uttered at a Media in Canada forum this fall, Chapman told strategy’s recent roundtable panelists that he believes Canada has all the elements to be both an invaluable, inimitable testing ground for global campaigns and a mecca for the best and brightest marketing talent.

While he understands why firms are bowing to competitive pressure and aggressively cutting costs and consolidating brand strategy at the head office, he adds: ‘I just don’t believe there’s any such thing as an effective global campaign, especially as we move from mass marketing to micro marketing.’

What opportunities are lurking in the gloomy scenario? Says Chapman: ‘We have to make a case for Canada to be a rich, and vibrant test market – not simply to launch products, but for new ways to go to market.

‘Where else but Toronto has such centralized head offices and different marketing disciplines to bring together internal and external resources to strategize and then deploy fully integrated, measurable campaigns that leverage every consumer touch point?

‘Where else but here can new ways of building brands be tested without the costs and penalties associated with similar test markets in the U.S.? And where else is there such a long history of creating great generalists, as the size and complexity of our market demands that marketers stretch themselves across [many] disciplines?’

Chapman added that ‘the next generation of marketers are the people who know how to get the very best out of their global resources. And two of them – Jason Anderson with Xbox and Tony Matta with Frito Lay – are here at this roundtable.’

With that groundwork laid, our panelists set out to build a foundation for the future – one that includes the development of innovative media strategies, new models of agency collaboration and learning how to ‘embrace the hell out of an idea and blow it out of the water.’

McArthur: Multi-national companies continue to consolidate their global marketing strategies south of the border. Yet consumers have never been more insistent that we understand them at an up-close and personal grassroots level. It’s a collision of dynamics for our industry.

Chapman: Canada’s role in the future is to prove that we are ideally positioned to lead the charge as the world moves from a mass marketing, media-centric model to a digital-centric model where you are

micro-marketing to the individual – using global campaigns as your big amplifications, but using the digital network to have a one-to-one relationship.

Anderson: How I see it is that, by moving into a global model, I can get a $1 million ad, which I could never do with my own budget. And then I can buy a whole bunch more media to put in front of my gamers.

Matta: I think organizations like yours and mine [Frito Lay Canada] are in an awesome position in that we have the ability to say: ‘Hey, this works for my consumer in Canada, I’m picking it up and I’ll patch in other stuff that makes sense.’

Roche: The best of all possible worlds is a multinational account, where you can look at all the advertising they’re doing [around] the world and take advantage of it. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?

Chapman: Right, but we also need to get people with the courage to go down to the States and say: ‘Here are the reasons why I’m taking it or not taking it.’ And more importantly: ‘Here’s how I plan to amplify and activate in Canada.’ But you’d better be able to justify how that made-in-Canada is adding value.

Channer: If we just sit here and complain that last year we crossed the threshold of more spots being produced outside Canada than inside it, we’re doomed. There are things we can do, like looking outside the country. I’m going to Poland to pitch a global piece of business because the marketer feels he’s going to find the best global answers here because of how we’re culturally set up. If we could get that story out as a nation, we’d be in much better shape.

If you look at one of the better agencies in the world right now, it’s Crispin. They took top-tier creative guys who were doing TV spots and they got them doing direct mail pieces, interactive pieces, telephone pole wraps. So they were smart. They went ahead of the curve.

But [in Canada] we’re behind the curve now. So not only do we have to catch up, we’ve got to find a way to get ahead of the curve. We’ve got to teach our creative guys that it isn’t about a TV spot any more. It’s about the big idea and how does that big idea filter down.

Fleming: Up until about 18 months ago, a lot of big marketers thought television was the be-all and the end-all. But in Canada, we’re a geographically vast country and our TV buy has never been one spot to reach the whole country in the same way. We’ve always had to be more innovative here with more of a multimedia mix.

Also, if we want to talk about the role of media in this, let’s talk about the Mini campaign. What was that – a media idea or a creative idea?

Roche: I believe that media people are the creative directors of now and of the future. I tell them that they’re the cat’s ass and they should position themselves that way because they are so valuable to any client.

Channer: When you look at media first, you’re always going to find out where it’s working and where it’s not working. Then you build backwards to the strategic opportunities and you get back to the idea that’s going to make all this blend together.

