Gold – Taxi

Yes, another gold. But face it: Taxi is hot.

Yes, another gold. But face it: Taxi is hot.

In what’s been a banner year, the Toronto-based agency pulled off another coup recently, scoring Canadian Tire as a client and now many are looking forward to how exactly the big shop with the boutique mentality will be able to work its magic on the retailer.

‘I’ve always felt Canadian Tire should be a seminal Canadian brand like Tim Hortons. It’s just sitting there waiting to become one of Canada’s most important brands,’ says Steve Williams, CD at Calgary’s Venture Communications. ‘They picked a great shop and if Taxi is allowed to do what they do best, within five years Canadian Tire will just be kicking ass.’

The win has been just one highlight for the agency over the year. During 2005, they opened a small Calgary office, in part to better serve client WestJet and the New York office landed key accounts like Amp’d Mobile and the College Sports Television network.

Then there was the work, which has scored awards and accolades like they’re going out of style, from Cannes to the Clios, resulting in 13th spot in the coveted Gunn Report. So, all told, it’s fitting that with this win Taxi has secured an Agency of the Year first: It’s the only agency to not only win gold four times, but four times in a row.

Over the years, much has been made of Paul Lavoie’s business strategy of only putting a core of top execs on each account. Venture’s Williams, who was also an AOY judge, says this continues to move the agency ahead of the pack. ‘[There are more and more clients] who say they want to get the brain trust on the business,’ he says. ‘Clients are demanding it and Taxi was delivering it before it became a demand.’

Needless to say, Taxi clients are happy clients.

‘We have a very strong partnership with them,’ says Veronica Piacek, team leader, Pfizer Canada, which has been with the agency since 2000. ‘They attend a lot of strategic meetings and have input. They’re really part of the team.’

Piacek says that when the agency walked in with the idea for explicit-talking men who had enjoyed their previous night’s activities for Viagra, ‘we thought it was brilliant. Not only did it stay true to the brief,’ she says, but ‘they knew how to nail the creative that matched the brief.’

For bigwig client Nike Canada, the agency naturally thought big. Featuring NHL players, one element of the campaign for Nike Hockey pushed OOH to rarely used 50 ft. and 150 ft. heights with images of the athletes hanging from a crane and on a floating billboard in Vancouver Harbour.

‘There’s a real meeting of the minds,’ says Derek Kent, Nike Canada’s head of corporate communications. ‘It’s been a great relationship because Taxi approaches its communications in an innovative way and they’re willing to take us places we want to go and break barriers.’

Even long-time client Telus continues to prove the depth of creative bench strength, says AOY judge Karen Howe, VP/CD, Toronto-based Due North Communications. ‘Taxi’s remarkable ability to keep the Telus campaign fresh deserves our respect. This is an agency that hits consistent homeruns on clients big and small, in any medium.’

And that kind of track record can hardly be ignored – here or elsewhere. ‘They have made an effort to say that we just don’t want to be one of the better agencies in Canada, we want to be one of the better agencies in the world,’ offers Tony Miller, VP/CD at Toronto’s Sharpe Blackmore EURO RSCG. ‘That’s a bold thing to say, but year after year they seem to be able to back that up.’

REITMANS

Reitmans, one of Canada’s oldest clothing retailers, is a well-established franchise with a long history of involvement with ‘normal’ women. But the brand had grown slightly tired. Enter Taxi to breathe new life into the retail chain.

To do this the agency delved into every aspect of the brand – the organization itself, the store environment, the customers and the merchandise. It found that Reitmans’ approach to the latter was to replicate up-to-the-moment looks, with tailoring that is flattering and forgiving.

The strategy that emerged – ‘Designed for Real Life’ – balances the appeal of current fashion with the considerations of normal life. Thus the campaign reflects moments every woman can identify with and presents fashion in a way that works for her. Most importantly, it puts the product in the spotlight – and as the designs look great, so do the women wearing them.

The ‘Designed for Real Life’ platform drives the company both internally and externally. For example, it is featured in POP, and forms the foundation of flyers that are regularly used to communicate with customers.

Results, which were quite impressive, were made available to the judges, but not for publication. Reitmans has successfully increased its resonance with its customers, and injected fun and energy into the brand.

TELUS

We’ve come a long way since the time when a mobile phone looked and felt like a brick. Cellphones today are fun and colourful and Telus wanted to promote its bright offerings. Who better than a chameleon to star in the campaign?

Holiday TV spots showed the lizard changing its hue in response to the things around it. The campaign then extended into other media, including OOH, newspaper and in-store.

