Standing up for Canadian brands

The Institute of Communication Agencies has changed its name. set new priorities and updated its structure and leadership. Now it's focused on becoming a more forceful advocate for marketing and brands in Canada. Over the next few issues, ICA execs will discuss three key priorities: encouraging more original work in Canada, nurturing talent, and arguing the case for marketing's economic value. Brett Marchand, ICA chair and conspiring marketer on 'The Rant,' kicks things off

The Institute of Communication Agencies has changed its name. set new priorities and updated its structure and leadership. Now it’s focused on becoming a more forceful advocate for marketing and brands in Canada. Over the next few issues, ICA execs will discuss three key priorities: encouraging more original work in Canada, nurturing talent, and arguing the case for marketing’s economic value. Brett Marchand, ICA chair and conspiring marketer on ‘The Rant,’ kicks things off


Over the past decade, the Canadian communications industry has been burnishing its image on the international scene, winning awards, being talked about and stealing the show at Cannes.

We’re on the map.

Now the time has come for us to address our domestic industry needs. For some reason, Canadians are suspicious of marketing and promotion. So we need to help consumers and businesses understand the importance of marketing and brands.

The ICA has taken up the challenge to become a more forceful advocate. We want to stand up for Canadian brands, Canadian marketing, Canadian talent and Canadian ideas. First, we need to convince Canadian CEOs and leaders of foreign multinationals in Canada that marketing matters, and that investing in their brands here will bring not just short-term profit but long-term benefit to investors, shareholders and the Canadian economy.

To that end, the ICA intends to be more active. We’re expanding the Future Flash seminar, and planning a week-long celebration of advertising next fall. We’ve collaborated with co-authors David Rutherford and Jonathan Knowles on Vulcans, Earthlings and Marketing ROI, a book about the value of investing in marcom to be published by the ICA and Wilfred Laurier University next fall.

We also need to encourage Canadian marketers to invest in Canadian-made advertising, because the volume of Canadian work is declining. Industry sources estimate that 10 years ago, about 70% of the ads on Canadian TV were produced domestically; today it’s about 50%. And commercial production companies say Canadian work has been cut in half over the past decade.

The only way we can ensure spending on original Canadian creative work stays in the budget is if clients are convinced it makes good business sense. One way to promote the successes of brands built by original Canadian work is through a stronger Cassies. Why it isn’t the most important awards show in Canada is beyond me!

We also need to explore other options, like Canadian content incentives. And we need to build closer relationships with our production partners. We’re entering a critical stage in our talks with ACTRA. The ICA and ACA have agreed to come to the table with an interest-based bargaining team, which allows us to discuss key issues outside of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and get them resolved so we can move forward with a new agreement, which we hope to have in place next year. Our goal is to see more production at home and more Canadian work running in Canada and internationally.

We also need to educate the next generation of marketers. The ICA has been active in training entry-level talent through the Communications and Advertising Accreditation Professional (CAAP) program, and recently helped develop the Marketing Communications Education Trust (MCET) and a marketing program at Wilfred Laurier University. We hope to offer a master’s program in marketing communications at a Canadian university next year.

Still, when Interbrand and Business Week publish their annual rundown of best global brands by brand value, Canada always fails to make the list. Finland, the most sparsely populated country in the E.U., ranks in the top 10 with Nokia. South Korea makes the top 20 with Samsung and Switzerland has three in the top 50. Why is Canada nowhere to be found?

Imagine what it would mean to the community if a domestic brand were to shoot to the top the way O&M Toronto, Taxi, Zig and Cossette rose to the upper ranks this year at Cannes.

It would be a brand new story.

Brett Marchand is EVP of Cossette Communication Group in Toronto and chair of the ICA.