The Dominator: DDB wins Silver

In the nine years since Palmer Jarvis, then a small but creative powerhouse, merged with brawny international network, DDB Worldwide, it has managed to do what many thought impossible - successfully integrate two diverse agency cultures while maintaining, if not improving, its creative game.

In the nine years since Palmer Jarvis, then a small but creative powerhouse, merged with brawny international network, DDB Worldwide, it has managed to do what many thought impossible – successfully integrate two diverse agency cultures while maintaining, if not improving, its creative game.

In fact, over the past few years, chairman/CEO Frank Palmer’s Vancouver-based gem has consistently found itself somewhere in the top five of strategy’s Agency of the Year competition, so this year’s silver showing should come as little surprise.

Most impressive, beyond generating the bells and whistles expected of a major agency – and some major hardware over the years – it has managed to retain the flexibility, responsiveness, and family feeling of a small shop.

Robin Smith, executive director of the BC Dairy Foundation, says the agency seems to know what’s going on with its client’s business every second of the day. ‘What always fascinates me is that even though its CEO is a very busy man running all over the country looking after national issues – there isn’t one thing that happens with our account he doesn’t know about almost before I do.’

And what of all those black-clad types called creatives? Since they’ve won so many awards, they really must be a prickly bunch of prima donnas, right?

‘They’re very inclusive,’ says Liz Gurszky, director of communications and market development for BC Dairy. ‘We work together right from the get-go – everything from the strategy to the development of the creative and at different levels of production. Even to sharing ideas with them – often to their horror I’m sure – but they say, ‘You never know where the ideas are going to come from.”

Client after client points out that DDB isn’t fixated on television commercials as a means to winning creative awards. Reportedly every communications solution involves a fully integrated multi-channel plan, and in the case of one client – the Canadian Tourism Commission – the agency really didn’t use much media in a traditional sense at all. The campaign, featured on page 40, got techie – and creatively so – reaching out to the target using the media it relates to: USB keys, MP3s, wild postings and even bar coasters.

‘As with most shops today, we’re working with cross disciplines,’ offers president of DDB Toronto David Leonard, adding that the agency is moving away from TV as the go-to solution. ‘[It's] a liberating time for the people who get it.’

Even one of the country’s most successful CPG companies has been wowed by the DDB touch. ‘It was a complete collaborative effort, a classic partnership. There were bumps in the road but [there was] an acknowledgement on all of our parts when we started this journey that we were going to develop creative that was equal to the quality of the product we were bringing to market,’ says Mark Olney, VP/GM of Unilever Canada. An expletive-laden campaign was the result (see page 41) with Knorr now driving growth in a declining category. (Soon thereafter, the CPG co awarded the entire Lipton brand to the agency.)

And, it seems, the agency’s growth is not limited to just the traditional ad agency. ‘We seeing tremendous growth in almost every division,’ says Leonard, which also includes digital shop Tribal DDB, direct marketing agency Rapp Collins and design firm Karacters.

For the agency, yes, results are central, but don’t be fooled: DDB likes bling. In recent months, it has taken home five Lotus Awards; dominated the Canadian Newspaper Association’s Extra Awards, taking home about 25% of the hardware; made a splash at the New York Festival; and even walked away with a United Nations Award Plaque for its work for B.C. clients. And so, fittingly, we add this deserved silver to its coffers.



Brita, well known for its pitcher water filtration systems, has a lesser-known product, the Brita Faucet Mount filtration system that was significantly underdeveloped in Canada. To connect with satisfied tap water drinkers, and create a need for filtered water, DDB motivated them to question their drinking choices with the fact that toilet water, the water used to mop floors and water the lawn all come from the same source as the water we drink.

Under the campaign idea ‘You deserve better,’ a distinct line was drawn between utilitarian water and drinking water. The national TV spot called ‘Glass’ showed a glass of water emptying as viewers listened to a toilet flush; then the glass refilled as the toilet refilled. The copy line was: ‘Tap and toilet water come from the same source. Don’t you deserve better?’ Print advertising and a campaign micro site, supported the agency’s efforts.

The campaign resonated from the start with an immediate lift in sales of +152% at major retailers. By the first two weeks of September, sales were +149% vs. the pre-advertising period. Of note as well is the average visit length on the campaign microsite of 4:33 minutes – almost unprecedented for this kind of product.


