Goodbye MacLaren McCann, hello McCann Canada

As a send-off, the ashes from the MacLaren office sign will be sent into space this fall.


One of the most important names in the history of Canada’s advertising industry has been retired as MacLaren McCann becomes McCann Canada.

The name change was effective yesterday, on the agency’s 101st anniversary in Canada. In Toronto, the agency has also moved from its office at Bay Street and Queen’s Quay to a new space on Wellington Street (pictured above). It also has offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.

While the MacLaren name holds significant cachet in the Canadian market, David Leonard, CEO of McCann Canada, said in a press release that the consolidation and focus on the the simpler McCann brand is happening in several other markets and is a way of showing a closer integration with agency offices across the global network.

“With the globalization of agency networks and the compression of real-time connectivity in every facet of our industry, agency brands are more closely united than ever before,” he said. “Just as we counsel our clients to put their money behind the most powerful brand, the truth is we need to do that as well, and today that brand is McCann.”

To ensure the MacLaren brand gets the send-off it deserves, the agency literally took the name off the wall and burned it down into ashes. It contacted Celestis, a company that blasts the cremated remains of loved ones into space, and secured a spot on a rocket set for launch this November.

The new branding puts to rest one of the most significant names in the advertising industry’s earliest days in Canada.

McCann opened its first Canadian office in Toronto in 1915, with a Montreal outpost following in 1918. It was renamed McCann Erickson in 1930 following the global merger of the two agencies.

Five years later, Jack MacLaren bought the Toronto office of Campbell Ewald (itself founded in 1923 to handle the Canadian General Motors account) from its parent network and renamed it MacLaren Advertising. In 1988, the agency was acquired by Interpublic’s Lintas Worldwide – which had, coincidentally, been merged with Campbell Ewald the previous year – and renamed it MacLaren:Lintas. In 1994, IPG acquired Ammirati with the intent of merging it with Lintas – except in Canada, where MacLaren:Lintas was instead made part of the McCann Erickson Group in 1995, bringing the agency offices in Canada together to create MacLaren McCann, at the time the country’s second-largest agency.

MacLaren created Hockey Night in Canada in 1931 when it was given exclusive radio broadcasting rights for games held in Maple Leaf Gardens. Through the 1950s and ’60s, it was the largest ad agency in Canada and its staff produced 85% of TV network programming when the CBC started television broadcasting in 1952. Other significant work to come out of MacLaren over the years includes the “I Am Canadian” campaign for Molson Canadian, the “Built For Drivers” platform for Pontiac and a series of family-focused ads for Unilever’s Sunlight detergent in the 1980s.

The new name is the latest in a number of changes at the agency since Leonard became CEO just over a year ago. It brought on its first chief strategy officer in Mary Chambers and a new leader for its experiential division, as well as hiring Darren Clarke as CCO to lead a creative department that has added Chris Duffett and Scott Johnson as creative directors and Josh Stein as executive creative director. In February, the agency hired Shalom Shapurkar as chief financial officer from Vision7, as well as a number of other additions to several departments. It has also won new business from AlarmForce, PowerStream and the Tourism Partnership of Niagara.