Silver – Rethink

'Passionate,' 'smart,' 'zesty' - one even offered 'inspirational.' The glowing adjectives were flying this year when describing silver winner, Rethink.

‘Passionate,’ ‘smart,’ ‘zesty’ – one even offered ‘inspirational.’ The glowing adjectives were flying this year when describing silver winner, Rethink.

After mustering an Honourable Mention in 2004, the accolades are apropos given its decisive showing in this year’s AOY competition – the best in its short, six-year history.

‘They have a zest to them. They have a spark. They obviously enjoy what they’re doing,’ says Brian Tisdall, president/CEO of client Science World British Columbia. ‘[They have] a great flow and idea exchange.’

And then there’s the work: strategically sound and funny as hell. The Science World radio spots, for example, with the theme everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-science, were named time and again on our judges’ three favourites lists. (They’ve also raked up Art Directors Club of Canada kudos, Gold Pencils and a Bronze Lion since they launched in 2004.) International judge Alan Young, ECD at hot London, U.K. shop St. Luke’s Communication, wrote: ‘Rethink’s [campaigns] were an inspiration.’

That inspiration also flowed to their work for alt newspaper Dose, the BC Lions, Future Shop and Solo Mobile which round out the five submissions that helped secure silver for the shop founded by Chris Staples, Tom Shepansky and Ian Grais with a raison d’etre to rethink what an ad agency should be.

But might we add ‘impressively agile’ to the list? Former Dose director of marketing Mark Shedletsky tells this pre-launch story: ‘[I was] impressed with not only the end result, but how we got the end result. Everything was down to the wire…our media strategy changed slightly at the last minute and they were able to shift on a dime and produce in one day: six 5-sec, 10 10-sec and 15-sec ads and four 30-sec spots all in one shoot.’

But it wasn’t all just about ad creative. Shedletsky says Rethink took part in creating, designing and branding the free daily targeting 18-34s from day one. ‘They’re great at identifying new brands and doing smart, out-of-the-box programs,’ he says. And it’s paid off: Besides picking up a slew of awards, the paper’s pick-up rate is a whopping 90% in major market Toronto.

Rebranding is also a forté. ‘We really felt that from top to bottom they could help us,’ says Dave Champion, director of marketing at Future Shop, of the company’s new look. He says that beyond the creative, the agency has also contributed to the slicker look of the stores, flyers and uniforms. ‘They push us,’ he says. ‘They try to take us out there and that’s the way we want it to be.’

BC Lions’ Lindsay Carswell, director of marketing and corporate programs, agrees. He credits the agency with helping management develop creative that ‘breaks through the clutter,’ resulting in high recall for the brand. ‘They’re true to their name,’ he says. ‘They look at things differently.’

In parting, a tidbit: According to their Web site, the guys at Rethink hate awards ceremonies, finding the food bad and the presentations too long. Sadly, they’d better get used to the rubber chicken.


When Future Shop wanted to rebrand, Rethink developed a comprehensive strategy covering every point of customer contact from staff uniforms to mass advertising.

Research showed Future Shop patrons (males 18 to 45) know their electronics and are early adopters so Rethink had to demonstrate the retailer had the right brands and expertise and that it could understand the target from an emotional perspective.

A new positioning line, ‘We get it,’ spoke to this two-pronged strategy. Research also indicated the target liked South Park and The Simpsons, so the creative used an edgy and subversive sense of humour.

So far so good: The ads and general overhaul are a hit with customers. And the spots are getting noticed in the industry too: Accolades include being ‘Spot of the Day’ on, being shortlisted for Cannes and winning a spot in the Applied Arts annual.


Rather than cede the youth market to newcomer Virgin, which entered the fray this year, Bell decided to re-launch its Solo brand.

The product offering would focus on a new Sanyo line of cellphones with walkie-talkie technology. This ’10-4′ technology allows users to talk to up to five friends at once with the touch of a button. To gather insight on the target, guys and girls 13 to 24, Rethink gave them handsets for a weekend to try out. They discovered the walkie-talkie was a real hit and decided to make it the focus of advertising.

The shop knew simple demo spots would be too dry and literal. Enter a trio of humorous TV ads, each of which depicts a group of friends who have become a ‘menace to society’ because of the 10-4 feature.

Rethink also created Web sites which appeared to be created by these groups, as well as a series of wild postings.

Solo Mobile is off to a fast start, with over 20,000 activations so far, which is ahead of aggressive targets.


People under 30 rarely read newspapers. They feel they’re dull and don’t speak to their age group. Research found they like free tidbits from the Net and view ads as another form of content.

Enter Dose, a free daily aimed at 18-30s. Owner CanWest Global wanted hip and fun so they got Rethink involved right away. The agency helped develop the brand’s name, content, and even the layout prototypes.

The paper and site focused on short stories, a simple layout, and an emphasis on lifestyle and entertainment features. To get this across, Rethink’s ad campaign was all about attitude, irreverence and fun and used TV, wild postings and transit shelters.

Dose aims to be Canada’s leading youth media brand, and the first phase of the campaign has been a hit. Pick-up rates have topped 90% in Toronto while the campaign has been honoured by Applied Arts and the Extra Awards. One of the TV spots was named ‘Spot of the Day’ on in August.


The BC Lions’ popularity had waned so, three years ago, they asked Rethink to increase fan interest and attendance.

The agency helped the Lions shift the focus of their marketing efforts from the field to the fan experience in the stands. It paid off: Attendance in 2003 was up 28% and last year, ticket sales rose another 20%. As attendance rose, the team’s win-lose record rose as well. Last year, the Lions made the Grey Cup final.

They wanted to keep the momentum going. Research showed that fans were either hard-core (attending games) or fair weather (mostly watching on TV). Both groups saw games as a way to ‘cut loose,’ but there was a big difference in the level of involvement they felt watching a game on TV versus attending one live. Rethink’s TV and radio campaign, urging fans to ‘save it for the game,’ was built around this simple insight. The spots show Lion’s fans demonstrating behaviour that would only be appropriate at a game.

By September, the season was already a huge success. Season ticket sales were up an astounding 52% over last year and same-day ticket sales increased a whopping 31%. And for the first time in a decade, the Lions had three capacity crowds in one season (with several games to go).


Science World is one of Vancouver’s leading attractions. For many years, however, it had little news to lure visitors. This changed in 2000, with an ambitious plan to update the facility.

The venue has three core audiences: parents with kids under 12, tourist families, and educators. Research showed all three targets assumed the facility hadn’t changed. Plus, the original exhibits were seen as stodgy, serious and boring. But those who had experienced the new venue found the exhibits more interactive, playful and varied. Research also discovered parents thought it was unique, since it had an educational component.

Rethink decided to position the venue as fun, irreverent and interesting. Thus, each ad focused on an offbeat, surprising science fact.

The campaign, which launched in 2004 and is still running, had several parts. A TV spot, for instance, showed parents that Science World was interesting even for adults. Radio positioned it as the best place for a parent to find answers to the questions their kids ask. And transit shelters were transformed into mini exhibits.

It worked: Between 2004 and 2005, attendance rose 8.6%. And a member survey found perceptions to be improving. When asked: ‘Which of the following best describes the impact Science World has had on your attitude towards science and technology?’ the number of people who replied ‘a positive impact’ increased 6%. And when asked: ‘Why did you become a Science World member?’ the answer of ‘fun’ increased by 15%.