All posts by Ron Tite

Does Guitar Center Have the Best Brand Belief on Earth?

Content marketing sure sounds great but it isn’t always easy for marketers to embrace.

It’s a different process.
Done by different people.
At different agencies.
With different costs.
And a fundamental requirement to not talk about your brand 24/7.

What are brands supposed to talk about then?

At the heart of any content marketing strategy is the Brand Belief, the fundamental belief that goes beyond products and services instead of being defined by them.

Whole Foods doesn’t believe in organic groceries, they believe in community.
Red Bull doesn’t believe in caffeinated beverages, they believe that people need a kick in ass to step outside their comfort zone.
Those are great but Guitar Center may have the best sounding Brand Belief of them all.

This Guitar Center video was shared by Suzanne Pope over at Ad Teachings. And we love it.

They could believe in the guitars.
They could believe in the holy chords, G-C-D.
They could believe in learning an instrument.
But those would be far too boring and far too product focused. Consumers would  skip right by them and the content, not to mention the conversation, would dry up almost instantaneously.

Instead, they believe in something greater.
They state, “All we sell is the greatest feeling on earth.” 

Just reading that line makes me want to harness my inner Bon Jovi and belt out a ballad to a stadium full of adoring, Bic-lighter waving fans who would, undoubtedly, sing the chorus with me at the top of their lungs before stopping to say, “We love you, man!”

Of course, that magical feeling is the one that someone gets when another human responds to something they’ve created or performed. Ask any musician and they’ll tell you that it is the greatest feeling on earth. It’s what gets them up. It’s what keeps them going. And it’s what makes all the strumming, picking, and rehearsing worthwhile.

Now that’s something to sell.
That’s something to believe in.
Their products play a role in that feeling but Guitar Center’s not selling the instruments.
They’re selling the feeling that one gets from using the instruments.

The video above is with Questlove but their brand belief inspires months and months of non-stop content:
How do other musicians describe the greatest feeling on earth?
What was it like the first time they experienced it?
How would they describe it in a painting? In spoken word?
Videos, pictures, poems, articles, and more. Tweets, Facebook posts, Pins,  Vines, and stuff for platforms that haven’t even been invented yet.

Presenting interesting content that’s all tied back to a consistent brand belief will interest consumers. Some of those will buy guitars hoping to create the greatest feeling on earth for themselves.

With a clear Brand Belief and an organized content calendar, Guitar Center could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on.
Here’s hoping they do.






The Losers of the 2014 Super Bowl Commercials

The game may have been long over by the time Sha-Na-Na joined Bruno Mars on stage but the commercials went on as planned. You hate the sweater you paid $90 for last week? Too bad. Try being a brand that forked over millions in media and production to advertise during a game that was over after 12 seconds.

Oh well. Here’s who I thought the losers were.

Subway: “It’s Crunch Time”
What’s more off-putting? The brand that stands for eating fresh putting Fritos on their subs or letting a guy in a bad suit sing along with the “Cruncha-Muncha, Fritos on my sub” jingle? You choose. I’m too busy reviving Jared from his shock induced coma. Oh, look. They did it in-house.

SodaStream: “Sorry, Coke & Pepsi”
I don’t see why this spot is getting the love. It’s fine. But last year’s spot showed the true value of SodaStream much more effectively and it didn’t need ScarJo to do it, either. Here’s a tip: When you’re trying to differentiate yourself from the big boys, don’t act or spend like the big boys. This felt like SodaStream was a dot-com from 1999.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Crackle): “Reunion”
I didn’t mind the spot. The writing was funny. My only question is why? Why take a new type of show, shot in a new kind of way, on a new kind of network, and blow your brains out on the king of old school media? Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (which I love) represents the new regime. There was no need to do this.

Wonderful Pistachios: “Stephen Colbert”
After last year’s Psy and this year’s Colbert, maybe Wonderful should take the money they fork over to celebrities and give it to an agency to actually help them build their brand. If only there was a contest. Oh, wait. There was.

Audi: “Doberhuahua”
All that for the line, “Designed without compromise”? Trust me, somewhere along the way, someone compromised. Disappointing effort from a great brand.