As a travel destination, Canada had fallen off the radar for most Americans.

To show the target (18-34s living in Chicago) what a trip to Canada would be like through the eyes of their peers, a young couple was sent to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to document their experiences. The images and video were loaded onto 1,000 USB keys along with MP3s of Canadian indie bands, a travel itinerary and video messages from friends. The USB keys were dropped in selected Chicago neighbourhoods. No branding was used but links embedded in the MP3s took the viewer to Murmur boards – intriguing images for subway cards, TSAs, wild postings, bar coasters and urban weeklies – were created and contained only a toll-free number where an entertaining story about the image, as told first-hand by the person who experienced this uniquely Canadian moment, was heard.

As a new media vehicle, tracking response to the keys was critical to measure success. As it turned out, the USB drop far exceeded industry standards for any medium of its kind. While norms for online banner click-throughs are .15-.25% and for direct mail 5%, DDB achieved 25.33% unique viewings with an average viewing time of 4.5 minutes.

As a testament to the campaign’s success, Contagious, a magazine which covers revolutionary marketing strategies, featured an extensive piece on the campaign in its fall issue. The CTC plans to roll it out to the U.K., France and Germany for 2007.


Imagine trying to get ahead in a category in which there are over 80,000 competitors. That’s the number of registered charities in Canada, most of them fighting for public donations. To punch through the charity clutter and be better understood for all the good that it actually does, the United Way integrated the ‘helping hand’ element from its logo into the creative work. The hand shielded, protected or even saved people, showing potential donors exactly how the United Way was working to help their community. DDB chose to focus on tangible issues such as isolation, child safety and hunger. The campaign used provocative imagery expressed in posters, newspapers, magazine, TV and internal communications.

The UWLM 2005 campaign exceeded the fundraising objective of $21.2 million to reach $22.4 million – the most ever raised in the history of the organization. And the agency’s creative has also been lauded with a Bronze World Medal from the New York Festivals International Advertising Awards.


Unilever’s launch of Knorr Frozen Entrées would be one of its biggest – and possibly riskiest – for 2006. It was the brand’s first foray into frozen food and with a product 50% more expensive than its closest competitor, ads needed to overcome sticker shock, communicate product superiority and show skeptical consumers they didn’t have to sacrifice taste for the convenience of frozen. DDB needed to shake up the category and remove the stigma from frozen foods.

The resulting insight was simple: Frozen doesn’t have to be a bad word.

In the TV spot, the word frozen was bleeped out and a sweet-sounding voice-over delivered over tantalizing food images promised that Knorr frozen entrees were ‘unlike any f@%#*n dinner you’ve ever tried,’ ending with the tagline: ‘Frozen doesn’t have to be a bad word.’

A unique direct mail piece was created with temperature sensitive inks so the phrase ‘F – - – - -N delicious’ changed to ‘Frozen meals can be this delicious’ when it was placed in the freezer. And an e-mail campaign delivered the message along with a high-value coupon.

The fall-out? Some serious f@%#*n results.

After only two weeks on air, the spot surpassed Unilever’s one-year aided awareness target. Sales were strong and immediate: Knorr is now driving growth in a declining category. According to August numbers from ACNielsen within the frozen main meals category, Knorr Frozen SKUs already rank among the top 20 products. PR was also strong, including coverage in the National Post and a full-page feature in the New York Post.


The challenge: Rejuvenate teens’ waning interest in milk and make it a beverage of choice. DDB’s insight: When teens turn 16, milk is no longer part of their social world.

The creative took the idea of ‘making good choices’ and connected it to survival with humorous scenarios showing the demise of animated cavemen who made the wrong beverage decisions. The message was conveyed using multiple touchpoints: TV and cinema; posters and postcards in restaurants, fitness centres, campuses and high schools; floor decals in-store, and an interactive website.

Seems milk is good. Research and sales data confirmed increases among teens in awareness, consumption and the demo’s social acceptance of drinking milk. And attitudinal success was supported with business results – there was a 3% increase in milk sales between May 2005 and May 2006 in B.C. The campaign also had a residual effect on chocolate and other flavoured milks increasing consumption by 9% during the same period.