The visual impact of vibrantly coloured phones led to a high impact OOH strategy. Inspired by the kid’s game of ‘I Spy,’ a series of teaser boards went up with a picture of the chameleon and the line ‘I spy something blue’ (or pink, red, orange or green). A short time later the answer was revealed when a phone of that colour appeared on a nearby board. Passersby could play the game themselves. Similarly, an inventive use of newspaper used a double page spread as the backdrop for I Spy. Both mediums took a playful approach that made colour the hero while remaining consistent with the brand spirit.

The colour story lent itself to more than one interpretation. In a second phase of the OOH and print, the campaign used a visual of the phones to act as part of each ad’s headline, giving people the chance to fill in the blank.

The campaign’s results have left Telus pink with pleasure: The firm was rated the number-one wireless company in North America on several key metrics, most notably for its low customer churn. And this year Telus’ net income growth is up 21% from last year – quite the feat, given the acquisition of Fido by Rogers, the launch of 10-4 from Bell, and the launch of Virgin Mobile.

NIKE

Nike is still seen by some as a relative newcomer to hockey. So demonstrating an understanding of today’s game is crucial to achieving the company’s goal: acceptance as part of hockey’s culture.

Since NHL rules were recently adjusted in favour of a more attacking style of play during shorter shifts, Nike used this opportunity as a platform to introduce its new line of hockey training equipment. The message is that if 45 seconds is all you have to make your mark, you’d better be prepared for it, stretching yourself long before you ever get on the ice.

The training story campaign stars two NHL players: Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames and Markus Naslund of the Vancouver Canucks. Both personify intensity and the rivalry that is its natural extension. What better way to show the kind of training that helps Iginla make the most of his 45 seconds than a 45-second TV spot? Similarly, Taxi’s use of outdoor showed how determined athletes can find a training opp just about anywhere. Each player’s home city was used as the arena for athletic feats.

In-store and online executions built on the idea. Taxi developed brand standards that were embraced by other partners, including Nike’s Web development company and its own POS production group. The media campaign drove players to a Web site which prepped them on getting ready for their own ’45′. Visitors could work their way through tips, drills and videos from NHL trainers. And when the inspired players went to sports stores across the country, they saw in-store messaging that neatly closed the loop.

Results were not available for publication.

VIAGRA

Many men will tell you they find the sight of a woman wearing a negligee far more provocative than a woman wearing nothing at all. It seems that with sex, wondering is half the fun. The ‘Bleep’ campaign for Viagra plays on this theme.

It’s also a clever solution to the challenge in advertising drugs to consumers, as government regulations forbid a connection between the product and the condition it treats.

But since Viagra is one of the best-known brands in the world, the challenge has never been to create awareness, but rather to increase people’s comfort level. Taxi has always used laughter – a universal cure – to break the tension men feel about erectile dysfunction (ED).

For five years, Viagra was the only oral ED treatment on the market. However, that changed in 2004 with the introduction of two competitors. Viagra turned its attention to retaining its status as both the category leader and an iconic brand.

To that end, this year’s campaign shows men who are so pleased with the results of Viagra they’re willing to share it with anyone in hearing range. The particulars, of course, are bleeped out, but the response of the people gathered round these guys, whether on the putting green or around the water cooler, makes the conversation pretty clear.

The ‘Bleep’ campaign has been successful, as Viagra retains its number-one position by a two-to-one margin. And in the advertising realm, the appeal of ‘Bleep’ has gone well beyond Canadian borders: It was Canada’s only Gold Lion for TV in Cannes this year.

THE CANADIAN FILM CENTRE’S WORLDWIDE SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

The Emmys, the Grammys the Oscars – what’s an entertainment biz without an over-the-top awards show? Taxi thought it was time that the Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival have an awards night to call its own.

This year’s campaign is the sixth Taxi has developed for the festival. The strategy has been to demonstrate that shorts have many of the characteristics of features, but at the same time offer something a little different.

This time around, TV executions took viewers into the audience on the night of the show, and gave an up-close (and appropriately brief) look at the expected cast of characters. Print offered a peek at the acceptance speeches that get prepared ahead of time, as well as some of the abbreviated contracts, scripts and fan letters a winner would be familiar with.

Transit and radio reinforced the unique appeal of the shortened format. And a Web site offered the chance to hear what the award show audience was really thinking when the stars were up at the podium. The site also provided all the info about the festival itself.

The campaign drew applause: Delegate registration was up 36% from 2004, and the Web site had more than 1.3 million visitors during the month the festival ran. Box office revenue was up 20%, and advance ticket sales accounted for more than 70% of tickets sold.

Also, the festival continued its transformation from a small Canadian event into a global gathering, with over 3,000 films having been submitted from all over the world.