Bud Light: “Epic Night”
It starts well. It ends well. It’s executed well. Still, a brand like Bud has to be in front of trends not behind them. Every second brand film feels like it was created by the crew of Just for Laughs Gags. Remember when Howie Madel helped orchestrate that over the top wedding proposal at Disneyland on the show Mobbed 3 years ago? This felt like the beer version of that. Besides, didn’t Heineken do that 6 months ago?

Intuit TurboTax: “Prom”
I love the concept. Love the writing. Love the performance. Hell I even love Shawn in slow motion. I just don’t really like the connection to the brand. That set up was for a faster tax refund? Eeeesh.

Squarespace: “A Better Web Awaits”
“We can’t change what the web has become”… is great territory. I absolutely love the promise of that notion. The spot just didn’t deliver on it. More importantly, I have no clue what Squarespace even does.

Check out the Winners of the 2014 Super Bowl Commercials. 

The Winners of the 2014 Super Bowl Commercials


The game may have been long over by the time Sha-Na-Na joined Bruno Mars on stage but the commercials went on as planned. You hate the sweater you paid $90 for last week? Too bad. Try being a brand that forked over millions in media and production to advertise during a game that was over after 12 seconds.

Oh well. Here’s who I thought the winners were.

Esurance: “Save30”
This wasn’t as funny as E-trade’s “Well, we just wasted 2 million bucks” spot from years ago but it was just as relevant. It not only communicated a strong brand belief, it backed it up with a clever media buy and a second screen contest. Top marks for something so simple.

Maserati: “Strike”
Young creatives pay attention. This is how a writer makes a spot. From the opening line,  “The world is full of giants” to the closing, “…and quietly walk out of the dark and strike”, every word has its place, every beat has its purpose. The only thing they didn’t do was ask the writer of the script to take a look at the name of the car, “Ghibli”. Regardless, as a writer, I wish I wrote this.

Jaguar: “Rendezvous” 
Who knew “Good to be bad” could be so great? Well it was in every way. Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong undoubtedly made British villains and the country they represent proud. I may never be an evil villain but I’d certainly kill for their getaway car. Well done, Jag.

Chevrolet: “Life” 
Aligning with an important event like World Cancer Day isn’t easy. A lot of brands try to be noble but their bias gets in the way and they end up sounding like self-interested capitalists who are just using the charity for profits. This didn’t in any way. Beautiful spot. Amazing song.

VW: “Wings”
A wonderful set up with great casting and nice little smiles throughout. Touch the rainbow!

Cheerios: “Gracie” 
I like brands that stand for something. Thanks, Cheerios. Good for you.

Budweiser: “Puppy Love”
If you saw this and didn’t cry, your heart is made of left-over steel from the Keystone pipeline. I’ll take 1 of these over 10 of those “epic” spots any day.

Chrysler: “America’s Import”
I’m still not sure that Bob Dylan was the right person to appear in this spot. Luckily, he was given a pretty bold script and he delivered. When it comes to drawing a line in the sand, it doesn’t get much better than: “So let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car.”

RadioShack: “The Phone Call”
You want celebs? RadioShack put on their leg warmers and brought in Erik Estrada, Dee Snider, Cliff Clavin, Mary Lou Retton, Devo, Jason, Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter, California Raisins, Teen Wolf, and Alf (who also appeared in an inflight video earlier in the week) for an 80’s flashback that was really fun. Completely self deprecating, too. It’s time for a new Radio Shack. Let’s just see if they can build one.

Hyundai Genesis:  “Dad’s Sixth Sense”
Nice spot indirectly thanking dad. Nice to see especially after all the P&G mom love. I hope I’m as good a dad as this guy.

Go Daddy: “Body Builders”
You want web traffic? Here’s a totally fun depiction of it. Ridiculously simple and simply ridiculous. Besides, Go Daddy finally didn’t resort to using sex to sell. Imagine that.

Check out the Losers of the 2014 Super Bowl Commercials.

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Nobody Wants to be Pitch Slapped: Content Marketing Explained

In between mentions of Big Data, RTB and the “Confession Bear” meme, Content Marketing seems to be getting a lot of ink in our industry. You may call it “branded content” or “sponsored content” or “Hidden Advertising”. Whatever. It doesn’t matter.

