Involvement. Canada’s USP?

As the industry troops out to fete the work at awards shows (not to mention each other at the holiday parties that follow), there are lots of new beginnings afoot. Some of these new models, mindsets and partnerships are indicative of shifting priorities and new wish lists leading into 2008.

As the industry troops out to fete the work at awards shows (not to mention each other at the holiday parties that follow), there are lots of new beginnings afoot. Some of these new models, mindsets and partnerships are indicative of shifting priorities and new wish lists leading into 2008.

The hook-ups range from former agency presidents Tony Altilia and Jim McKenzie emerging from retirement to meet the growing need for senior-level consulting, to offshoot boutiques like Juniper Park – which is too busy to launch, but should officially spring from BBDO next month – to start-ups, such as the launch of Toronto-based Huxley Quayle von Bismark this month.

McKenzie and Altilia’s new consultancy, Maxim Partners Inc., speaks to the scarcity of senior strategists. Why Maxim? Because it means an essential truth, says Altilia, ‘and with truth comes trust.’ Their mission? Build trust with clients, brands, consumers, employees and suppliers.

HQvB – the coalition of Andy Shortt (former CD at Dentsu Canada), Chris Hall (former CD at Arnold Worldwide in Toronto) and Mark Tawse-Smith (formerly with Downtown Partners) – is indicative of the new advertising thinking, with a mission to get people involved in clients’ brands with less spending. Shortt says it’s a mindset shift, moving people from being spectators of advertising to being part of a movement, capitalizing on the consumer’s social networks and using expensive media sparingly for better return on involvement. They believe that having a single performance criterion – how much they contribute to involvement in clients’ brands – will reinforce that focus.

HQvB is touted as the world’s first fully customizable agency. There will be a flat fee for the core offering, but then it’s up to clients whether they want to add optional services, such as a dedicated account exec. They also promise no mark-ups on printing and other outsourcing, and say that in most cases their services will cost one-third less. And they’re investing 15% of their revenue back into their clients’ businesses. Hall says this approach is a way to return to an old-school relationship, back when agencies were powerful business-building partners.

They also plan to invest in their own brand via a guerrilla campaign to spark local interest, plus national and international cyber-efforts. That’s right, the HQvBs are taking a page from the Strawberry Frog virtually global playbook. They’re talking with potential clients in the U.S. and Europe, and launching the new shop as an international venture based out of Toronto. Given the multicultural nature of this market and the talent here, they feel Toronto should be a major ad destination. As per Hall: ‘Why shouldn’t an international launch from Canada?’ True that.

This issue, our overall Brand of the Year winner is an advertiser that’s the poster child for Return on Involvement: Dove. As everyone is seeking a new roadmap for successful (and cost-effective) connection with consumers, the ‘Evolution’/Self-Esteem Fund success story means Unilever Canada and Ogilvy & Mather Toronto have the rapt attention of the industry – globally.

So it’s an ideal time to take advantage of that spotlight, carve out a more robust role for home-grown creative and grow some Canadian branding know-how beyond our own borders.

As fodder and inspiration, read about Dove’s impact on Canada’s role within the Unilever empire, as well as the accomplishments of all our Brand of the Year winners, such as L’Oréal, whose Canadian efforts are influencing its HQ’s global thinking (full story, page 51). And check out Brett Marchand’s Forum column (page 85) to see how y’all can help grow the Canadian ad industry success story. Cheer,mm

Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy and Media in Canada

PS. Thanks to everyone who helped out with Brand of the Year suggestions, feedback and general brain trust contributions. Narf.