Strategy’s 2019 Nice List

Filled with holiday goodwill, our staff singles out work from the past year worthy of some extra recognition.

The Ontario Government and Rethink make a plea for the safety of young athletes

As a teenager, I dedicated much of my time to two pursuits: succeeding in school and succeeding on the soccer field. The first demanded a degree of meekness; the other, an aggression I didn’t even know existed within me, or at least, a willingness to put my body on the line for the team. Though far from professional, I played competitively, and so I embraced the occasional body-beating.

There’s a reason Rethink’s spot for the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sports has made a lasting impression on me. I have carried that aggressive spirit of my soccer youth with me into adulthood (and into my adult rec league) without ever questioning the dangers I was putting myself and other players in. Once, during a high school tournament, I was thrown into the air and carried off the pitch, barely coherent. In our hotel that night, as my friends took turns waking me every few hours to make sure I’d be alright, all I kept thinking was: I better be able to play tomorrow.

Never has my stupidity been presented to me as cogently as in Rethink’s commercial. The video shows a young athlete ignoring her own injuries, until it’s too late. It was shot as part of a government-led awareness campaign around the dangers of concussions and the passing of Rowan’s Law, a piece of legislation named after a student who died at 17 after suffering multiple head injuries. It’s a beautiful and alarming piece of creative that I hope as seen the success it deserves.

And its message has stuck with me. Playing goalie last week, I threw all the force I could muster into a goal-clearing kick just as their player was getting ready to shoot. The crash sent him flying. He stumbled back to his feet, bleary-eyed and confused.

I remembered where I’d seen that look before.

Justin Dallaire, special reports editor

McDonald’s and Cossette turn fast food jobs into a bonding opportunity

There were so many amazing campaigns this year that it’s very hard to pick just one (as per Carlos Moreno in Cossette’s AOY “Agency Crush” video).

That said, one that stands out for me was funny, warm-hearted (which we need more of now that we have to endure impeachment shenanigans), and, most importantly, was a genius way to solve a business problem that plagues a lot of industries. It’s the “Friends Wanted” recruitment push for McDonald’s.

Recognizing that first jobs – and first job interviews – can be intimidating, and solving for that trepidation by launching a buddies co-recruitment campaign is one of those ideas that just keeps on giving. From conducting joint interviews to allowing for joint applications, it’s far more than a campaign: it’s a staffing strategy that doubles the odds, and has legs. Baking in the friend angle is particularly clever given the new ghosting-workforce epidemic.

The super-targeted video vignettes of on-the-job camaraderie – with moments like “bring your dancing shoes boys” – help make a first job seem more fun than frightening, while combating the “McJob” stigma. It also hits a nostalgia chord for older generations flashing back to their first pay cheque. But most importantly, the work by Cossette, driven by OMD’s media planning, sparked over 75,000 more applications year over year.

Mary Maddever, SVP and editorial director

Baffin and Elemental take a poetic approach to performance

There aren’t many brands audacious enough to use poetry in their creative, let alone obscure century-old verse, but footwear brand Baffin’s “Made for all Seasons” campaign makes effective use Grant Balfour’s collection, “Canada, My Home” to underscore the nation’s beauty and to draw attention to its storied brand heritage.

The creative features a languid, arresting images including a ship’s bow bobbing up and down in choppy seas, aerial fall colours, sunsets, austere wintry landscapes and grainy 70s home video from when the company was founded, to great effect.

Designed by Elemental, “Baffin: Made for all Seasons” was meant to be the antithesis of one of those “humble hype” videos popular with performance and outerwear fashion brands.

Christopher Lombardo, staff writer

The Egg Farmers of Canada and Cossette make the only funny ad

My partner hates all commercials, so trust me when I say this is a ringing endorsement: this ad from Cossette’s “Eggs Anytime” platform with the Egg Farmers of Canada made her laugh and say, “yeah, that one is pretty good.”

Josh Kolm, StrategyDaily editor

Pathways to Education and Camp Jefferson take a different lens to income inequality

The older I get, the better I am at checking my own privilege. It’s my hope that anyone who encountered the fall campaign from Pathways to Education was prompted to do the same. The non-profit’s goal was to highlight the realities of this country’s high school dropout rate – five to 15% and 50% in low-income communities, according to the campaign and Stats Canada.

Those numbers are astounding. And, likely the result of a host of factors like the effects of capitalism, voter apathy and income inequality, which is exactly what the campaign also highlighted in its static OOH. Hypothetical scenarios using riddles looked deep into the future at the real-life consequences of not having an education – not just on individuals, but society as a whole.

The campaign from Pathways took those stats and made them tangible, something digestible to take the brain beyond the numbers. In this, the instantaneous world we find ourselves in today, it was refreshing to see a campaign convey a message with multiple layers, in an authentic way.

“Jeff has $6. If the bus to and from school costs $4 and school lunch costs $5, how many years will Jeff depend on social assistance?”

Most people I know are struggling to balance their budgets, no matter their level of education. That is a pinch that is only going to feel tighter as we enter a new decade. It all sounds very grim and devoid of hope, I know. That feeling is echoed in the campaign’s 90-second video spot which highlights the challenges this generation faces in getting to graduation (see reversing the effects of climate change, no big deal).

All this to say, authenticity is a buzzword in this industry. Authenticity is a buzzword surrounding Gen Z. Here, in this campaign with creative from Camp Jefferson, supported by Cossette Media, authenticity rings devastatingly true.

Kristyn Anthony, staff writer, Media in Canada

GO Transit and BBDO take a disruptive approach to public transit

Some might call me a radical. Some might call me an extremist. Some even call me a moron.

I ride my bike to work almost every day (yes, even during weeks like this. They’re called long johns; invest in them). When I’m not riding my bike, I’m on transit – not just to trek around the city but to travel across the GTA. I’ve hopped on GO trains and buses to visit my parents in Durham, to take classes in Mississauga, and, once a week for the last three years, I’ve taken the Lakeshore West during rush hour to downtown Hamilton to go and teach a few hours of dance, then take the late night bus home.

See, I have this extreme world view that we need fewer cars on the road – largely for the sake of safety and the environment. But to be honest, there’s a big case of getting out of the driver’s seat for the sake of our sanity as well.

You see, when I’m on transit, I don’t have to worry about, well, keeping my eyes on the road. I can put my headphones in, read an article or even just let my eyes close. That’s why I like GO Transit’s ‘GO Time’ campaign, which is an extension of the brand platform it launched at this year’s Canadian International Auto Show.

The whole campaign, particularly the Auto Show video, is a little tongue-in-cheek – it jokingly refers to the GO Bus as a “self-driving vehicle” – but it’s rooted in sincere truth. The fact is, on transit, you can tune out. You don’t have to crack the window at night to keep yourself alert. You can text as much as you want.

It’s also incredibly relevant for 2019. Not only are our roads becoming increasingly congested (and dangerous), but as a society, we’re busier and more connected than ever. While it would be nice to tell the world to unplug a little more and slow down, let’s face it: that’s not happening anytime soon. So hats off to BBDO for finding a way to make GO sleek and cool while also capitalizing on a very relevant cultural moment.

Bree Rody, editor, Media in Canada