The name’s not important.
The discipline is.

So what exactly is the discipline?
Simply put, Content Marketing is the act of creating content that consumers want to see opposed to ads that they have to see. That content can include everything from an individual blog post to a 12 episode reality TV show and all the white papers, Vine videos, Slideshare decks and infographics in between.

Every brand should be a media property. Here’s why:

Consumer expectations.
After the financial roller coaster of the past few years, consumers have returned to simplicity and actively seek value. They want steak over sizzle. Substance over style. Yup, you worked hard to get an MBA so you could study consumer behaviour patterns and consumers are opting to define their brand relationships with Janet Jackson lyrics. “What have you done for me lately?”

Consumers want value and a consistent supply of relevant content can provide it. Luckily, it doesn’t need the Super Bowl to do it, either.

The rise of the niche interests.
Most of us have unique interests that trump the lowest-common denominator content of  traditional media outlets. If you love quilting, there used to be very little that could feed your passion so you tuned into what everyone else was watching or reading. Now you can watch a quilting web show, read a quilting blog, and participate with others in quilting hangouts on Google+. If you love quilting, you can fill your day with quilting.

The availability of niche content has created an alternate media consumption universe.

Consumers used to vote with their wallets. Now they vote with their time. After years of being fed content, consumers can now choose to geek out on what they love. Often, brands (and what they stand for) can qualify for the admiration if they’re memorable enough to cut through. Remember: You’re not competing against your direct competitor for time. You’re competing against cat videos.

Affordable production
Naturally, none of this would be possible if brands had to enlist a full crew, an Avid suite, a Flame artist and a team of nerds to code it. Production and post production are both cheaper than ever, as are the methods of distribution. Want to be Rupert Murdoch? You’re a Macbook Air and a WordPress template away from doing it. Brands can be media properties because ANYONE can be a media property.

Owning is better than renting.
Every brand wants to control the direct customer relationship but that’s increasingly difficult when you’re renting space to show an ad opposed to owning the space on your own platform with your own content. You can deliver exactly what your customers are looking for and you can control their journey down the sales funnel by keeping them in your ecosystem. You can rent a condo but you should own your relationships.

So. What do you do?

Some brands are a little too eager to pound their chests. “Here’s our product! Have you tried it?! Have you got our coupon?!!” Ugh. Nobody wants to be pitch slapped.

Brands have to elevate the conversation to what people want to interact with. That’s rarely achieved by talking exclusively about your products and all the low-salt, low-calorie, high fibre versions they come in. You might think it’s interesting but the consumer has a new Tumblr called “Hot Dogs or Legs” that they’d rather check out.

That being said, it’s not just randomly generated cool stuff either. It has to be strategically relevant to the brand and its customers. So how do you do that?

Find your Brand Belief.
Your Brand Belief is the first critical step in designing your content marketing strategy. Do it and you’ll actually have something to talk about. Don’t do it and you’ll be left to repurpose your list of ingredients as a blog post.

Not surprisingly, the brand belief is a statement that communicates what your brand believes in. What do you stand for? It’s not about saving money and it’s not about selling more product. It’s about values.

We think these are the brand beliefs that define some respected brands.

Red Bull:
We believe that your life can be more exhilarating.

We believe that we can make the world a healthier place.

The Economist:
We believe that the right information can help you be a more successful person.

Whole Foods:
We believe that communities should look out for each other.

What does your brand believe?

The 4Cs of Content Marketing
You have your brand belief. Now what?

Consume all the media that supports your Brand Belief, regardless of whether its from your category or not. Blogs, old movies, magazine articles, Instagram feeds…use every type of content you can. Consume it daily. Be a leader by following others.

Along the consumption path, you’ll discover some pieces of content worthy of sharing with your community. Will you tweet about it? Will you deploy a newsletter with the best of? However you share it, share it. And don’t forget to track insights and trends gathered along the way.

At some point, you have to create something original that clearly articulates or supports your Brand Belief. It could be a full length feature film or it could be a pencil sketch that you fax to your 10 best clients. Only you and the consumer segmentation research you commissioned know exactly what it is. Be professional about it. Make an editorial calendar for the next quarter and stick to it.

