Political help wanted

In their quest to strengthen the role of Canada's marketing industry, Queen's prof Ken Wong and Capital C CEO Tony Chapman invited readers to pitch in some solutions. In this installment of the e-series, they mull over one such contribution, from BC3 Strategies managing partner Laurence Bernstein. To join the exchange, just email Ken, Tony or Mary with your ideas . . .

In their quest to strengthen the role of Canada’s marketing industry, Queen’s prof Ken Wong and Capital C CEO Tony Chapman invited readers to pitch in some solutions. In this installment of the e-series, they mull over one such contribution, from BC3 Strategies managing partner Laurence Bernstein. To join the exchange, just email Ken, Tony or Mary with your ideas . . .

From: Laurence.Bernstein@baycharles.com

To: Mary Maddever

Cc: Tony Chapman; Ken Wong

Subject: ‘Made in Canada’

The interchange in strategy presented me with an irresistible opportunity to climb on one of my many bandwagons. Lately, BC3 Strategies has been developing intrinsic and extrinsic strategies for various jurisdictions to develop their innovation and knowledge-based economies – to move from a manufacturing- (off-shored) or resource- (exhausted) based economy.

There is one such territory that Canada can, and should, claim. Our creative sector, according to The Economist, accounts for 3.5% of the economy, versus 3% for the US. The only country higher is Great Britain. As more communications activity is directed from outside the country, this large creative machine will become increasingly less productive – and at some point we would have to ship our creative talent to the oil fields of Alberta.

We could take the position of North America’s creative backroom, and build an industry out of producing components of the marketing exercise, such as strategy, creative and web design, for marketers in other countries. Due to an oversupply situation, we can deliver solutions at a lower cost. And there is no question that the quality of our creative minds is unrivalled.

It would take lobbying to have ‘creative’ innovation added to the private and public innovation agenda – which tends to focus on IT and advanced manufacturing sectors – but it could be done.

Our marketing professionals are called in to help other industries deal with seismic shifts, mostly solved by a cash infusion from government and developing a new sense of the sector. Isn’t it time we did this for ourselves?

From: Ken

To: Mary, Tony

Laurence’s comments drive home the notion that as a community, we need to do more than give awards. We need to form a collective response to globalization.

From: Tony

To: Ken

Many people view globalization as evolutionary in nature. I feel the opposite: we are at day one of a massive step change in our creative industry. Within the next two years my bet is that local market adaptations, if not creations, of global branding campaigns will leave the domain of the branch ad agency and be centralized and outsourced to countries like India, which have an extraordinary film industry, a well-educated work force and access to low-cost labour and technology.

From: Ken

To: Tony

Perhaps it’s time for our industry organizations to step up and make representations to government about what is needed to support our community. For some reason, save regulatory issues, marketers never present themselves to government as an industry. Either we are the ultimate free-market capitalists, incredibly naïve or we just never learned how to play with others.

From: Tony

To: Ken

In the 1980s British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put design and creativity on the map as key priorities for the revitalization of the UK economy. Through her vision we had the British Invasion including Saatchi and Saatchi, WPI, Michael Peters Group and a renaissance in the role the UK would play in advertising, fashion, finance and even manufacturing. Isn’t it time our political leaders elevated creativity as a key priority for Canada? If we aren’t uncovering new, creative and more productive ways to think, manufacture and service, we are in danger of being a economy dependent on commodities and nonrenewable resources.

Where does that leave us?

From: Ken

To: Tony

My take-away is that we need – collectively – to start forming a game plan or we’ll find that Laurence’s ‘lower cost, faster, better’ forecast won’t be a rallying call but a coercive threat held over our heads by multinationals. The one thing I don’t know is who will lead the charge. I’d love to hear people’s opinions on that!

From: Tony

To: Ken

I would love to hear from Stephen Harper. Creativity might not have the election caché or the sound bite of education, but it is the lifeblood of productivity, innovation and our future economy.

Ken Wong is a career academic at Queen’s School of Business where he’s obsessed with practising what he preaches.

As CEO of a Toronto-HQed indie agency, Tony Chapman is obsessed with Canada’s role in the global ad biz.