All posts in Advertising

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.

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.


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. : )




Advertising is Your Sugar Daddy

For years, we’ve been watching TV shows, reading magazines, flipping through newspapers, listening to radio stations and more. We tuned in, turned on, and flipped our way to happiness. Best of all, outside of minimal subscription costs or low cable access fees, we didn’t even really have to pay for it.

But it had a cost. A rather large one, actually.

The actors were paid. The writers were paid. The photographers were paid. The people who operated massive printing presses were paid. And your measly $2.99 contribution at your local 7-11 didn’t do a hell of a lot to offset the real costs of production. But thanks for your drop in the bucket.

Luckily, you had a Sugar Daddy: Advertising.

When you wanted to watch re-runs of Who’s the Boss? at 2am just to hear Tony Danza wrestle with the word “Samantha”, advertising whipped out its credit card and paid for it.

When you wanted to thumb through paparazzi photos of Kardashian Hillbillies shopping for shoes, purses, and husbands open to reality TV guest appearances, advertising picked up the tab.

When you wanted to listen to a juvenile morning DJ make fart jokes while conducting a lame contest created just to get you to call in and proclaim your love for 4 random call letters (“I love CKGR!!!), it wasn’t “Madd Mike” who ponied up the dough for the all-inclusive trip to Cancun. It was advertising.

Then, something changed.

The costs of production and distribution for our entertainment needs came down. Radically.
Now, anyone can publish. Anyone can record. Anyone can shoot. And it can all be distributed to 10 for the same cost as getting it to 10 million.

You may still need your Daddy. You just don’t need as much sugar.

It’s not that advertising isn’t as effective as it used to be.
It’s that it’s not as important as it used to be.
It needs us more than we need it.

As consumers, we’ve always shown up for the content.
Smart brands realize that. Smarter brands invest in it.
Welcome to the age of Content Marketing.


Pitch to win.

Whether you’re an agency pitching for a piece of business or a bag of cookies pitching for consumer eyeballs, most of us default to playing it safe.

We don’t want to offend.
We don’t want to show personality.
We don’t want to take risks.
We don’t want to be unique.
After all, what if we’re wrong?

Where it leaves us is right in line with everyone else who, as luck would have it, have chosen to do the same thing.
My good friend, mentor and co-founder of Sharpe Blackmore (which became Euro RSCG which became Havas), Tom Blackmore knew this. Before a pitch one day, Tom passed on this wisdom:

I’d rather be last than second.

I don’t know that a better line was ever spoken about the art of pitching.
If you finished second, you probably said all the safe things.
All the expected things.
You checked off all the boxes.
And gave your prospect all the rational reasons to choose you.

But they didn’t.

They didn’t choose you because you weren’t memorable enough for them to say, “They nailed it.”
They didn’t choose you because you didn’t cause an emotional reaction.
They didn’t choose you because you told them what they wanted to hear not what you wanted to tell them.

When you come in last, you still lose.
But you lose knowing that you went for it.

In some way, at some time, in some place, you will have a pitch today.
Swing for the fences.

Live Lives: The Power of the Live Event.

We’re all a little bit geeky these days.

Every time we turn around, there seems to be a new digital platform that will build community, connect us with our customers, enhance our brands, and generally solve any business problem we encounter with the assurance that the promised land of profitability is just a simple click away. And don’t even mention the ecstasy that arrives when 2.0 is released.

Trust me, I actively promote relevant platforms to our clients and try to help smart marketers separate the wheat from the cat videos for their content needs. I not only get it, I encourage it.

Can we actually connect through digital means? Of course we can. Consumers proudly follow us, like us, share us, pin us, and link to us. It’s easy. It’s entertaining. It’s helpful. And, if you do it right, you’ll grow brand affinity and loyalty.

So go ahead and invest in digital. Focus on digital.

But while you’re spending your dough on pixels, don’t forget about the power of the good old live event. Why?

