Cannes Special: A year in creativity

Strategy rounds some of the best campaigns and trends in Canadian advertising this year.

If we had to pick a theme for this year in advertising, it would likely be “above and beyond.” Sure, each year agencies try to outdo themselves (and each other), but advertising is adapting to a new media landscape, where standing out becomes increasingly difficult.
The 30-second spot still exists, but it had better be extra eye-catching to make it past the PVRs. Online videos are stepping it up a notch, and we noticed a definite trend towards vids that force the viewer to ponder whether or not they’re real. A regular billboard just won’t do anymore, now it has to be covered in gold. After all, a huge goal for all advertising these days is unpaid freight, a.k.a. the viral buzz, free PR, Facebook factor.
Below, we’ve highlighted some of the gems within the trends. For more of the best campaigns of the year, as curated by some of Canada’s top creative directors, click here.


Fortnight’s sexy spin on CPR
Sex sells, and when you’re selling lingerie, it just makes sense. Super Sexy CPR is an online video created by Toronto-based Red Urban for small Canadian start-up Fortnight Lingerie. The brand didn’t have the big budgets or celebrity power of its competitors (like Victoria’s Secret or Calvin Klein) so it made what is essentially an instructional video on how to do CPR and save a life, but with a very sexy twist. The ladies giving the demonstration happen to be scantily clad, gorgeous models.
The video went spectacularly viral, garnering 1.6 million hits in the first week and 12 million to date. It got worldwide media attention and was even used as an instructional video by the U.K. armed forces and EMS to train soldiers (now that’s how to get someone to pay attention). After the video, sales for Fortnight were up 800% and they secured international distribution. They followed it up with a second instructional video – abdominal thrusts, naturally.


Science World likes gold
Science World in Vancouver likes to put its money where its mouth is, or at least where its billboard is. To promote last summer’s “Treasure!” exhibit, Vancouver-based Rethink developed a billboard demonstrating that 20 ounces of 22-karat gold can be pounded so thin it covers more than 200 square feet. The billboard came with its own security guard, but trying to steal it would have been futile – the gold would have disintegrated upon touch.
The billboard generated major buzz, with over 3,800 views on Flickr in the first 12 hours and simultaneous front pages of 24 Hours and Metro, as well as coverage in Maclean’s, the Globe and Mail, CTV News and CBC Radio.
Art director Carson Ting, who concocted the idea with group CD/partner Rob Tarry, says finding this true fact about gold was a challenge: “It turns out, scientists are big on accuracy,” he says, and also finding the right gilder for the project: “We really lucked out and managed to get Canada’s number one gilder. Yes, gilders have rank! Maybe they wrestle for it. Brian Dedora really made it look like a million bucks. Even though it was around $11,000.”

First United faces homelessness
First United Church is “home” to 350 people in downtown Vancouver who would otherwise have nowhere to live. It wanted to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness, so it enlisted the help of DDB Vancouver to create an ambient effort that put a face to it.
The agency developed a stunt that put faceless body sculptures, in the familiar poses of homeless people, around the city.
While some people walked right past them, others took notice of the missing faces and, instead of dropping coins in a cup, were encouraged to pick up a paper slip that directed them to visit one of three Facebook profiles – for Jody, Steve and Gordon. There they could learn about the true stories of homeless people who got off the streets.
Based on similar statues by U.S.-based artist Mark Jenkins, the homeless forms were meant to force people to think about the problem.
“We did it to create awareness,” said Kevin Rathgeber, senior copywriter, DDB. “If donations go up, that’s great, but we wanted to create some dialogue around the homelessness issue and raise awareness for what First United does.”


Campbell’s Nourishes the hungry
Product launches are nothing new, except when it’s a truly innovative departure from the typical store-shelf fare.
As a physical manifestation of its commitment to alleviate hunger, this spring, Campbell’s introduced a new product called Nourish. Billed as the first complete meal in a can, Nourish is not a consumer product per se, although it is available in stores, where shoppers are encouraged to buy it for donation. It has a 24-month shelf life, can be eaten at room temperature and doesn’t require water – making it suitable for both food banks and disaster-relief situations where clean water might not be available.
“Because of who we are and what we make, we felt that we should take a lead role in helping to alleviate hunger,” says Mark Childs, VP marketing at Campbell’s.
To enlist followers, Campbell’s placed ads in the Globe and Mail and launched a social media campaign. Users could have a can donated on their behalf by “liking” or sharing the Facebook page, posting a comment, tweeting with the hashtag #Nourish or watching a two-minute video called “The Story of Nourish.”
“In launching Nourish, we did it in a way that broke through, in a way that was credible, and in a way that invited Canadians to join us rather than us telling them what to do,” says Childs.
Five weeks into the campaign, 185,000 cans had been donated, and 7,000 “likes” had been added to the brand’s Facebook page. About 1,700 posts had been made, 90% of which were positive, The creative was done by BBDO in Toronto and Soulsight in Chicago, while OMD handled media.


