The year in Canadian advertising

From funny airlines to smart chatbots, these are the stories our readers paid the most attention to in 2017.


This article appears in the November/December 2017 issue of strategy.

To recap the year that was, we dug into the stats behind our StrategyDaily, C-Suite, Tech and Shopper Marketing Report newsletters to find which campaigns and programs got the most clicks in 2017. If you aren’t getting the specialized insights you can only get from subscribing to our newsletters, you can do so for free right here.

StrategyDaily: WestJet’s April Fools stunt

Fatigue around brands’ Canada 150 celebrations began just as April Fools was rolling in. That’s when WestJet’s internal content team decided to create the “#MostCanadian Canadian Airline.” An online video announced the airline had rebranded as “Canada Air” and featured Richard Bartrem, VP of marketing communications, doing typical “Canadian” things like relaxing at an ice rink or being excessively polite – at least until he gets a call informing him of the new brand’s similarity to another Canadian airline. Like all the best branded April Fools pranks, it tied back to WestJet’s year-round positioning: it doesn’t need “Canada” in its name to offer kind, friendly service at a fair price.

TDchairC-Suite: TD gives customers a reason to relax

Our readers were really interested in the fact that TD had modernized the design of its iconic green armchair in an effort to communicate its evolved positioning, “Ready for you.” Theresa McLaughlin began gathering insights in early 2016 – when she took over as the bank’s CMO – to help TD adapt to a rapidly changing industry. More than just new furniture, it showed the bank’s attempt to address the fact that 79% of Canadians don’t feel confident about their financial future by positioning itself as being ready for whatever challenge its customers are facing.

Tech: L’Oreal’s chatbot experiment

Many lauded the possibilities of AI-powered chatbots this year. But what made L’Oreal’s approach different was the mindset it adopted when it partnered with Montreal-based developer Automat to enter the space. In a global initiative led by the Canadian office, L’Oreal developed a whole series of specialized bots tailored to specific products and platforms for different services (such as “The Beauty Gifter,” which helps users select the right L’Oreal gift box for a friend). The capabilities of most bots today is limited, so it was refreshing to see L’Oreal take more of a test-and-learn approach with the bots, compiling data to learn more about how its customers might interact with AI in the future.

Shopper Marketing Report: Bringing fun to No Frills

The No Frills “Get The Frill Out Of Your Bill” campaign, by John St., was the largest it had ever done. With retailers like Walmart improving its young grocery offering and established players differentiating around freshness, local roots and new delivery options, No Frills took the opportunity to capitalize on the value that its brand was built on. In a poking-fun-at-premium-brands way, the retailer aimed for the NoFrillscustomer who would rather save money than shop at a store that has its own jazz trio or artisanal charcuterie counter.