They’re genuine.
Produced videos and blog posts are great but there’s a certain polish that happens when you edit and perfect what you say and how you say it. Consumers want to do business with brands that are honest and genuine. Putting your company in front of them certainly shows the real you. And if they shouldn’t be buying the real you, ummmm…. what exactly should they be buying?

They’re conversation.
You’ve read it.You’ve heard it. You’ve seen it. “To be successful in social media, you can’t talk about yourself.” Great. Thanks for that and the annoying party metaphor that usually accompanies it. In response, insightful executives have been heard asking, “Well, what the hell do we talk about then?”

To elevate the conversation beyond product benefits, promotional offers and your list of ingredients, you need something else to talk about. An event can be that topic of conversation. Whether it’s a group of speakers (like the unbelievable ones featured at The Art of Marketing in Vancouver and Art of Management in Toronto that I’m fortunate to be hosting), a stunt, a festival, or a show, live events drive conversation about something people care about. As an added bonus, your brand can tag along for the ride.

There’s no greater example than Red Bull. They supported the live event of the century, Red Bull Stratos, and sat back and watched as millions actively (and indirectly) consumed their brand. While Felix Baumgartner jumped from space, I think it was Red Bull who actually took the greater leap. I’m thrilled it paid off for them and I’m just as happy for their success as I am for his. You want conversation? Red Bull dominated it.

They’re emotional.
I don’t think I’ve ever made anyone cry on this stage (OK.. there was that one time but onions and Robin Sharma were involved). People have certainly laughed along the way, though. Emotion shows our personality and when brands help deliver authentic emotion, we feel a little closer to who they are. The world of advertising has certainly caught on to this. Instead of casting double-scale talent to deliver scripted and rehearsed material, some of the world’s best brands are creating live events that feature natural and genuine emotional reactions and then simply showing those as their commercials.

Coke’s 007 stunt. Volkswagen’s Fun Theory. T-Mobile flash mobs. They all have had innocent bystanders experience a live event before repurposing their reactions as bona fide commercials. Not great for my actor friends but pretty powerful to someone watching at home.

They’re content that produces content.
While the actual live event may be the focus of an initiative, they provide opportunities for additional content that further extends the messaging. Interviews, hashtags, making-of videos, followups, summary reports, testimonials, and even – dare I say – custom magazines, can all be additional pieces of content that spin out of an event that will or has taken place.

Additional content on a specific subject not only fills out your editorial calendar, it allows your customers to dig deeper into something they may want to geek out on. While overall participation may decrease, the depth of it does the exact opposite. “Like the stunt? Here’s a ‘making of’ video. Like that? Here’s an interview with the client.” The deeper they get, the closer they get.

Please invest your dollars in digital. We’ll all be better off for it. But don’t forget to save a a small part of your budget so you can come face-to-face with your customers.

If you disagree, don’t worry. Just come up to the stage, look me in the eye, and tell me about it.


This article first appeared in “The Art of” Magazine. You can subscribe to either print or electronic versions here. 


Find your Brand Belief.

Some of us have no issue talking about ourselves. I certainly don’t (I’m a Gemini born in 1970, BTW). But when it comes to brands, some are a little too eager to pound their chests. “This is our stuff! Here’s our product! Have you tried it?! Have you got our coupon?!!”

We know about the decreasing impact of advertising, the clutter in the space and the consumer’s ability to skip right past us. Given the choice between cat videos and product information, finicky consumers are actually choosing Morris.

Simply put, nobody wants to be pitch slapped. So many of us agency folk have been telling our clients, “Don’t talk about yourself so much.” It’s right and it’s true. But it inevitably creates the client response,

“Well, what the hell am I supposed to talk about, then?”
Oh. Right. We didn’t tell you that part, did we?

Brands have to elevate the conversation to content that people want to interact with. But it’s not just randomly generated cool stuff. 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 or social media strategy. Do it and you’ll actually have something to talk about. Don’t do it and you’ll either be haphazardly generating hit-or-miss tactics or worse, you’ll be left to repurpose your list of ingredients as a blog post.

Getting to the Brand Belief isn’t easy but once you get there, it does give you somewhere interesting to go.