The true value of content marketing is adding value so that – wait for it – they’ll eventually buy your product. Nobody likes to be pitch slapped but no one likes going bankrupt either. All of your content and social activities have to be connected so they build community, generate real engagement and actually lead to a sale. It doesn’t just have to work. It has to work together.



Ron Tite is the CEO of The Tite Group, a content marketing agency in Toronto. His first book, “Everyone’s an Artist (or at least they should be)” will be published by Harper Collins in June, 2014.

This article first appeared in Media Digest.

Brands at Cannes: Here’s who should go home with Lions.

With all the problems we have in the world, us advertising professionals patting ourselves on the back is a bit ridiculous. Countries are at war. People are starving. Rob Ford is wiping smoothie chunks from his International Clothiers blazer. Aren’t there more critical problems to solve and more important people to celebrate?

Of course there are. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do support Cannes.

Acknowledged work from around the world gives us all something to shoot for during the other 51 weeks of the year. It inspires us. It drives us. It informs us. And it is the source of that nagging realization that what we’re working on isn’t quite good enough. Yet.

Here’s who I think should go home form Cannes with some hardware. Put them into whatever category you want. These are the ones that’ll continue to motivate me over the next 12 months (in order of importance)

Red Bull Stratos
Whenever you think you have a great idea, ask yourself, “Is it as good as orchestrating the first human to ever break the sound barrier without any form of engine power?”. Sure, this was a really cool brand-appropriate initiative. But more than that, it redefined the editorial / advertising relationship and proved that consumers will tune into great content, regardless of who pays the bill for its creation.

Oreo Daily Twist
“You can still dunk in the dark” was one of my favourite executions of the year but let’s not forget that its spike was set up by a year long volley from the Daily Twist. Oreo didn’t just sign up for creating compelling content, they committed to it in a fun and progressive and consistent way. It was always fresh. And we kept coming back for more. Isn’t that what it’s all about?


Philips Walita Fruit Mashup
Oh, you made a QR Code? Big deal. These people invented new fruit.

Coca-Cola Small World Machines: India and Pakistan
Getting people from two nations who always seem to be on the brink of war to virtually touch hands with one another was more than just a nice story. It was a hint of Coke’s global content plan and a reminder that brands can (and should) be good. More than that, what do you think is more important? Bringing peace (however long or short it was) to a dangerous zone or paying Beyonce a lot of money to dance with your product? One has a soul. The other has a star.

McDonald’s: Our Food. Your Questions.
Thanks to this campaign, there’s a new definition of creativity. It’s called honesty. In a surprising turn of events out there, clever has been trumped by genuine. Smoke and mirrors have been defeated by transparency. And McDonald’s has won over skeptics. Congrats Tribal DDB. You absolutely nailed it.

Ragu’s Long Day of Childhood.
Everything about this campaign feels old school. There’s the food porn, the bite and smile, the cheezy track and more. Who cares? It features a wonderful insight and hilarious scenarios that can keep going as long as we want them to. I haven’t seen a campaign with legs like this since “Real American Heroes / Real Men of Genius”. Keep ‘em coming.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches.
I know, I know. Some of you wise ones out there dissected this down to the molecular level to justify your Negative Nancy perspective. Well, that’s wrong. You’re over thinking it. How a woman thinks she looks is a symptom of a lack (or abundance) of self confidence. Beauty may not be important but the underlying self esteem that warps our perception of ourselves is. If we don’t think we’re beautiful, we probably don’t think we’re as smart or as funny as we are either. Great concept. Great execution.

My name’s not b**ch. It’s Vicky.

On June 5th, I once again hosted the Art of Marketing in Toronto. This is the summary I presented at the end of the day.

While original in arrangement, this call to action features the thoughts from the wonderful speakers who preceded it. Thanks to David Usher, Jonah Berger, Seth Godin, Andrew Zimakas, Cheri Chevalier, Kevin O’Brien, Charles Duhigg, and Biz Stone for their inspiration. Thanks to Erica Ehm for the photograph.

Monkey See. Monkey Do.

