No losers in this issue

Regardless of their final rank, all the contenders for Agency of the Year, Media Agency of the Year and B!G submitted killer work, making deliberations exceedingly tough for our judges. Each victory was a real 13-rounder, and all the cases had to punch above their weight - creatively and strategically - to earn the golden TKOs.

Regardless of their final rank, all the contenders for Agency of the Year, Media Agency of the Year and B!G submitted killer work, making deliberations exceedingly tough for our judges. Each victory was a real 13-rounder, and all the cases had to punch above their weight – creatively and strategically – to earn the golden TKOs.

As you may have guessed from the cover, the battle for Agency of the Year has been won by the feisty Taxi gang. CEO Rob Guenette and ECD Steve Mykolyn led the fast-growing fleet to reclaim its crown with efforts for Koodo, Aviva, Plan B, Bombardier and its own 15 Below coat-the-homeless project (note the cheeky cover product placement, and find out how you can help on p. 98). Taxi also took silver in the B!G awards for its Koodo launch work, which encompassed everything from shaping the basic offering to packaging and retail design.

Incidentally, B!G wasn’t created because we felt there weren’t enough awards to go around; in fact, it was just the opposite. Some of our brand-side readers felt that the zillion+ ad award shows recognized ‘creativity for creativity’s sake’ rather than major campaigns. B!G was the antidote, giving credit to big ideas for big brands with market impact. And to make it about truly significant change, we limited it to work that goes beyond advertising.

This year’s B!G gold goes to the team that brought you the Dove play – the Mad Women of Ogilvy and Unilever. Back when we developed this award, we never imagined we’d be handing it to a major CPG player putting on a play. But it’s exactly what we hoped for. Agencies aren’t about advertising any more – any more than media agencies are about buying time.

It’s about creating time. Which is what Lauren Richards and the team at Starcom MediaVest Group did to take our first juried Media Agency of the Year gold. One of their winning cases, the custom-designed Nintendo Wii moments throughout Canada’s Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? series, embodies the new attitude. It’s opportunistic, aggressively creative and cost-effective, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

On the topic of time – the frenetic pace at which things roll by (real-time access to everything everywhere) and how it’s changing everything – Mykolyn explains that ‘people have to think in different timeframes,’ adding that some have trouble shifting out of the TV spot model. ‘The global timeframe is 24 hours. Look at Uniqlock [a Cannes Lion-winning widget for a Japanese retailer]. Every second of every day is an ad.’ Commenting on the radical shift in the agency biz in the past year, he says: ‘Compared to other industries, ours is probably the fastest for change outside of technology.’

And Guenette says that forces a faster pace: ‘We have to think and execute quickly – and it’d better work. There’s no fucking ‘in the fullness of time’ anymore.’ He also believes time – or its scarcity – is the new hot button for the future. ‘Forget about another car or more money; give me a park bench and time to breathe.’

And the economy is only exacerbating the pressure. ‘Now, because everyone’s scared shitless, it heightens the importance of ROI,’ says Guenette, who goes on to reveal the unyielding mindset behind the Taxi victory. ‘You could look at it like the toughest time to be in the business; we look at it as the adrenaline. The constant flux and change keep it exciting.’

Incidentally, Taxi Toronto has its own in-house gym, and Taxi cafés are spreading from the west to the east, so perhaps stress reduction contributes to creating an environment conducive to coping – and excelling – in the new ideaframe. As per Mykolyn: ‘It’s not about advertising any more.’

Cheers,mm

Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant

P.S. Congratulations to all the contenders, and a big thanks to all our pollsters, nominators, voters, judges and everyone else who helped us celebrate Canada’s best ideas in the mastery of time and space. Honourable mention goes to special reports editor Carey Toane, who survived her first AOY experience and helmed it graciously (often under fire and against the clock).