The year in Canadian advertising

We compiled strategy's most-read stories from the past 12 months to see what created the most industry buzz.


A version of this story appears in the November/December issue of strategy.

Curiosity carried the campaign

“The Sudbury Incident” was a Coffee Mate campaign by McCann that involved mysterious TV spots featuring coffee-drinkers whose coffee preferences suddenly changed and a documentarian investigating why on Instagram. Our piece on it became strategy’s most-read online story. Not for the year – the most-read ever. We suspect many of those hits were from amateur sleuths trying to solve the mystery themselves, but given the nature of the campaign, that’s probably a sign of success.

hardwork2An anthem for … a bank

Tangerine’s “Hard Work” by John St. had the digital bank move away from driving awareness to establishing an emotional brand positioning around the bank putting the same effort into handling a customer’s money as Canadians put into earning it (see pp. 28 and 57). It’s been a while since powerful film work took centre stage, and the anthem spot made watching someone stick their arm inside a cow more entertaining than we ever thought it could be.

BUDWEISER-North Bound. Budweiser is Lighting up the WorldGo big or go home

Budweiser has earned love from hockey fans over the years with WiFi-connected goal lights and pint glasses that go off when their favourite team scores. But this year it went bigger (and further) than most brands would ever dream, working with Anomaly to send a 20-foot tall version of the goal light to the North Pole, stopping at hockey events across Canada along the way.

PepsiCo Canada-Lay-s- and Swiss Chalet- team up to create the ulTaste the success

Strategy had many stories feeding the industry’s obsession with innovation, but the most exciting one for our readers came on the product side: Lays teaming up with Swiss Chalet to create a chip flavour based on the Canadian favourite “Chalet Sauce.” The lesson? Even the coolest tech is no match for old-fashioned Canadiana.




Dentsu gets a Grip

After the flurry of mergers, acquisitions and closings in 2015, things settled down significantly in the agency world this year. One exception to that was the acquisition of Grip by Dentsu Aegis. The agency looked to expand (without compromising its independence or structure) and the holding company wanted to diversify. It seems to be working so far: the agency has brought on 30 new employees since the deal was announced.


SickKids_3SickKids puts up a fight

The story you’ve been reading so far was written and published at the beginning of November so it could make it into our year-end issue. But in that short time, another story has shot up our rankings.

The “VS” campaign by Cossette for SickKids forewent tugging at the heartstrings in favour of high-impact shots and a thumping hip-hop soundtrack. It also abandoned the idea that kids treated at the hospital and ones like it are weak because of their sickness, portraying them as warriors, wrestlers and superheroes taking the fight to diseases. The campaign has been impossible to miss in Toronto, with gigantic posters and photos of the kids completely taking over several screens at Yonge-Dundas Square.

Even though the campaign involved over 100 SickKids staff and 50 families who had came through its doors, when the campaign burst onto the scene, it was criticized by some and reignited debate about using a “battle” metaphor for talking about illness, especially when it comes to chronic or terminal illness (because sometimes a child finds itself on the losing side). But among many of the follow-up executions, the “SickKids VS Cancer” spot told the story of Grace Bowen, a girl who was among the 20% of children who lose their fight with cancer. The “VS” idea was then applied to the hospital’s staff, showing how Grace and the stories of children like her motivate them to keep fighting.