Top advertiser: Playland’s wild ride

Vancouver-based Playland makes award-winning creative look like a day in the park. The 2007 campaign for the amusement park at the Pacific National Exhibition - which made the award show rounds in '08 - took its inspiration from the actual stuffed animals available as prizes on the Playland midway, documenting the results of overindulging on concession stand fare and gravity-defying rides - all from a puppet's point of view. The campaign references a graphic, somewhat controversial 1996 Playland TV spot (by then-AOR Palmer Jarvis) called 'Barf Cam,' shot from the perspective of the stuff itself.

Vancouver-based Playland makes award-winning creative look like a day in the park. The 2007 campaign for the amusement park at the Pacific National Exhibition – which made the award show rounds in ’08 – took its inspiration from the actual stuffed animals available as prizes on the Playland midway, documenting the results of overindulging on concession stand fare and gravity-defying rides – all from a puppet’s point of view. The campaign references a graphic, somewhat controversial 1996 Playland TV spot (by then-AOR Palmer Jarvis) called ‘Barf Cam,’ shot from the perspective of the stuff itself.

These cotton-puking pals didn’t make juries toss their cookies, however: the campaign took home 36 individual awards, including two Clios and a whack of national awards, proving itself to be the homegrown favourite. Consumers like the work as much as juries do: the brand has developed a fan following that eagerly awaits the release of the new creative each spring. And by popular demand, the sick stuffies are still alive and kicking almost two years later in merchandising spinoffs like postcards and Christmas e-cards.

Notably, this year’s Top Three advertisers are all regional brands: neither the second- nor third-place winners – Toronto Humane Society and Vancouver’s Science World, respectively – made the Top 20 standings last year, while Playland took second place in 2008 behind Unilever’s Dove. Shelley Frost, who’s worked on Playland marketing for four years, and Kim Madu (a two-year vet) work with a team of five full-time managers, plus seasonal promotions staff and contractors including AOR Rethink to keep coming back with creative that excites and delights. We asked them how they do it.

Shelley Frost, VP marketing; Kim Madu, manager of brand and design, PNE

What’s the best part of working on Playland?

Frost: It’s interesting because we talk to very different markets: we talk to that teen group which is very web-savvy and not super-easy to reach sometimes; and then we have a family demographic and we message to them totally differently.

Madu: We don’t have to run heavy, offer-based advertising; it’s about communicating an experience.

What’s the story behind the stuffed animals?

Frost: We have a midway here with typical games and those are the actual stuffed animals you can win. So it was almost ‘Stuffies Gone Wild’ behind the scenes; when the park closed, they all went out and got crazy.

And the cotton vomit?

Madu: The line we always give Rethink when we’re starting the year is that they’ve got room to be clever and edgy and funny without being gross – we went through a lot of years of being criticized for having too much bodily fluids in our ads – so that we don’t offend people. And so this was their twist on not being gross, but it still made the same point. The other thing we liked about it was that it brought our stuffed animals in, had the rides in the background and showed a lot of the different elements of our park.

How important are awards to your team?

Frost: It’s inspired our company. We now have a company-wide awards committee because of the success of Playland. We look at what we do really well in all aspects of our business, and [enter relevant professional award shows]. We’ve become industry leaders in fairs and amusement parks, in guest services and different areas.

Top 20:

1. Playland, Rethink 110

2. Toronto Humane Society, Leo Burnett 89

3. Science World, Rethink 82

4. Kraft Canada, Ogilvy & Mather 73

5. Pfizer Canada, Taxi 65

6. Mini Canada, Taxi 62

7. FedEx Canada, BBDO 56

7. United Nations High Commission for Refugees, BBDO 56

9. YWCA Vancouver, Rethink 47

10. B.C. Lions, Rethink 46

10. War Child Canada, John St. 46

12. Pepsi-QTG, BBDO 44

13. Pacific Blue Cross, DDB 43

14. Molson Canada, Zig 41

15. World Wildlife Fund Canada, Draftfcb 40

16. Philips Canada, DDB 39

17. Mr. Lube, Rethink 35

18. Vancity Savings Credit Union, TBWA 34

19. Bare Sportswear, Rethink 33

20. The Gazette, Bleublancrouge 28

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Introduction

Advertisers: full list

Top agency: Rethink thinks local, wins big

Agencies: full list

Top creative director: Ian Grais & Chris Staples of Rethink

CDs: full list

Top art director: Rob Sweetman of Rethink

ADs: full list

Top copywriter: Jono Holmes of Rethink

Copywriters: full list

Methodology