Year of the squirrel

2009 has been the year of 'revolutions' rocking the marketing world. There's the 'End of Consumerism as We Know It,' which was all the rage mid-recession, and the digital, specifically social revolution that has dominated as recession talk dwindled, as well as the 'We'll Never Return to Pre-Recessionary Ways,' brought on by budget cut-driven rethinking of everything and the more permanent changes - like consolidation of partners - that it wrought.

2009 has been the year of ‘revolutions’ rocking the marketing world. There’s the ‘End of Consumerism as We Know It,’ which was all the rage mid-recession, and the digital, specifically social revolution that has dominated as recession talk dwindled, as well as the ‘We’ll Never Return to Pre-Recessionary Ways,’ brought on by budget cut-driven rethinking of everything and the more permanent changes – like consolidation of partners – that it wrought.

If that wasn’t enough to process, there’s an array of evolutionary forces changing the marketing remit. One is faster responses to opportunities (think Banff’s deployment of Crasher Squirrel), another is continued heightened CSR, from embracing the green movement to being sensitive to conspicuous consumption concerns, and increasingly, there’s more tech-centric communications plans.

And just to make it fun, they all need to co-exist.

At the end of the day/year the goal is still relevant marketing – having a clear objective and single-mindedly delivering on that amid all the bright and shiny new toys and tactics. This isn’t easy in an ADD environment that cries out for constant innovation and marketing ‘firsts’ to get attention. The trick is marrying the buzz fervour with a focus on tying innovation back to results.

No wonder brands see a huge advantage in establishing one-to-one relationships. For instance, at AToMiC, our recent event on the intersection of advertising creativity, technology and media, Adidas Canada president Steve Ralph announced miCoach, a device that keeps its athlete consumers close to the brand.

When there’s no room for nice-to-haves, the testing of new marcom methods is riskier, yet more necessary. ‘No one’s waiting for the next ad,’ says Lorraine Hughes, president of Media Agency of the Year Silver winner OMD. ‘You have to find a way to deliver a higher level of relevance and engagement to consumers to even get on their radar.’

So the challenge this year has been bravely going where no brands have gone before. And as we know from working on our AR cover this issue, it’s hard to be confident about results when you don’t even know what you don’t know.

In this year’s B!G, Agency of the Year and Media Agency of the Year winners, you’ll find many examples of marketers and their partners taking leaps into the never-been-done-before void and landing neatly with brand intact and goals realized.

One of our B!G winners, Nissan and Capital C, was the first to attempt a social media-only car launch. Another, Ogilvy and Hellmann’s, launched a viral mini-doc on the disturbing paucity of locally grown food – without mentioning the brand once. This gutsy effort seems poised for another ‘Real Beauty’-style movement. Our Gold winner, Frito-Lay and Juniper Park, pulled off a logistically challenging national retail program that was geo-customized for local markets.

Our AOY winners did their fair share of deploying new tools in smart ways. Gold winner DDB‘s ‘Locals Know’ campaign tapped social media and UGC to create a useful resource with great long-term growth and exponential engagement potential. In an advertising first, our Bronze winner Zig deployed an ultrasonic sound cannon for Scream TV and scared up the desired reaction.

On the MAOY front, the majority of the work submitted from agencies for the shortlisting stage was rife with media firsts and new uses of technology. Those that were both inventive and strategic in their choices, such as Media Experts’ point-of-print work for Kodak, made it through to the top four. Our Gold winner, SMG, seems hell-bent on pulling off feats that have never been done before, like Swiffering words off newspaper pages and adding muddy paw prints to editorial spreads, but keeps its thinking within the strategy box.

For inspiration, check out the winning cases and see how the top on-strategy work effectively crashed through the squirrelly freneticism to deliver the goods.

Cheers, mm

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