An Evolution towards greatness…if we want it

What a wonderful achievement by Tim Piper, Mike Kirkland, the infamous Jancy team and the rest of Ogilvy Canada, and of course the wonderful creative spirits at Unilever principally led this time by Mark Wakefield and supported by Geoff Craig, to have brought home Canada's first ever Grand Prix at Cannes for the Evolution work. This was work that was not supposed to have been produced, but through courage and leadership was produced. Whether you believe in the merits of creative awards shows or not, the pinnacle climbed in Cannes this year is something to be truly celebrated.

What a wonderful achievement by Tim Piper, Mike Kirkland, the infamous Jancy team and the rest of Ogilvy Canada, and of course the wonderful creative spirits at Unilever principally led this time by Mark Wakefield and supported by Geoff Craig, to have brought home Canada’s first ever Grand Prix at Cannes for the Evolution work. This was work that was not supposed to have been produced, but through courage and leadership was produced. Whether you believe in the merits of creative awards shows or not, the pinnacle climbed in Cannes this year is something to be truly celebrated.

Why? Because once again it shows that in Canada, if you are brave enough to assume the mantle of leadership, we can produce great, industry-leading, business-building work. I was fortunate enough to have had this ingrained in me early in my business career while at Unilever by no less an authority than the celebrated Peter Elwood, a most deserving candidate for the Marketing Hall of Legends (if they are smart enough to recognize his enormous contribution to influencing great work at his old alma mater of Unilever and that of his many pupils such as Rob Guenette at Taxi, Ian Gordon at ACLC, too many to mention still at Unilever and even myself now at doug agency).

Prior to Evolution, perhaps the most celebrated Dove creative to come out of Canada was the infamous ‘Litmus test’ creative in 1991. I was lucky enough at that time to be the marketing manager on Dove working with a talented team at Ogilvy that included Janet Kestin, Nancy Vonk, David Rutherford and Dennis Stief (funny how all of them are still at Ogilvy weaving Dove magic). It was the first piece of advertising I ever worked on that went around the world and changed the fortunes of the Dove brand forever. That experience inspired me to believe in the power of great creative and in turn inspired many within Unilever to achieve many other awards of recognition for ground-breaking creative work.

I now work on the agency side but remain inspired by the power of great creative to positively change the fortunes of a business. Our motto at the doug agency is that ‘great creative builds brands faster,’ a belief firmly instilled in me at Unilever Canada. Simple, powerful creative ideas borne out of a desire to make a profound statement and take a risk. Of course in hindsight, it never appears to be taking a risk, only capitalizing upon an insight.

I feel compelled to write this because the ability to help craft and implement great creative is within all of us practicing the craft of marketing in Canada, if only we allow it to happen. That of course requires vision and leadership, something far too many in our community shy away from. It is far too easy to do the safe thing, to not battle within our own complex organizations for what we believe is fundamentally right based upon a conviction of true insight. It means not accepting the politically acceptable but the truly profound.

Heck, even my old corporate nemesis P&G gets it, and proudly walked away from Cannes as the most award-winning marketer, true testimony to their recently found belief in the power of great creative to build brands faster.

I hope that everyone who is inspired by the success of Evolution, or any of the other Canadian award-winning work from Cannes, takes a moment to step back and reflect on how the work was achieved. It was achieved through leadership inside the organization of someone who was willing to take a risk and champion an idea. Now that I work on the agency side, I realize just how special the clients are who can recognize a great idea and are willing to see it through to market implementation. These people are to be truly valued.

Leadership. Something to be celebrated. Something within so many of us if only we allow it to come out. Something Canada needs ever more of.

Congrats to the Evolution team, and all the other winners at Cannes. May they inspire us all. I look forward to celebrating their entries at the most important awards in Canada, the CASSIES.

Mike Welling

President

Doug Agency, Toronto

mike@dougagency.com