By the people, for the people (curated by the CDs)

Working smart wins awards, as demonstrated by Top CDs, Leo Burnett’s creative team, SVP/CCO Judy John and SVP/CD Israel Diaz, who announced last month that he was leaving Leo for the new Canadian branch of L.A.-based David & Goliath. 

Working hard can get you far, but working smart wins awards, as demonstrated by Leo Burnett’s creative team, SVP/CCO Judy John and SVP/CD Israel Diaz, who announced last month that he was leaving Leo for the new Canadian branch of L.A.-based David & Goliath. These industry vets (20 and 15 years, respectively) won the coveted top two spots by racking up international awards from the One Show to the Clios, including two Cannes Lions – a Gold and a Bronze – not to mention a slew of national trophies.
Their secret ingredient? They connected with consumers by inviting them into the ad process – without losing the insight. To keep James Ready beer a buck, they invited consumers to share billboard space – an easy way to orchestrate engagement without straying from the brand’s positioning. And for P&G’s Gain, they focused on the scent and used letters from real consumers in the creative – without giving away full creative control à la UGC efforts.
They also eschewed the obvious with great results. Got a cleaning product to promote? Forget about the traditional cleaning comparisons: they used humour on brands like Fairy and Cheer. And instead of pulling at heartstrings for the Alachua Humane Society, they appealed to our penchant for cuteness using bright colours and adorable cartoons.

You broke from tradition by not preaching cleaning power for a few of the P&G brands. Why did you stray?

John: Our philosophy around that is, cleaning is really the price of entry right now, it’s a commodity. Every cleaning product should clean, so it’s really hard to win there. We think it’s more about the emotional benefit – how does it help make your life better?
Diaz: There’s only so many ways you can say “whiter whites” and…it’s also marginal. So looking at it from an emotional standpoint, how a consumer might relate to it, leads you into more interesting creative territory.

Why do you think people connected to the “Share our Billboard” idea so much?
John: The whole idea of participation is make it easy and make it fun. So we did half the billboard for you, [and] we just give you a little piece that you can play with, upload a photo and anything you want to say, so it was pretty easy to do.
Diaz: It’s very atypical for a beer company to actually ask drinkers to help in creating the advertising for it, so that in itself is engaging. It was surprising in that no one was sure whether it was true or not, so once the word got around that it was actually for real and you can actually post it and submit it and it actually ran, it gained a lot of momentum.

For James Ready and Gain, you used UGC without losing control or the insight. Why do you think this strategy worked better than, say, just having consumers create ads?

John: Often we think everyone else out there is like ad people. We get into advertising because we love making ads, and we assume that everyone wants to make an ad, and I think that’s why James Ready and Gain work. We didn’t ask them to make an ad, we just said, “tell us why you love it” and we turned it into an ad. So it’s an easy thing to do, and people are really passionate about the brand.
A lot of brands say “create an ad” and it requires a lot of work and you’re trying to think of what you’re going to do to promote that ad. [For James Ready] this was just, “use our billboard” space, so people used it to advertise their bands, propose marriage and just to say hi, so it wasn’t a big ask.

What was the most interesting billboard entry you saw?
Diaz: There were a lot of X-rated ones. One guy submitted to sell a couple of power generators for $45,000 each. That was the most interesting one.

If you could rent a billboard for your personal use, what would you put on it?

John: I think I’d want to promote a big party out in the woods.

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Defying convention
Runner-up: Dean Lee, DDB Canada, Vancouver

Dean Lee, creative director at DDB in Vancouver, has crept up the creative report card rankings from his number-eight spot last year to nab runner-up status.
About his agency he says: “It’s a fun place to work, which is why I haven’t left in 14 years.”
And while he stands alone in the third spot on our list this year, he’s quick to credit the rest of his team – particularly his co-CD Cosmo Campbell, who also cracked the top 10 – as well as the flat structure of the agency for the atmosphere that was conducive to so much award-winning work this year. For a brief summary of some of the best, read why DDB took the top agency spot on p. 30. 

You made 14 animated videos for the BC Dairy “Must Drink More Milk” campaign. Where did all those ideas come from?
In some ways it came from knowing that we wanted to do a lot of videos. So we chose an animation style that we thought would allow us to do many executions and to really make it varied. Going with stop-animation, we pictured it being much more crude and a little rough, so it would inspire others to upload their own versions online and keep the animation going. But the animators went above and beyond the call of duty and really made that work sing. I think some of those parameters – we’re going to use inanimate objects, what are we going to use? Let’s use Russian dolls or an eraser and a pencil – it was all simple things and the ideas just went from there.

The ads for the Vancouver Convention Centre showed what it isn’t instead of what it is, which seems contradictory. Why did that work?
I think enough people had been to conferences that they knew that feeling of being in a room where you just don’t want to be there, you want to leave. We just found it motivating to put someone back in that headspace of “not another boring conference” and trigger that feeling to inspire you to book a place that’s inspiring this time.

Instead of showing the typical images of tires and a guy behind a counter, the Midas “Car Chase” spot showed a very Canadian police chase with cops and robbers doggedly pushing their cars in the snow. Were there any challenges in creating that ad?
It was a challenging time of year to be trying to pull that off, so I have to tip my hat to the production crew because they made it look so realistic. They made it snow in September in Vancouver, which is rare.

Which campaign are you most proud of?
The work we did for the CTC really stands out in my mind. They came to us with a challenge to sell a country – what a great challenge that is.
A lot of the film pieces came from the public, so trying to get in touch with the people who posted their videos online was tough. I’d imagine that some of it must look like [we] just grabbed stuff off YouTube and threw it up there, but it’s finding the right emotion behind each of those pieces.

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Top 20 creative directors

1    Judy John, Leo Burnett    223
2    Israel Diaz, Leo Burnett    201
3    Dean Lee, DDB Vancouver    192
4    Ian Grais, Rethink     185
4    Chris Staples, Rethink    185
6    Alan Russell, DDB Vancouver    150
7    Ian MacKellar, BBDO    128
8    Cosmo Campbell, DDB Vancouver    124
9    Stephen Jurisic, John St.     122
9    Angus Tucker, John St.    122
11    Steve Mykolyn, Taxi     109
12    Heather Chambers, Leo Burnett    103
13    Andrew Simon, DDB Toronto    98
14    Alan Madill, Juniper Park    97
14    Barry Quinn, Juniper Park    97
14    Terry Drummond, Juniper Park    97
17    Daryl Gardiner, DDB Vancouver    92
18    Dave Douglass, Cossette    89
18    Pete Breton, Cossette    89
20    Shirley Ward-Taggart, Leo Burnett     74

See the full list of CDs