One of our clients is Dx3 Canada, the country’s largest trade show and conference focused on digital marketing, digital advertising and digital retail. The show only  happens 2 days a year (March 6-7, 2013) so talking about the product would get old at the second mention of “Register today”.

Their Brand Belief on the other hand, is “We believe Canadian business needs to get more digital.” Awesome. Now their content decisions can be evaluated by asking, “Does this fulfill our brand belief?” opposed to “Does this mention registration?”

I don’t know that’s there’s a better Brand Belief example than Expedia’s new work, “Find Yours.” Obviously, people can find hotels and flights on Expedia but they’ve elevated the conversation to a far more interesting place with an incredible insight.

They’re not a client of the Tite Group and I doubt they used the Brand Belief process but I think their brand belief is “We believe travel allows people to find a lot more than cities and towns. It helps them find themselves.”

It’s a beautiful story. It has great production value. And it stars a couple from the reality show, “The Real L-Word”. Most importantly, it features the brand without being about the  brand. It simply tells a story about how one man found understanding by traveling to the other side of the country. While I assume he used Expedia to book his flights, I didn’t need to see him do it.

I’ve always known that I can go to Expedia to find flights.
Now I know what they believe in. And I’ll be coming back for more.

Canadian Advertising Community’s 2012 Resolutions.

We all make them. We all break them. And the Canadian advertising industry is no different.
Here they are. In 2012, the Canadian advertising community resolves to…

1. Close the blinds on Antoine.
I don’t watch a lot of live TV because when I do, I’m forced to sit through the forced enthusiasm and badly scripted interruptions of Antoine from Blinds to Go. I actually don’t mind the slowly closing blinds concept but I’d prefer to see it delivered by an ACTRA member. Until then, I’ll be over at Apple TV.

2. Commit to integrating social.
It will be great when we know the ROI of socially sound, customer-focused communications. But why is transparent customer engagement subjected to a level of scrutiny that isn’t applied to other aspects of the business? The only reason the doubters justify inaction is because true social integration radically changes people and processes. Quit asking the spreadsheets to do your job for you. By the time some of you figure it out, you’ll be too late.

3. Invest in good Content Marketing.
Howard Gossage said, “People read what interests them. And sometimes, it’s an ad.”

And often it’s not.

In yesteryear, people didn’t want to see an ad, they had to. Well, now they don’t have to. And now, their content choices include stuff on that weird little hobby they never spoke about. If you absolutely love buttons and can connect with others who love buttons and watch a web show on buttons and attend a button expo, watching advertising supported So You Think You Can Dance suddenly loses its cache. People want good content. It’s time your brand gave it to them.

4. Stop investing in bad Content Marketing.
Content Marketing isn’t finding clever ways to have a character raise your branded cup into frame. That’s right, McDonald’s. I’m talking to you. Please make it stop. And while we’re at it, let’s realize that branded web comedies and dramas compete with comedies and dramas on HBO. Let’s stop making them. I’d rather not sit through Season 2 of VH Sauce’s Life Unjarred, thank you very much.

5. Put the Loan Arranger out to pasture.
Whether he’s buying your gold, lending you money, giving you a mortgage, or sending creepy shivers up your spine, Russell Oliver is a guy who just wants to be on TV. Money should buy many things. Time for this freak to prance around on our public airways shouldn’t be one of them. Oh, yea!

6. Let Ramada do their thing somewhere else.
What’s worse – the horrible music, the ridiculous scenarios or the bad production values? Let’s call it a three way tie. Regardless, I’d rather sleep under the scratchy synthetic comforter at a Journey’s End (where I almost died once) than give my money to a crew that continues to produce this campaign.

7. Close the Gap.
No, not the clothing store. The gap that exists between what Canadian consumers want and what Canadian business is delivering. While not every Canuck wants a mobile integrated, e-commerce driven, unique shopping experience, many do. And the numbers are increasing. If we don’t get our shit together, Canadian retailers will be shutting down as quickly as Amazon warehouses will be popping up.

