Honourable mention: John St.

Toronto-based John St. returns to the AOY podium this year with an Honourable Mention. Judges singled out Auto Trader as a favourite: 'Simple stuff, and laugh-out-loud funny,' said Frito Lay Canada VP marketing Tony Matta. 'No consumer will have to guess at the key message, and the humour is right in your face.'

Toronto-based John St. returns to the AOY podium this year with an Honourable Mention. Judges singled out Auto Trader as a favourite: ‘Simple stuff, and laugh-out-loud funny,’ said Frito Lay Canada VP marketing Tony Matta. ‘No consumer will have to guess at the key message, and the humour is right in your face.’


A traditional Canadian brand with 150 years of history, Stanfield’s needed some credibility in a world of fashionable competitors like Joe Boxer, Calvin Klein, DEX and Tommy Hilfiger.

For more urban, fashionable, image-conscious males, this century-old image was a liability. But John St. found a significant group of young men for whom that unfussy, no-nonsense image could be seen as a positive. So where most underwear brands feature models wearing nothing but their briefs, John St. presented a world of fully dressed men.

The idea was simple: you don’t have to see them to know who’s wearing them. Two TV spots, ‘Guys Night Out’ and ‘Exercise Ball,’ ran during NFL football and sports highlight shows like Sportsnet, SportsCentre and The Score last fall. During the winter, another spot, ‘Meat Locker,’ was added to the rotation to promote the garments’ thermal qualities.

Research done in December 2007 showed spikes in overall awareness, brand recall (both unaided and aided) and intent to purchase. The campaign garnered significant attention domestically and was shortlisted at the One Show and Cannes.


The challenge: revitalize a brand on a five-year sales slide whose only real equity was a cheesy pop song, ‘The Macarena.’

Michelina’s target, the post-university/college male, is not interested in ingredients or health. As one guy said in research, ‘I want to eat. I don’t want to cook.’

So John St. gave him a cook: a thick-accented Italian mama. ‘Let Mama Feed You’ was a multimedia campaign that introduced Mama in two TV spots: ‘The Wall’ and ‘Takedown.’

Concurrently, John St. launched a Facebook profile page where the target could check out photo albums of Mama at a bachelorette party, an improv class and an impromptu foosball championship. Mama’s 700+ friends were invited to play online games, respond to discussion topics and watch her vlog rants about recording Oprah on her PVR and why pop starlets refuse to wear underwear.

Mama was parodied on Royal Canadian Air Farce and featured on Breakfast Television, and made Top Favourites on YouTube. The campaign has gone global, and Michelina’s has put ‘Let Mama Feed You’ on its packaging in the U.S. Tracking indicates that Mama is well on her way to burying the ‘Macarena’ legacy for good: in three months, ‘Mama’ beats ‘Macarena’ mentions among those who recall Michelina’s advertising.


Traditionally, the Bay’s Fall Bedroom Event was used to sell bedding and mattresses. But the retailer wanted to cross-promote other products by looking at the bedroom as a place to do everything but sleep. ‘Get in Bed’ incorporated traditional media (TV and radio), exterior design, direct mail and in-store installations that showed how sexy a bedroom could be.

John St. promoted the event with a TV spot, ‘Lullaby,’ as well as a radio campaign to highlight the array of brand-name linens and perfumes available in-store. Window designs, awnings and exterior signage took a cheeky tone. ‘Do not Disturb’ door hangers were hung on doors at the Hilton, inviting guests to visit the Bay for a late-night sneak peek and lingerie runway show.

At Bay stores, bedrooms were installed in unexpected locations to ensure that consumers were aware of the event, regardless of which department they visited.

The target consumer (a confident, upper-income woman in her early 40s) ate it up. Sales of bedding, pillows, duvets and throws exceeded the previous year by a healthy margin. The mattress division achieved its sales goal three months early and realized a significant growth in sales vs. the previous year.


To promote its improved customized web search tools, Auto Trader relaunched in 2007 under the campaign idea ‘Come meet your match,’ which compared the process of finding the perfect car to finding the perfect mate. The new search tools enabled prospective buyers to be even pickier (and more ruthless) than they could ever be on the dating scene.

‘You can do that on AutoTrader.ca‘ was a TV and online campaign that demonstrated the site’s improved searchability by comparing it to the dating world. John St. created three television ads, each highlighting a specific new search feature on the site. ‘Research’ showed how to discover the history of a car before you buy it, while ‘Age’ showed how to narrow your search by the age of the car and ‘Anniversary’ spoke to the fact that you can search for old or new cars. A fourth spot, ‘Late Night,’ was produced for the phone sex and Lavalife-type dating service ads that dominate the after-11 time slot.

Unique visitors to AutoTrader.ca increased 12% versus the previous year (when the initial campaign launched at twice the media weight levels of 2008). Recall scores were significantly above Ipsos Reid norms. The campaign has received attention on the awards circuit, and was chosen to appear on World’s Funniest Commercials on TBS.


Problems that exist far away are easy to ignore. To make Canadians (and the Canadian media) care about the plight of the 250,000 child soldiers fighting in armed conflicts around the world, War Child had to make it personal.

John St. was tasked with bringing the war home, and found a location outside of the city. ‘Camp Okutta’ was a new kind of summer camp where Canadian children could experience the adventures of real child soldiers. Campokutta.com provided interested parents with information from activities to sleeping arrangements. John St. posted a video on YouTube and Facebook featuring cheerful counsellors guiding kids through minefields and other training exercises. Teams of counsellors handed out promotional materials in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Instead of buying media, John St. banked on the shock value of the campaign to attract the attention of the mainstream press. Within days it was featured on CBC’s The National and was subsequently covered by all major national media and countless local outlets. The YouTube clip exceeded 100,000 hits, and traffic to War Child’s site increased from 400,000 hits a month to 1.5 million, with 82% of those coming from campokutta.com. Online donations more than doubled versus the previous year.

The campaign won awards across Canada, plus a One Show Bronze Pencil and Best Guerrilla Marketing Effort from Adweek.

Jump to:


Gold – Taxi

Silver – BBDO

Bronze – DDB

Finalist – Zig

Finalist – Ogilvy & Mather


Visit the Agency of the Year 2008 site