Sharing the glory

Leo Burnett Canada's art director Anthony Chelvanathan (left) and copywriter Steve Persico top the Art and Copy list this year.

There’s something to be said for teamwork, and the team on the top of this year’s lists for art directors and copywriters prove it. From Leo Burnett, art director Anthony Chelvanathan (left) and copywriter Steve Persico put their heads together to create award-winning work for James Ready (for which they accepted a Gold Lion at Cannes), Procter & Gamble and the Alachua County Humane Society to name a few.
Chelvanathan started at Leo six years ago after interning at TBWA and Grey, while Persico joined as an intern straight out of school five years ago.
While their accomplishments this year are many, the one they hold most dear? “Our world record for a Sri Lankan and Italian being in the same room at one time over the course of one day. Beat the record by 23 hours and 59 minutes.”

For James Ready’s “Share our Billboard,” what were the challenges when it came to working with other people’s ad entries?
Persico: There were lots of challenges with the fact that we let consumers dictate what we would put on these billboards. As you can imagine, five out of every six submissions involved sex, booze, drugs, minors, illegal or dangerous or nude activity. Obviously, this makes them awesome submissions, however, not acceptable for beer ads.
Plus we had to make sure we could post people’s submissions on a billboard close to their hometown. Well, media had to make sure; we just sat back and relaxed and drank a couple of James Ready Beers. Except for Anthony, he doesn’t drink. He had a Five Alive.

The Cheer Dark print ads featured animated black-clad characters, like an artist and a rocker, with fat heads and skinny bodies. Where did this idea come from?
Chelvanathan:
The Cheer Dark super-skinny fat people came from a simple insight: black makes you look thinner. So what would the darkest blacks make you look like? What would the darkest blacks make fat people look like?
After we had the idea, we knew we were on to something different. We gave people a good reason to buy a detergent just for their black clothes.
It is probably one of our favourite print campaigns. We are so glad we didn’t screw up the execution. The idea was simple and thankfully the execution stayed simple too.

What was it like getting up on stage to accept a Lion?
Persico:
It was a great experience. When you work so hard to make something a reality, and then you put it in a room with the best work in the world and have it judged by some of the smartest people in the industry, and they come to the conclusion that it’s brilliant (or at least good), that’s a great feeling.
It was an exciting evening, drunken night, rough morning, but most importantly a motivational week in Cannes. It was great to hold up our nation’s flag on stage. We searched all of France for that flag and were glad to actually hold it up. Unfortunately we lost the receipt and couldn’t expense the 17 Euro we paid for it.
Chelvanathan: Cannes is always an inspirational experience. Winning was an extremely proud moment, even though the actual onstage moment lasted a few seconds.

Describe your working relationship.
Persico:
We complement each other very well and often. Usually Anthony tells me how soft my skin is and I tell him how his eyes light up the room. We’re very vain.
But as far as why we make a good team, it has to be because we have the same goals, the same level of expectations (high) and the want to turn the worst projects into the best work.
Chelvanathan: Our ideas are the strongest when we are able to build off each other’s initial thoughts. One step at a time the idea gets better. We are open and honest. We sometimes brainstorm separately for 10 minutes and then share our ideas. It’s a friendly competition to see who has better ideas.
The loser has to brush the winner’s teeth.

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Masters of emotion
Runners-up: Daryl Gardiner and Jeff Galbraith, DDB Canada, Vancouver

When copywriter Jeff Galbraith (near left) joined DDB fresh out of school about three years ago, he was thrilled to be partnered up with 10-year company veteran, ACD Daryl Gardiner. The co-workers and good friends (often seen at hockey games together) describe the creative department as a close-knit family.
This year, Gardiner and Galbraith helped DDB rake in a ton of awards – including Golds at the One Show and ADCC Awards – for powerful campaigns like that of B.C. non-profit Looking Glass Foundation or the hilarious “Car Chase” spot for Midas, as well as work for B.C. Hydro, Translink and others.

When you’re communicating about a subject like eating disorders for the Looking Glass Foundation, how did you address the challenge of putting out a strong message while remaining sensitive to the cause?
Galbraith:
The client was three mothers that had dealt with [the issue] in the past, and they had a remarkable sensitivity towards it. They wanted powerful, impactful work, but they were always careful not to let us go down a road that would have damaged their cause.
More so than anything I can recall over the last couple of years, we really had the opportunity on this to do a ton of research. We watched documentaries, we did interviews, we pored over websites – we’d see pro-anorexia sites, things that just killed you to watch.
Gardiner: When we presented the work for the first time to [the client], they broke down in tears. There aren’t many instances in a boardroom when you’re presenting work that the client cries. It was moving.

