Strategy’s first-ever other ‘…of the Year’ list

In this Agency of the Year issue, you’ve seen a lot of bests and “…of the years,” but we felt that there were still some areas that were lacking in much-deserved kudos. Here’s a compilation of more greatness that we think you should know about.

Best Side Project of the Year:
Stéfan Danis’ Gobi March for NABS

Stéfan Danis, CEO of Mandrake and NEXCareer, was naturally more than a little bummed by the job carnage the recession wrought on the industry this year, given that his remit is placing people, not dealing with widescale displaced persons. So, to focus his energy in a positive direction, he manned up for the six-day 250 km Gobi March with a goal of fundraising $25,000 for NABS.
To reflect the desperate times job seekers have to endure, Danis chose the second-toughest endurance competition in the world (so designated by Time magazine) as his first extreme adventure, never having run a marathon before. After gruelling training with a weighted backpack, and despite physical setbacks like shin splints, a torn meniscus and acute tendonitis on his achilles, Danis finished the race as the top Canadian (among 14 entrants) and top-ranked athlete in the 40-to-49 set (among 35 entrants). Incredibly, the extreme marathon newbie survived track saboteurs, equipment malfunctions, eight lost toenails, countless blisters and ridiculous heat to lug himself and his 25-pound backpack into 14th place out of 130. He also picked up $41,000 for NABS when they needed it most. “Running alone is tough,” says Danis, “but running for others shows you what is possible within all of us.”
“My favorite meal was daily Naproxen anti-inflammatories sprinkled with an Advil per hour to numb the pain,” he said, describing the culinary/pharma regimen that helped him through it (fortunately, no IOC-style testing ensued). Post-Gobi, he’s upped his fundraising target to $50,000 and is incenting contributions with a gift-with-donation scheme – $100 career counselling vouchers at NEXCareer for NABS donors.
Next up? Crossing the mile-high (think of running while breathing through a straw), 250 km Atacama Desert in Chile in March, also to benefit NABS. “I intend to run until the economy turns, hopefully soon, as none of my clothes fit me anymore. I just started training and realize that ignorance was a key advantage. Now that I know what lays ahead, it is actually tougher. I now understand why I got the look from my wife a few hours after she delivered our first-born when I asked her when we could get going on our second.”

RFP of the Year:
World Pride 2014 in Toronto

Most Hair-Raising Stunt of the Year:
Parissa’s wax strip backvertising

Beachgoers basking in the sun on Vancouver’s sexy Kits Beach were privy to a very unsexy sight one hot day this past summer. Care of Rethink, a gentleman sporting a thick mane of back hair traipsed up and down the beach handing out waxing strips, his black back locks spelling out the words “Parissa Wax Strips.” It’s not clear what’s more hair-raising: the gent’s excess back hair or the speedo he was sporting.    

Brand Extension of the Year:

Cirque de Soleil CEO Guy Laliberté’s space voyage

Best Retail Invasion:
Tim Hortons’ infiltration of Fort Knox

Best View from Your Desk: 
St. John’s-based Target

The agency’s offices are located in a converted 19th-century warehouse on Water St. in
St. John’s with a waterfront view looking out over Harbourside Park. The staff is treated to glimpses of passing ships and even the occasional iceberg – not such a common occurrence outside most agency windows. They even get serenaded in the summertime by small concerts and performances that take place in the park. Hey Target, up for tradesies?

Best Industry-Wide Goodwill Initiative:

Lily’s blood drive

Back in October 2008, Troy Palmer, ACD at Toronto-based Bensimon Byrne, developed a very important internal campaign for his agency. It was in honour of his daughter Lily, who was just over a year old at the time, and who has a condition called Spherocytosis, which left her reliant on regular blood transfusions. Inspiring posters featuring Lily developed by Palmer and his creative partner Mike Lee, prompted the Bensimon Byrne Blood Drive in Honour of Lily, which accounted for one of the largest donation days in the history of Canadian Blood Services’ (CBS) King Street clinic.

The effort had such an impact that it sparked an industry challenge for CBS during the week of Family Day in February. Spearheaded by Palmer and Roop Sidhu, community development coordinator at CBS, the initiative saw participation from various companies including Taxi, Taxi 2, Grip Limited, BBDO and Vapor Music. Bensimon Byrne won the challenge with the largest donor turnout. One hundred units of blood were collected, which translated into 300 saved lives.
“It’s incredible that what started simply as an internal ad campaign has made such an impact in our industry and increased awareness,” says Palmer. “My daughter relied on regular blood transfusions to stay healthy and it was incredibly moving to not only see my agency come together but to see the generosity of other agencies, production companies and advertising students.  It just demonstrates the power of what we do every day…and of one special little girl.”
In the time since the blood drive, Lily has had her spleen removed and she’ll no longer have to undergo blood transfusions to stay alive.

Most Regretted Appearance by a CD in a Long-Running TV Spot:
Ron Tite’s Pickle Barrel cameo

Tite guest-starred in a Pickle Barrel commercial as one half of a couple discussing their fellow diners. The commercial, which Tite participated in as a favour to friends at MuchMusic (who wrote and shot the production), has been on the air for four years. Tite’s advice to aspiring commercial actors? “Never accept a buyout. With no more fees to incur, the spot can run forever. And it seems like it has.”
Tite, who has obviously had enough of his 2,102,400 minutes of fame, even offered  to come up with a new campaign for Pickle Barrel in order to replace the spot. The one bonus, he says, is “because it was shot four years ago I’m younger, thinner and have no grey hair.”

Pop-up Retail of the Year:
BC Dairy Foundation’s “Weak Shop” (with a shout-out to Emporio Peroni’s haute beer window last year)

Most Underrated TV Campaign:

Rethink’s A&W spots