2018 Strategy Awards: Changing the game

How BBDO Toronto and Bensimon Byrne, Narrative, OneMethod mixed things up, plus the Creative Catalyst winners.

Earlier this month, the thinking and strategic planning that went into 25 Canadian campaigns was highlighted (and awarded fox-shaped trophies) at the Strategy Awards. Those agencies and brands were given the spotlight in print, with their winning cases published in the October issue of strategy magazine. This week, we’re showcasing that work, a couple categories at a time. Watch your inbox for stories in StrategyDaily or check out the Strategy Awards link here to see all the cases as they’re being rolled out.


Game Changer: Speaking up about things that are difficult can, well, be difficult. But tackling old problems in new ways is what can yield meaningful results if you want to make a difference. Both Casey House and the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care changed the game with campaigns that spoke out about issues that some might choose to ignore.

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Fail to succeed

The Wins: Game Changer, Silver + Niche Strategy, Silver + Cause/Public Service, Bronze + Research Mastery, Bronze 

Smoking kills. Most people know this, yet 600,000 young people in Ontario still smoke. Even more contradictory is that 80% of regular smokers age 18 to 34 think “a lot” or “sometimes” about quitting, according to research by the Ontario Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care.

But BBDO Toronto found a study that revealed smokers in Ontario tried quitting an average of 29.6 times over the course of three years. People want to quit, but failing over and over again is discouraging.

Over the years, public health ads often talk about the importance of quitting smoking, however they don’t necessarily speak honestly about how hard it is to kick the habit for good.

The agency decided the “Be a Failure” campaign would let young smokers know it’s okay to quit over, and over, and over again. Because the next time might be the last time.

The “Be a Failure” campaign reached millennial and Gen Z smokers on another item they often have in their hands: a phone. To intercept the habit of social browsing while smoking, the campaign appeared in Facebook and Twitter feeds, reinforced by influencers who generated their own posts on the topic. Static and digital posters were also placed on campuses and in resto-bars. Digital video provided a thumb-stopping option while browsing, and mobile-optimized display appeared alongside age-relevant content.

Embracing failure was a success. Post-campaign tracking reported that the key behaviour change metric (“seriously intend to quit”) improved 20% above health ministry norms. Average time spent on the “Quit Resources” website was over three times above government norms, and the campaign generated a 17% lift in immediate intentions to quit. Eighty-seven percent of those who saw the ads accepted that it will take double the amount of attempts to quit before they succeed. The campaign also generated a 17 point lift in intention to quit among regular smokers and one-sixth of the 600,000 target indicated serious interest in exploring quitting resources.

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Appetite for change

The Wins: Game Changer, Silver + Social/Conversational Strategy, Silver + Creative Catalyst, Bronze

Speaking out about things unsaid led to big change for a campaign with a tiny budget.

Bensimon Byrne, Narrative and OneMethod worked with Toronto’s Casey House to bring the message of acceptance to the masses with a media budget of only $35,000.

Even though HIV/AIDS has gone from a death sentence to a manageable chronic disease, public perceptions have not kept pace. There is still a tremendous amount of stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. The “Break Bread Smash Stigma” campaign grew of out of trying to change that.

Discussion and debate often happen around the dinner table, so to get people talking about this tough topic, June’s Eatery was born. The pop-up restaurant was staffed by 14 HIV positive Canadians, who were trained to become chefs, and the supporting #SmashStigma hashtag was created in honour of Casey House founder, June Callwood.

To get media attention, jars of soup prepared by HIV-positive chefs were sent to press and featured provocative phrases like “Test how positive you are about HIV. Dig in.” and “Swallow Your Prejudice.”

June’s Eatery opened in downtown Toronto for three days and media were able to interview the participating chefs during an intimate dinner. The campaign took to social media, where the team fought biased statements with facts using the #SmashStigma hashtag. The journey of the chefs and the dinner event at June’s was captured in a deeply personal film about stigma.
Breaking bread and speaking frankly about HIV brought global attention. More than 515 stories drove 926 million impressions. And more than 100 media members attended the launch event, while 300-plus people attended the three-day event, raising $100,000 for Casey House, an organization supporting those with HIV/AIDS. The social campaign garnered over a million impressions on Facebook, and 900,000 impressions on Twitter. Among the 12,000-plus social engagements, 27% of the audience became advocates for the cause by responding to negative comments. For every two negative comments, one advocate jumped in to “smash stigma.” And HBO execs found the resulting documentary so powerful, it decided to distribute it nationally in 2018.

Creative Catalyst: Fail to plan, plan to fail. It’s the foundational insights and strategy work that leads to slam dunks for brands. While creativity may seem like it springs out of nowhere, there’s plenty work done by the planner before the big idea is revealed. Here, the strategy teams for Tourisme Montreal and President’s Choice are recognized for providing the spark that led to brilliant emotion-tapping campaigns.

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The lure of l’amour

The Wins: Creative Catalyst, Silver + Niche Strategy, Silver

After celebrating Montreal’s 375th birthday in the summer of 2017, Tourisme Montreal expected there would be a drop in hotel bookings for the 2018 winter season.

The decision was made to go after residents of Quebec City, which is in easy driving distance from Montreal. The city would proclaim that it had changed, flaunting all the new attractions that were recently developed for Montreal’s anniversary. But residents of the two cities, less than a three-hour drive from each other, don’t have close feelings for one another, the agency found. Montreal brings up feelings of jealousy, rivalry and hate among many Quebecers, but underneath it all there’s a little love. Lg2 opted to be honest about these complex feelings by anthropomorphizing both cities for the campaign.

The geo-targeted integrated campaign was rolled out via billboards, newspapers, television and radio. To invite Quebec City residents to rediscover Montreal in all its renewed glory, the agency sent 100,000 letters to Quebec City homes letting residents know Montreal was set on winning back Quebecers’ hearts. Montreal’s new attractions were highlighted through video messages. Quebec City’s journalists also received surprises from Montreal, with love.

The efforts stoked renewed passion. With more than four million impressions, over one million video views, billboards all over the city and more than 100,000 personalized messages in Quebec City homes, the campaign became the talk of the town and doubled its value thanks to positive press coverage. It generated 138 media articles, and contributed to a 34% increase in visits to the destination’s website.

The plan of getting people to fall back in love with Montreal worked. While hotel bookings were expected to drop, thanks to the campaign, bookings went up more than 4% in a historically slow season.

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All the lonely people

The Wins: Creative Catalyst, Bronze

President’s Choice (PC) brought people to tears because it tapped into something uncovered in the planning stages. It found that 40% of adults report feeling lonely. What’s more, 42% of meals are eaten alone (which is up from 38% in 2012).

Eating together is a simple and universal way for people to connect, yet we live in a society where technology and cultural tensions are increasingly pulling us apart.

So on New Years Day in 2017, PC and John St. released a short film that was about the power of eating together and which became the most shared piece of promoted content in Facebook Canada’s history. Heading into the second year, the team built on that momentum with another emotional film. It showed a girl growing into a young woman, eating with friends and family, and ending with a scene of her eating lunch at her desk and listening to “I Got You Babe.” She is surrounded by other people, yet completely alone as everyone in the office eats at their desks. The spot ends by encouraging people to #EatTogether in 2018.

To further its movment, the brand held the first National Eat Together Day in 2017, where people were encouraged to eat with friends and family in a series of challenges. Then, this year, the agency enlisted local filmmakers to create short films depicting the power of eating together for the 2018 event.

The first Eat Together Day resulted in thousands of Canadians posting their own #EatTogether moments on social. In addition, over 500 stores and 71,200 colleagues participated in the events across Canada.