Finalist – John St.

Finalist - John St.

Toronto-based John St. returns to AOY standings this year (it was last a finalist in 2003), thanks in part to TP. Judge Noel O’Dea of Target Marketing & Communication quipped that the Cashmere campaign was ‘breakthrough work in a wallpaper category.’


The Bay was looking for not only a new campaign, but a new way of doing business. For most women, the department store had become a place they might occasionally go for sales or to buy cosmetics – but not a destination for the things they enjoy shopping for. Faced with competition from American retailers, big box chains and shopping websites, John St. concluded that a disruption of perception and behaviour was necessary to revitalize the Bay brand.

In fashion retail there are five seasons. The insight: each season is another opportunity for shoppers to re-examine the items in their lives, everything from clothing to décor. The agency’s strategy was to create a major style event based on category, brand and consumer insights. The focus was ‘beautiful,’ which had to be the filter for all the communications and merchandising to help challenge shoppers’ perceptions of the Bay.

The first event, ‘Garden Party,’ launched in spring 2007. It was based on the insight that women take pride in being perfect hostesses. The theme drove all merchandising and communications inside and out of the store. The TV spot, for example, featured a fashionable hostess escorting her guests through her house, slipping off her shoes and exiting through the back entrance into a garden where a dinner party was in progress. Radio complemented the campaign, featuring specific product categories and promotions. Street events were staged outside certain store locations, where women were handed a tulip with a card attached describing the ‘Garden Party’ event going on at the Bay. DM, specially themed shopping bags and POS elements supplemented the effort.

The agency’s second event, which launched this summer, was ‘Boom! The Style Revolution.’

Early indications are positive for the new approach. Execs at the brand recognize that the evolution is a long-term effort, but based on feedback from internal teams and initial customer response, they say the brand is headed in the right direction.


Over the past two years, Cottonelle has morphed into Cashmere. Kruger (formerly Scott Paper) Products’ agreement with Kimberly-Clark for use of the Cottonelle name was set to expire in June 2007, so they got to work on building the Cashmere brand to replace it.

With the old name eliminated, John St. could focus on the new brand, Cashmere. But a caveat: with Kimberly Clark expected to reintroduce the old brand back into the marketplace in the near future, an added challenge for the agency was to make Cottonelle passé.

To consumers, toilet paper brands are virtually interchangeable. Research showed that 41% do not have a brand in mind when they approach the grocery shelf. John St. determined that an audacious approach was needed to ensure Cashmere stood out.

Insight revealed that the brand’s female target felt toilet paper was also about ‘taking care of herself’ – so bathroom tissue did not have to be simply about function. And with a name like Cashmere, the agency decided to focus on a simple idea with relevance to the target: fashion.

TV and print featured a model in what appeared to be a cashmere dress, actually made of the toilet paper. The tagline: ‘Cashmere. Now in a bathroom tissue.’ PR included a competition in which fashion students designed Cashmere dresses, while their progress was tracked at A promotion supplemented the effort.

The bold approach has worked. Market share grew to 27.3% in May 2007, up from 23.3% in May 2006 – a historic high for the product. In fact, in that time period the brand was the national market share leader, despite only being available in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. As well, top-of-mind awareness and household penetration all showed significant improvements through the transition campaign.


The launch of Gay Lea’s Spreadables Butter was far from smooth for John St. While it was popular in Europe, Canadians were unfamiliar with the product. Meanwhile, the company hoped to use the launch of the product to build a national profile for the brand. And then there was the competition, which not only dominated the category, but cost three times less on a per-gram basis.

Research showed that consumers agreed butter’s taste was superior to margarine’s. They were also increasingly looking for more natural, less processed foods. John St. decided to leverage Spreadables’ taste superiority and convenience.

The strategy was to question the need for margarine now that spreadable butter is on the market. With a limited media budget, the agency focused on print, OOH and banner ads. The copy? ‘Margarine has 14 ingredients. Milk isn’t one of them’ and ‘We made butter spreadable because they couldn’t make margarine taste good.’

In Ontario, while the overall butter market was experiencing a decline of 10%, Gay Lea Speadables’ dollar volume has shown an increase of 40% since the start of the campaign and a 212% increase versus the same January-to-June period a year ago.


In a sea of men’s general interest magazines, Toro lacked the necessary positioning and identity needed to attract young urban male readers. After much research, John St. learned that the magazine’s writers were not only respected for being in-the-know on topics such as women, drinks, cigars and fashion, but prized for the wit they used to write about said topics. That became the insight behind the campaign: use that sly voice to reach men.

The result was ‘What men need to know.’ In keeping with the tone of the magazine, print ads and TV spots offered tips. In one spot, viewers were told that, despite what they may have heard, ‘What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas,’ illustrated by a man’s clear discomfort at the office urinal. Another print ad advised readers not to iron their denim, as ‘Nothing says serial killer like a man who irons his jeans.’

Before the plug was pulled on the magazine, it enjoyed a 5% increase in overall paid ad pages while the industry suffered a 3% decline. The campaign itself won accolades, including being shortlisted at Cannes.


While people are shocked to hear that an estimated 250,000 children around the world are being used as soldiers, that rarely translates into action. Canadians feel disconnected from the horror. John St.’s challenge was to generate media attention and jolt apathetic people into supporting the charity.

The message needed to resonate. The agency’s insight: the only way to get people to act was to have them visualize their children in these wars. To do this, they created a fictional summer camp similar to the war training camps found in Africa and Asia. The campaign invited parents to register their children for ‘Camp Okutta’ – a place where kids learn to shoot a real AK-47, throw hand grenades and run through minefields.

The creative consisted of a 30-second TV spot, four viral videos, a microsite, posters, a brochure and guerrilla advertising. The campaign launched in August, and it has already gained strong support: the charity’s execs are planning to extend it into the U.K., Australia and the U.S.