CASSIES Gold: James Ready’s helping hand

Leo Burnett’s “Help Us, Help You” campaign woos fans and more than doubles business, also picking up the Globe Creative Effectiveness Prize.

Special Distinction: Globe Creative Effectiveness Prize

GOLD: Best Use of Media • SILVER: Sustained Success

Situation Analysis: James Ready competes in Ontario’s discount beer segment, and has to survive against huge players with far more money to spend. It demonstrates how a highly innovative focus on a core fan base delivered consistent growth.

Strategy & Insight: Starting in mid-2008, JR involved drinkers directly in a cause — to help keep it at a “buck-a-beer.” This worked, but in 2010 the price of discount beers in Ontario was legislated to increase, so how could it be the beer of the people when it was no longer a buck? The answer lay in helping its fans save money. But this had to go beyond mere words. Everything the brand did had to act as proof that James Ready behaves differently.

Execution: A long-running series of unconventional participation ideas was born. New packaging had fun messages under each cap and label, telling fans how to keep the beer a buck. Billboards had space left blank so that fans could respond with messages, mischief and mayhem. The website showed people how to make their own beer coasters, hats and T-shirts, and everyone who submitted a message got a handwritten thank you from the brewery.

Then came billboard coupons: all consumers had to do was take a picture of the billboard coupon on their phone, present it to the local business and redeem. Later, on radio, came “How Can JR Help You?” which made listeners two offers; airtime in a radio spot to use as they see fit and the chance to get help from the brewery wherever they needed it. From an immense pool of responses, JR fulfilled the big wishes of five lucky fans.

Finally, even a screw-up was turned into an advantage. When a printing error left millions of JR Beer Caps blank, fans immediately asked “WTF?” To make amends, JR launched the Blank Cap Recall. Any drinker who mailed in a blank cap would get something fun and cheap as compensation. Thousands of drinkers participated, and the irreverent response helped cement love of the brand.

Results: Against 2007 as a base, James Ready’s sales in hectolitres grew 245% by 2011. Market share followed suit, adding a full share point and growing from 0.39% to 1.39%.

Cause & Effect: This case is a pure advertising success story. It shows the effect of marketing communications driving brand growth at a marketing spend of less than $300,000 a year, with no other marketing factor varying.


James Ready Brewery Company
VP, sales and marketing: Matt Johnston; director, sales and marketing: Chris Waldock; senior brand manager: Deanna Kaminskyj; assistant brand manager: Chris Kreutzer

Leo Burnett
CEO, CCO: Judy John; VP, CD: Lisa Greenberg; group account director: David Buckspan; account director: Natasha Dagenais; account executive: Rebecca Simon; creative group heads, ADs: Anthony Chelvanathan, Paul Giannetta; creative group heads, writers: Steve Persico, Sean Barlow

Starcom MediaVest Group; Wills & Co Media Strategies Inc.; Campus Intercept

Click here to return to the list of winning cases