While you didn’t see any monkeys here today, you did see some thought leaders and we hope that you were inspired and educated enough to do something different when you return to work.

After all, you’re in the ideas business.
And an idea is only as great as the passion behind it.

So don’t be a compliant slot filler.
Don’t sell average stuff to average people.
And stop bowling.

45% of your day is a habit. First thing tomorrow morning, start breaking it.
Everyone has the capacity to be creative. Especially you.
Luckily, creativity is a renewable resource because it’s 95% work and 5% inspiration.

So go out there a raise a ruckus.

Make the public private.
Play it the way you feel it.
Cross the 4th wall.
Talk it out.
Eat while you dream.
Be weird.
Failure IS an option so jump off cliffs and grow wings on the way down.
But don’t just want to do it. Plan to do it because without structure, freedom and imagination are just chaos.

You have a moral to your story but remember that it’s the story that people connect to.

This was the Art of Marketing. That was our job.
You don’t have a job. You have a platform to do art.

You’re really good at leading yourself. So do it.
You’re really good at connecting. So do it.

We hope we’ve inspired.
We hope we’ve educated.
And we hope you’ll act.

And if anyone ever doubts the brilliance you saw today, there’s only one thing you need to say:
My name’s not b**ch. It’s Vicky.

Thanks for the learning and the laughs.

Lose weight!!! Get fit!!! Grow your business!!!

Whether you’re looking to shed some pounds, decrease your resting heart rate or grow market share for your business, far too many of us fall for outrageous claims, ridiculous pitches, and mystical promises of the “one and only thing” we need to be happy and successful. You sheepishly may have a Bowflex, Atkins book or Vine strategy hiding in your closet as proof.

Sadly, it’s just not possible.

The truth is that there isn’t one diet.
There isn’t one exercise machine.
And there isn’t one school of thought.

We fall for the gadgets, gizmos, and techniques because we want it to be easy.
We want it to be simple.
We want an easy solution, a magic pill, a killer app so we can press a button, collect our cheque, and go back to watching Downton Abbey.

I don’t want to be the grumpy boots who shows up like the parent who drops in on a high school kegger… but building a business isn’t easy.
But it’s not rocket science either.
You just have to be focused on figuring it out. Sure, you can read books or hear speakers or check out case studies but your business is unique. You can’t duplicate a strategy or a tactic. You have roll up your sleeves and do the work to figure out what it all means for you, your customers and your bottomline.

That’s why Dx3 Canada was created.
We’ve filled 2 days – March 6-7 in Toronto – with keynotes, speakers, workshops, debates, demonstrations and Canada’s leading digital companies just  so you can take what you need to get your business to a new place. Social, CRM, retail, RTB, apps, content marketing,.. it’s all in there. It’s an all you can eat digital buffet served up by some of the smartest people on the planet including:

Ben Palmer (co-founder of Barbarian Group)
David Labistour (CEO, Mountain Equipment Co-op)
Alan Huggins (President, Lowe’s Canada)
Michael Macmillan (CEO, Blue Ant Media)
Mike Volpe (CMO, Hubspot)
Ann Handley (CCO, Marketing Profs)
Kerry Munro, (Group President, Canada Post Digital Delivery Network)

In addition, top digital agencies will pitch Xbox campaign ideas for Movember.
PayPal will showcase the retail store of the future.
Amber Mac will interview top CEOS.
AOL will host a conversation lounge of compelling content.
Doug Stephens will launch his new book, Retail Revival.

There’s something for everyone. You just have to listen and watch and then work really hard to make it your own.
To register for Dx3, just click here.

To help, here’s a little video that Marketing Magazine shot. Enjoy. And see you at the show.

2013 Super Bowl Commercials – Winners and Losers.

In the battle of the teams, Baltimore won.
But in the battle of the brands, the score’s not as easy to agree on. Here are my Winners and Losers from this year’s Super Bowl spots.
In the spirit of global viewing and complete accessibility to all the spots, I won’t differentiate based on where they were aired or whether they were released prior to game day.

