It’s all about attitude

What's inherently strong, scrappy and relevant about the way Canadians approach marcom? Scott Goodson explains how his upbringing helped build StrawberryFrog.

How does having a Canadian pedigree lead to a global agency in the blossoming alternative ad scene? How does a drooling teen subculture promoting Sony Ericsson cell phones, a “Lovely Football” choir of Japanese employees at Onitsuka Tiger, a depressed prankster claiming to be “The Economy” for global consultancy firm Cap Gemini Ernst Young or the state of the art Hello Baby iPad app for Pampers happen, and what does Canada have to do with it?
StrawberryFrog started as a quirky, creative gang pushing things way outside the box. It now has people (Frogs) and offices (Ponds) around the world, and a very original way of doing things. How did we get here? My upbringing had a husky-size role in shaping my attitude towards advertising and the world.
I grew up an Anglais in Montreal, went to boarding school, then Western. Getting from Montreal to New York has been all about attitude: stepping out of line, being intellectually curious and thinking independently. Canadian nature taught me to wander (from Montreal I went to Japan, Sweden, Toronto, Holland and then NYC). Canadian nurture made me confident enough to look at the world as my oyster.
In the late ’80s I moved to Stockholm for 10 years, and I think my tumultuous always-on-the-verge-of-separation Quebec childhood made me more open to what was happening there.
Swedish deregulation in communications and technology industries led to an explosion in the ad world. It was unheard of for national agencies to do work outside Sweden, but when the opportunity arose to build brands globally, without the baggage of traditional agency structures, we leapt at the opportunity.
Growing up Canadian also meant deconstructing and appreciating culture. So, when Swedish clients wanted their brands fitted with powerful ideologies, we experimented and created new ideas and new ways to interact with those ideas.
All of this led to creating the world’s first “cultural movement” agency. What we’ve done might seem difficult, impossible even…but it’s quite the opposite. 
Canadians are taught young that there’s nothing we can’t do, and we do it without the pomposity that the ad industry is addicted to. StrawberryFrog’s first client was Smart Car, whose mission was to reinvent the urban environment. The Canadian inside me sided with Nicolas Hayek, the brilliant visionary founder of Swatch who intuitively understood that our car culture was unsustainable, and that a new commuter ecosystem was needed. Mr. Hayek recently passed away, and to me he’s up there with Jobs and Branson for the vision thing.
Growing up in Montreal taught me about style, and my French came in handy when Elle came calling, wanting I hired fellow Canadian Helen Pak, and we set about creating their first web experience.
Canadians don’t back down from a David and Goliath challenge, so when Credit Suisse came calling, we joined the pitch with no more than 25 staffers and an army of freelancers around the globe, and beat Fallon London for the global account. Then a familiar voice called. We won Ikea, and things took off.
Canada taught me to have a sense of humour. StrawberryFrog Amsterdam created the Kill Bill Onitsuka Tiger, relaunching a cult favourite to great success. Canadian car culture inspired me to think ideas and not geography, helping win the global Mitsubishi account and stewarding a turnaround.
Also against impossible odds, StrawberryFrog beat Wieden and McCann for the global Heineken account, took over Morgan Stanley from WPP and created the True North Cultural Movement for Pepsico.
Canadian culture puts engineering and innovation on a pedestal. I believe this helped shape our agency for the appointment as  P&G’s global digital agency for one of its largest brands, Pampers.
Canada’s diversity pushed me to look under unconventional rocks. Five years ago I fell in love with Brazil. It was alive, fresh and different. I had to open an office there. I found my partner, Peralta. We are 80 Frogs with Pepsico and Quaker as clients.
Canadians are outsiders. We don’t believe the systems of the past represent the systems of tomorrow. There is a massive shift underway and legacy firms have huge challenges. In the brave new world the centre has shifted to Mumbai, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Sao Paulo and to the global souls redefining marketing in the 21st century.
Another great legacy from Canada was a lesson from my old hockey coach, Tippy: the importance of teamwork. But the most vital element of all was the Canadian belief in self, and the self-effacing personality that people outside Canada kinda like.
It’s all about attitude.

Scott Goodson is founder and CEO of StrawberryFrog.