Taxi gets into toys and books
Who says an agency only makes ad campaigns? This past winter, Taxi came out with its very own book, Doubt: Unconventional Wisdom from the World’s Greatest Shit Disturber. Told from the perspective of a little character named Doubt (brought to life on the cover by illustrator Gary Taxali, who also drew the cover of this magazine), the book presents 12 insights into using doubt as a catalyst for change. The insights are backed by stories about 40 “Disciples of Doubt” (the Sony Walkman, for example), imparting wisdom in 250 words or less. The book features a QR code that drives to, where readers can submit their own “doubtful” stories and read stories about other doubters.
And in the new year, the agency expanded its El Tabador character for mobile co Koodo into toys with four “Mini Muchachos.” The Muchachos were given with the purchase of a new Koodo phone, or available for purchase as a set with part of the proceeds going to charity. It’s kind of a telco Happy Meal.


The science of mythical marketing
If a viral video that appeared in October is to be believed, there was a unicorn on the loose in the Don Valley area of Toronto. The vid, said to be shot by amateur bird watcher Peter Hickey-Jones, reveals a quick glimpse of a white horse with a horn on its head, replayed in slow motion. According to the website for the Ontario Science Centre, Hickey-Jones brought the video in to be analyzed.
Coincidentally, the Science Centre had recently opened a new exhibit entitled, “Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids.” Funny how these things work out. The video, created by Narrative Advocacy Media (a division of Bensimon Byrne), garnered over 460,000 views on YouTube, was seen in
97 countries and picked up by major media and blogs.
Of course, creating YouTube hoax videos is nothing new (you may recall the “Bride has Massive Hair Wig Out” vid for SunSilk back in 2007), so consumers are extra skeptical nowadays, but this video stayed legit because the exhibit was all about myths.
“We wanted to take a playful approach and explore how modern-day myths are created and perpetuated – through social media and viral videos,” says Lindsay Mattick, director of PR at Narrative.

GJP goes out in style
Back in November, Toronto-based advertising agency GJP went out of business. Well, sort of. The agency released a video claiming that they were soon to be shut down, with president Alan Gee offering to sell off everything, from their Gold Lions awards to the agency co-founder and even his English accent, in a liquidation fire sale. The ad world started buzzing, questioning whether it was a hoax, or if GJP was going down, and doing it in humorous style.
The sale actually occurred on Nov. 18 and raised $10,000 for Jake’s House for Children with Autism. Afterwards, Gee announced the agency was rebranding as Blammo.
The stunt got coverage in everything from the Globe and Mail to Ads of the World to blogs in China. Gee says he got calls from all over the world, both before the big reveal (wishing him well in retirement, questioning what he was up to, and even asking to speak to “old” clients) and after (asking for jobs at Blammo, wanting to open Blammo offices in their countries, or just to congratulate.)
Was Gee surprised by the attention? “Frankly I was hoping for it – after all that’s kind of why we did it,” he says. “It was indicative of what we wanted Blammo to be. And to show what you can do with a rebrand as opposed to simply sending out a press release and changing a website.”

John St. creates a birthday movement online
Advertising award show entries are typically accompanied by a video explaining the campaign and why it deserves to win. These videos tend to take themselves very seriously, as demonstrated by one created by John St. showcasing the success of a campaign for Chelsea Bedano’s eighth birthday party. The big idea was pink ponies, a theme that was carried to below-the-line executions such as cake decoration, and ended in a big reveal – the mini-pony.
So perhaps the birthday party was fictional, and the video was actually created as a lampoon to show at strategy’s Agency of the Year Awards, but when it was posted to strategy’s creative site (search “pink ponies”) it created a viral sensation.
John St. received an honorable mention at TED’s Ads Worth Spreading conference, a Gold Pencil at the One Show and calls from the CEO of Time Warner and chief global director of strategic planning of Coca-Cola expressing their love for the vid. And the Cannes Lions committee contacted the agency to use it as a guide to show how case videos have become predictable.
“The video hit at a time when we need to laugh at ourselves,” says John St. creative director Stephen Jurisic. “The agency industry is going through so many changes. ‘World changing’ case videos seemed the right thing to pick on.”

For insider picks from some of Canada’s top creative directors, click here.