The Winners

1. Oreo – “Blackout”
The more timely a message is, the more relevant it is. And no one proved that more than Oreo. With a blackout in the game, Oreo created and tweeted the ad featured above. With half the world sharing in the experience, this just-in-time execution may have immediately connected with more people than any other ad in history. Not all of us drink Bud. Not all of us use Samsung. But ALL of us watching the game experienced the blackout at the same time. Oreo connected our dots immediately.

Am I over-dramatizing it? Maybe. But I want to see the numbers before I admit it. With dedicated creative and social teams, Oreo set themselves up for success. In their wake are all the other spots and campaigns created months before (including their own).

Is it possible that a free tweet was more powerful than all the million dollar spots? Yup. Oreo owned the night and they didn’t have to pay a ton of cash in media costs to do it.

2. RAM Trucks – “Farmer”
So, God made a farmer but he may have had a hand in this spot, too. Beautiful still photography accompanied by real audio from Paul Harvey’s moving 1978 speech created a spot that was refreshing and unique (even if the grizzled truck drivers looked a little familiar). There’s not a heck of a lot of farmer in me but this spot made me wish there was.

3. Go Daddy – “”
Apparently, securing your own URL doesn’t actually require the scantily clad women and celebrity spokespeople we’ve seen from Go Daddy in the past. This spot has an obvious insight, a simple idea and it’s well executed. It miraculously strays from the juvenile attitude of the past while still feeling appropriate for the brand. The other one with Bar Refaeli? I can still taste the throw up.

4. Molson Canadian – “The Canadians”
Rethink was given the responsibility to transform Canadian and they went out and got former CPB CD, Aaron Starkman to lead the charge. He and his team have done a nice job. They went back to the obvious Canadian foundations of the brand and used a nice idea to get us to the aspirational rip-o-matic footage that all domestic beer drinking Canadians will love. Best of all, it was made in Canada.

5. Budweiser – “Brotherhood”
If you didn’t tear up during this spot, you have Buckley’s running through your veins and you tear wings off angels in private.

6. Jeep – “Whole Again”
I didn’t like this ad. I thought it was a blatant use of soldiers and patriotism to sell a product and I reacted negatively. Throw in an epic orchestral track, and an Oprah Winfrey voice over and you can see why I thought this was a little over the top. That being said, I’m clearly not the target market. American audiences connect more to “rah-rah” military  messages and – if twitter is any indicator – this effort certainly was popular south of the border. #GodBlessAmerica

7. Budweiser Canada – “Budweiser Red Lights”
A goal light that is synched with real games to sound off and light up whenever your favourite team scores? Are you kidding me? Now THAT is innovation. And isn’t it amazing that when the idea is this good, we don’t really discuss the merits of the spot itself? Who cares? I want a light.

8. Samsung
So it turns out the teaser wasn’t a teaser. It was just another execution. Big deal. The spots are funny and they made quite a statement with the talent they brought on board. You know how the Jays silenced the Yankees by getting Jose Reyes and RA Dickey? That’s what Samsung just did to Apple.

The Losers

1. Blackberry
The product is getting rave reviews. Too bad I can’t say the same about their spot. “It’s easier to show you what it can’t do” is first round thinking generated by a junior team in love with the wacky possibilities. Yes, it has legs. But if people don’t care, does it really matter? The product is next generation. The advertising feels like it’s from the original dot com era.

2. Speed Stick – ‘Unattended Laundry”
Was it the juvenile humour in the spot? Nope.
It was asking people to tweet their #handleit moment. The results were embarrassing for all involved. A special kind of low occurred when Speedstick applauded their own efforts with the tweet below.

Hyundai – “Gaspocalypse”
They spent a lot of dough to get us to a disappointing finish.
This is the Vernon Wells of commercials.

2. TacoBell – “Viva Young”
Funny, I thought this was an RRSP commercial with attitude. All it was missing was a Grandma surfing.

3. Volkswagen – “Get in. Get happy.”
Bob Marley is rolling.

4. Coke
Feels like forced interaction to me.  At least the online user experience was simple, fun(ish) and provided some surprises along the way. Still, even though I voted I’m not really interested in going back to find out who won.

5. BMO
My money makes sense because I can walk around buying stuff before heading into a branch? This may have been the biggest waste of money spent all night. And is it just me or does it look like they shared that street with Blackberry?