What kind of feedback did you get from the Midas “Car Chase” spot?
Galbraith:
Retailers across Canada were getting calls all the time about how much people really enjoyed the spot, and that’s something you don’t hear all the time.
Gardiner: They sold out of tires – that just goes to show you that humour works. And it’s won a hell of a
lot of awards, so it goes to show you that award-winning work sells too. It’s been a really good case study for us.
We hear a lot of anecdotes too – there’s one story from a dentist that they had a TV overhead when they were working on their patient, and whenever that spot aired, the dentist would have to back away from the patient to let them laugh. We have over two million [YouTube] hits, and it’s been stellar.

What happens when you disagree?
Gardiner:
I win.
Galbraith: Daryl wins.

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Second runner-up, art director: Stuart Campbell, John St.

Big clients: War Child Canada, Tetley Canada
Time at John St.: two years, nine months

Describe the process of making the War Child “Help Child Soldiers” viral video from an art direction point of view.
Especially in this category, you can’t just show pictures and tell people what’s going on. For most, they’ve become desensitized to that kind of advertising – myself included. Whether it’s using the element of surprise to get people to believe something that’s absolutely ridiculous, or making something visually beautiful and artistic, you have to find an approach that people haven’t seen before.
There’s something different about working on a campaign that’s actually changing the world for the better. The energy is just different.
There aren’t many projects which people are absolutely willing to start working on after their workday ends and continue doing so until the wee hours of the morning.

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Second runner-up, copywriter: Jason Perdue, Rethink

Big clients: Playland, Dogwood Initiative, Keys Please
Time at Rethink: four years

Playland seems to rack up awards for Rethink year after year. What’s the secret formula?

The now un-secret formula is as follows: Playland success = great client + time + imagination + self-doubt + amazing art direction + very little copy.

On the Rethink website is says you’re the CEO of a fake company – any future plans for Global International Worldwide?
Like any fictitious multinational start-up, we’ve had our share of growing pains. However, 2010 is going to be our year. Limited edition T-shirts are out now, and plans for new products and web spots to promote them are underway.

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Top 20 art directors

1    Anthony Chelvanathan, Leo Burnett    199
2    Daryl Gardiner, DDB Vancouver    79
3    Stuart Campbell, John St.    75
4    Israel Diaz, Leo Burnett    70
5    Paul Giannetta, Leo Burnett    69
6    Ross Butcher, Leo Burnett    60
7    Nathan Monteith, Taxi    56
8    Colin Brown, Cossette    53
9    Stefan Wegner, Taxi    52
10    Ian Grais, Rethink    51
11    Paul Riss, DDB Toronto    49
12    Hylton Mann, Juniper Park    46
13    Ian Schwey, Doug Agency    44
13    Steffan Barry, Doug Agency    44
15    Dan Strasser, DDB Vancouver    42
15    Luc Du Sault, Lg2    42
17    Basil Douglas Cowieson, Saatchi & Saatchi    41
18    Nicolas Quintal, Rethink    38
19    Cosmo Campbell, DDB Vancouver    34
20    Rob Sweetman, Rethink/Cossette    32

See the full list of art directors

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Top 20 copywriters

1    Steve Persico, Leo Burnett    196
2    Jeff Galbraith, DDB Vancouver    101
3    Jason Perdue, Rethink    74
4    Mia Thomsett, John St.     73
5    Sean Barlow, Leo Burnett    69
6    Stefan Wegner, Taxi    56
6    Emily Zamir, Leo Burnett    56
8    Matt Antonello, DDB Toronto    53
8    Tom Greco, Cossette    53
10    Nathan Monteith, Taxi    50
11    Andy Linardatos, Juniper Park    46
12    Luc Du Sault, Lg2    45
13    Ian Schwey, Doug Agency    44
13    Steffan Barry, Doug Agency    44
15    Jenny Smith, Target    42
16    Kevin Rathgeber, DDB Vancouver    40
17    Ryan Leeson, DDB Vancouver    38
18    Rob Tarry, Rethink    37
19    Nicolas Boisvert, Lg2    34
19    Tim Piper, Ogilvy & Mather    34

See the full list of copywriters