Matta: There is a great opportunity for Canadian marketers and Canadian agencies to be ahead of the curve with innovative media strategies – the blending of media and creative and just blurring that completely. We should get out of these constant debates about whether creative should be driving media or the other way around. Who cares? There’s an idea and sometimes it’s going to be great because the media idea is brilliant. By its very nature, media is local and can be celebrated and maximized.

Channer: I deliberately brought media back into Saatchi and my first hire was a CD of media because media has to be a bigger part of the idea. The more it is, the more likely I am to do original work to support it.

Roche: Every single presentation that we have to a client going forward is media first and creative last. So it’s: who is the person, where are we going to find them? Let’s define who that person is first, then let’s talk about how we’re going to strategically speak to them.

Fleming: But we do have to redefine who we are because really what we’re doing now is just making connections with the consumer. It’s not about TV and radio. It’s about where do we connect with them and we’re the ones who see where and how it’s going to happen.

McArthur: Canada is uniquely positioned to be the one to bring this whole approach forward because we’ve got less bureaucracy and less infrastructure, so we can be more nimble and deft.

Chapman: There’s no country in the world better positioned than Canada to figure out the new model for marketing. In a city that’s as centralized as Toronto, within 48 hours you can have six guys at the table who have all the impact you need for your brand. Down in the States, it would take six weeks to schedule that same meeting.

Anderson: With Xbox, and this is a Canadian-specific initiative, we’ve formed a virtual agency that we call Element 54. The five agencies that we do all our work with get together once every week at a restaurant and go through our launch planning. It’s an amazing forum for making ideas better, integrating ideas and being accountable to each other.

Everybody’s equal and it’s no longer about the big agency as the trusted partner and brand advisor, and then all these other agencies doing the little stuff. When I show that model in the U.S., they love it and they talk to me about it all the time. They don’t know how to do it.

Chapman: Twenty years ago, Canadians populated the world because they were generalists. I think we have the same opportunity here to populate the multinationals. But if we don’t keep people, and capitalize on what Canada can offer, we won’t need strategists, we’ll just need technicians and the whole model for this marketplace collapses. And young people won’t come into the business if it’s just about executing.

Anderson: The way I look at the brain drain is it’s not about marketers romanticizing the rest of the world and wanting to leave Canada. It’s about Canadian marketers being incredibly good. But the talent moving down south is different from strategic decision making. As long as the talent’s moving down south but the strategic decision making isn’t, then we’re in great shape.

But we do have a geographical complication. Australia and New Zealand combined don’t have as much of a global share as Canada has. Yet they get to do a lot more unique, original work than we do just because we’re so close to the white elephant.

Chapman: What an advantage that should be for us. It’s one of the great mysteries to me that we have the greatest market in the world just south of our border and yet we sit back and go: ‘We’re importers versus exporters.’ We should be the creative mecca of North America here.

Matta: I agree that our goal should be to be net exporters of marketing talent and net exporters of marketing ideas because bigger marketing ideas mean better business results, bigger growth and growing departments. At Frito Lay Canada, we’ve doubled our marketing department in the last four years because of incredible results.

Chapman: How did you do that?

Matta: It was just smart ideas, great agencies working together. For the last three to four years, we’ve been working as a collective group with all agencies working together in what we call Agency to Agency. It’s similar to Microsoft’s Element 54. The ideas are integrated – whether they’re media-driven or traditional TV creative-driven, promotionally driven or what have you.

So the reality is that we are net exporters of great business results and great business ideas. Why would anyone in the States want to mess with that? They wouldn’t.

Getting back to the point about media driving the big idea, I do agree with that. But unless there’s a consumer insight that is so dramatically different in Canada versus the originating country, you should embrace the hell out of the idea and blow it out of the water. You surround it. You rebrand it as your own and you sell it back to the world and you’re a hero and you’re involved in building the strategy and contributing your learnings. You didn’t come up with the original brief, but you came up with the 25 steps after that that delivered the biggest elements of the idea.

Channer: There’s the example of that with Ogilvy and Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty.’ It originated in the U.K., but Ogilvy Canada took it, embraced it and made it their own and did exceptional work.

Roche: As a country, we need to stand on our own and do great work and have it bought not because we happen to be here, but because it’s great work.