6. Bell Fibe
Using the game show question and answer format to address key product points in the creative brief is marginally better than having the client read the script on camera themselves.

 7. Wonderful Pistachios
You know what you did.
And the only one who should be more embarrassed is Psy himself.


Give a big shout out to your mentors. Here’s mine.

BT31Mentors play an important role in our lives. If we knew then what we know now and if we had the opportunity, we all know what we’d say:


But we don’t. There’s never the time. There’s never the place. There’s never the opportunity. But deep down, we wish we could. We wish we could just say it.

Now we can.

It’s called The Big Shout Out and it’s in association with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada, a wonderful organization that’s celebrating their 100th Anniversary.

I’ve had many mentors over my life. There’s Larry Lloyd, a senior public school teacher who saw something in me that I didn’t really see in myself. There’s Craig Matthie, my high school wrestling coach who taught me more than holds and takedowns and who guided me towards Queen’s University. There’s my first boss, Gordon Cassidy, who showed me what an entrepreneur really is.

But given that this is a marketing blog, there are two that deserve a shout out.

I want to give a Big Shout Out to Tom Blackmore and Bill Sharpe.

The founders of Sharpe Blackmore (now Havas Toronto), Bill & Tom both provided me with two completely different ways to approach advertising, business, and life.

They brought me on as an account guy even though I had no experience in advertising.

Bill did the hiring with one of the best things I’ve ever heard anyone say about this industry:

“Being an advertising account guy is simply making a list and checking it off. The only question is are you smart enough to know what goes on the list and are you ambitious enough to check it off?”

After starting standup comedy, I realized that I wanted my comedy and advertising lives to be closer together. I approached Tom and said, “I want to move into the creative department and I’ll take a pay cut to do it.”

His response: “Fuck off.”

I was slightly shocked but said I would continue to work diligently as an Account Director and would work on my book on the side.

“No, no,” he continued. “You’ll move into the creative department immediately. I said that because you should never take a pay cut. You bring skills to the table that will make you a better creative person. Don’t discount that.”

They taught me some other great lessons.

Take care of people. Have fun. Be one step ahead of the other guy. Take chances – but take them knowing that they won’t all work out.

Way back in 1997, I was one of those chances. Over the years, they put their faith in me. They believed in me. And they supported me both in advertising and out. And now that I have my own agency, I realize they taught me more than I ever imagined.

They’re friends. They’re mentors. And I wouldn’t be where I am without them in my life.

Thanks guys. You deserve a Big Shout Out.

Who do you want to give a big shout out to? You can do it at or by simply tweeting it with #thebigshoutout.


Canadian Marketing Predictions for 2013.

So here we are. After eating too many “Quality Streets”, watching too many World Junior hockey games and shoveling too much snow, you’re probably ready to leap into 2013 with a fresh perspective and 5 extra pounds.

What can you look forward to? Well, this:

1. Content partnerships will rule.
On one hand, there are more media opportunities than ever before as specialty networks, web video, and content marketing explode. On the other, the big players are investing heavily in media convergence and consolidation. So what’ll it be?

Truthfully, Canada just doesn’t have the population to justify a ton of brand specific media properties. Content WILL rule but the most effective path to content marketing north of the border will be through partnerships. Brands will partner with media companies and with each other, and we’ll see more interest-focused platforms opposed to brand-focused platforms. Why? Because we have to. It would be nice if we could all be Red Bull but we can’t. There aren’t enough eyeballs and there isn’t enough budget to create stand alone properties in the true north strong and never free.

2. McDonald’s (and Tribal DDB) will win every major advertising prize.
Were there more beautifully shot commercials? Yup. Were there better scripts? You bet. Still, advertising has changed and no initiative embraced the new way to communicate with consumers more than “Our Food. Your Questions.” Sometimes, an epic commercial  with a cast of thousands and a budget to match can do wonders for a business. But it’s not a huge intellectual leap to make. This campaign was different in every way and showed us that transparent dialogue with consumers trumps all. Here’s hoping it’s acknowledged accordingly.

