Heading into high beer season, James Ready Beer wanted a fun way to remind drinkers that its discount Canadian brew was only $1 per bottle. Building on the year-old ‘Help us Keep this Beer a Buck’ umbrella campaign, James Ready and Leo Burnett Toronto launched an outdoor UGC campaign last summer that split its billboards with beer drinkers.

In the first phase, messaging on billboards divided by a dotted line explained that James Ready couldn’t afford the cost of a whole billboard, inviting others to share the space, thereby keeping the cost-per-bottle down. The open call was extended online, in classified-style newspaper ads, emails and in-case newsletters to the James Ready community of beer drinkers. Those who had a message of their own to share with the world could upload images and/or ‘ad copy’ to Jamesready.com.

Phase two took the user-generated element back to the great urban outdoors. The James Ready co-op ads were featured on over 100 unique billboards across 26 markets in Ontario. The helpful fans saw their messages and pictures writ large – from birthday and wedding announcements to band advertisements to less sober group shots of dudes wearing nothing but empty beer boxes.

‘We tried to match them up where they lived so they could see their own board and be a hero in their own community,’ says Leo Burnett Toronto SVP/CCO Judy John. ‘It was a logistical nightmare for the print production and media, making sure we had it [right]. You don’t want to have a marriage proposal in a different city that your girlfriend is never going to see, or if you’re selling generators, you might want it [to run] close by.’

By giving consumers cheap-and-cheerful claims to fame in their hometowns, JR extended the buzz throughout the summer and created some solid brand advocates. This year’s campaign takes the concept to local radio with a ‘Share our Radio Space’ execution which launched in May, with the first shared spots rolling out this month. The campaign has won a gold Clio, a silver One Show Pencil, two Andy awards and the Obie Best of Show.


Skinny jeans, Converse sneaks, plaid shirt. This is the uniform for hundreds of guys hanging around Queen Street West in Toronto or Kitsilano in Vancouver. But few have scooter handlebars instead of heads.

A promotion for the new Vespa S scooter line – with its bulky square look evoking the Mod-era styling of the original 1960s model it’s based on – eschewed traditional out-of-home media for a street-wise postering campaign.

To appeal to the ad-resistant 25- to 45-year-old segment, Toronto-based Canadian Scooter Corporation (CSC) – Vespa’s distributor in Canada – and Dentsu Canada enlisted the skills of Dan Bergeron, a.k.a. street artist Fauxreel. Bergeron designed a posse of ‘Squareheads,’ larger-than-life paper cut-outs of hipsters with iconic Vespa S handlebars for heads and pasted them up in trendy neighbourhoods in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary last spring.

The distinctive square headlamp was the only clue to the brand, allowing consumers familiar with Vespa to be the first to know, and for everyone else to discover the link on their own. The media picked up on the hype around the mysterious figures, with articles in mainstream newspapers, TV programs and magazines, as well as a great deal of debate on blogs and websites about the blurring lines between advertising and art.

CSC and Dentsu made the connection back to the brand with print and online advertising, also featuring the gang of four Squareheads. Wild postings boasted headlines like ‘Holy S,’ ‘Are you S enough’ and ‘Revenge of the squares,’ while street teams handed out buttons and t-shirts. At night, 40-foot-high animated video loops of the characters checking out passersby lit up walls in club districts via projectors mounted on Vespa S scooters.

The effort logged over 1.1 million media impressions, and a 25% jump in total Vespa sales followed the campaign. Best of all, many of the Squareheads are still lurking in clubland alleys a year later – just in time for the characters to make a reappearance in print advertising and non-traditional outdoor this summer.

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