3. The Advertising Testimonial Will Be Redefined.
Ahhh, testimonials. You’ve never seen an informercial without them. Tune in and you can see people shot in their natural environment coached to say strategically relevant soundbites delivered with a performance matched only by Palmerston Public School’s production of West Side Story. With so many honest and genuine testimonials generated through various social media platforms, scripting testimonials isn’t only outdated, it’s ineffective. Let’s hope brands start getting it right.










4. Prepare to be Offended.
There’s a lot of clutter. Blah, blah. You’ve heard it before. But combine that difficulty of cutting through with the financial realities of traditional media and the success of their alternative counterparts and I think you’ll start to see edgier communications from the historically conservative.

The photo and headline from this provocative Time cover caused quite a stir, didn’t they? The complaints flew in from the shocked masses…but so did sales. It was one of the best selling issues of the year and doubled the usual weekly subscription rates. Same goes for the Bloomberg love-fest. And it’s not just covers. Like the regular F-bombs of the Drunk Jays Fans blog? Well, they’re now available through The Score, a traditional outlet now owned by Rogers.

Like never before, it pays to grab our attention. Watch out, 2013. You’re about to be grabbed and depending on your sensitivities, it might hurt. (For the record, I love it. Bring it on.)

5. Canadian Shopping Becomes Supreme
It doesn’t really matter whether you shop virtually or traditionally, I think this is the year that Canadian retailers start to get it right. As a group, they’ve been pretty slow to adopt e-commerce platforms but Target shows up in March, Walmart is rapidly expanding and hopefully, the entire industry ups their game with compelling communications and e-savvy experiences to compete. Sears has started a re-brand (don’t really like it but anything is better than repetitive Sears Days), Canadian Tire has a new spokesperson, and Canada Post is doing some pretty interesting things to help everyone fulfill more profitably.

What’s in store? Hopefully, success.

6. Repurposing Events as Ads
Budweiser’s Flash Fans. Coke’s 007 Stunt. Volkswagen’s Fun Theory. Tropicana’s Arctic Sun. And TNT’s Push to Add Drama. For the past several years, we’ve seen a lot of live events that have been experienced by a few only to repurposed for many as ads for the participating brands. As consumers push for more authentic experiences and communications and as brands become more heavily invested in online brand channels, this trend will certainly continue. We’ll see even more of it in 2013. What will we see less of? The “Gleeification” of advertising with singing flash mobs dancing and prancing their way across our multiple screens. One can hope.

7. Media agencies get it.
Every time I speak to a pure media company with networks, magazines, radio stations, or even blogs for sale, I get the same hushed conversation with a request to never to repeat it. “How do we get around the media agencies to speak directly to the creative people?”

Media agencies can be the biggest barrier to new thinking and better work. But it’s not their fault.

With media commissions at ridiculously low levels, media agencies have had to staff their accounts with young people and have piled more accounts on to their plates. Better thinking requires time for meetings and discussions. Why invest in that when checking CARD for standard rates lets you move on to the next project?

I think we’ll see a change this year. Media shops are changing the way they bill, they’re investing in different lines of revenue and they’re finally seeing the value of real content partnerships. If clients demand more and change the way they compensate their media partners, and if media players become more proactive in their own thinking, media agencies won’t just come to the table with great thinking. They’ll also come as the keepers of the budget. That will carry a lot of weight.

8. At the same time, this is the year that creative shops hire media people.
Big thinking can’t be bought with negotiated rates and full-page ad costs. It requires open thinking and entrepreneurial discussions with appropriate partners around the table. Some creative shops will realize that their best media planner is their creative team or their strategic planner. All that will be left will be signing the contracts. If you’re a creative media person, this could be a big year for you.

9. Tons of people will flock to Dx3.
I’m certainly involved with Dx3 as Chief Content Curator and I’m clearly biased. But in a year where digital marketing, digital advertising and digital retail all have to come together for a better Canadian consumer experience, it will be critical that people learn. There are a lot of questions and people are starting to panic in their search for the answers. I think we’ve assembled a ton of great speakers and companies who can help. Here’s hoping you’ll join us. Feel free to either register at Dx3 Canada or send me an email and tell me you don’t want to be pitch slapped in my blog posts. : )