8. Stop blaming your agencies.
Big ad agencies are caught between delivering solutions for clients who want to push the envelope and those who would rather stuff an envelope. We all have something to learn. So let’s not throw the word “partnership” around during compensation discussions yet not use it when it comes to exploring better ways to do things. Pick your partners and figure it out together.

9. Say “I don’t know”.
Guaranteeing results from new initiatives with very few historical benchmarks is like saying you can predict exactly how long a Hollywood marriage will last. Will it be Kim Kardashian? Russel Brand? Tom Hanks? No one knows. Let’s focus on making the right decisions with the flexibility to change along the way.

10. Learn.
We don’t know. But we should arm ourselves with as much information as we can. Dx3 Canada (full disclosure – I helped them as Content Curator) occurs on January 25-26 and features over 35 workshops on everything you’ll need in 2012 including mobile, social, search, digital wallets, media innovation, trends, digital retailing, ad verification, and more. Facebook, comScore, LinkedIn, Rogers, PayPal, John St., Visa, SAY Media, Amber Mac, and many others will be there. You should, too. It’s super cheap and promises to be fun. Pick the sessions you want to attend at


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Is Liberty Village the next Madison Avenue?

Word on the street is that two large Canadian agencies will be making their new homes in the west end’s Liberty Village. I don’t think they’ll be here until the spring but I hear that Cossette and Draft FCB will be moving in next door. As they should.

King West certainly is the current Ad-Central with a bevy of agencies including recent additions The Hive, Grey Canada and others. It’s also nicely fitted with the Spoke Club, Zoe’s, and Jimmy’s. (Best soy latte in the city if you ask me.) There’s a lot of post production close by, it’s kind of accessible for clients, and it’s socially active. I certainly see why it’s appealing to be there. Hell, I was there for a few years and loved it.

But I think Liberty Village will be the next big agency community.

Come one. Come all. 

Teehan + Lax are already there.

As is Extreme Group. Cartilage just moved in. There’s also Jam3, Fuel, Spafax, Secret Location, OpenFile, Fresh Squeezed Ideas, Plastic Mobile, Curiosity, Channel 500, Indusblue, Matchstick, Tucows, Crucial Interactive, Geneva, soho vfx, Three In A Box, and a host of others. Not huge places but they’re all doing some pretty interesting things.

Agencies always want to be the first, even when it comes to location. Canada’s Madison Avenue used to be at Yonge and St. Clair before people started making their way down to Bloor Street. It went deeper and deeper before stopping at its current location along King / Wellington. Maybe Liberty Village will be next.

Because it’s a self-contained village, I find the sense of community pretty powerful here. You just get a sense that there are a lot of people doing a lot of great things.  Maybe they aren’t but it certainly feels that way. Throw in a few more hundred advertising pros and it’ll be amplified even more.

Will Jimmy’s open a second location or will the ad masses accept Balzac’s and Starbucks? Will the Marketing Awards be held at Lamport Stadium next year? Will West Elm double its revenue as late night workers sprint in to buy anniversary presents?


As a side note, I’m unofficially proud to say that I’ve also made Liberty Village my home.

I’m launching a content marketing agency that works with brands and media properties. It’s called The Tite Group and we have an office at 219 Dufferin. There’s a lot happening. We’re heavily involved in Dx3 Canada. We’re really busy with new clients. And there are amazing things on the horizon.

It’s unofficial because we haven’t had time to finish our web presence. An official launch will occur at a later date.

So mum’s the word, okay?

The intrigue! The drama! The rumours!

Around this time last year, I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t loving life.

Or my job.

I was Vice President and Executive Creative Director at the Toronto office of a well respected international network, Euro RSCG. What was not to like? It was, and remains, a great gig. I absolutely loved my bosses, colleagues and clients. I had a department of talented and fun people. And to top it all off, I had practically grown up with founders Bill Sharpe and Tom Blackmore. Hell, I wouldn’t even be in advertising if it wasn’t for them.

Still I was feeling like I had to make a move.

Simply put, I was frustrated. The industry was rapidly changing and I personally wasn’t doing enough to change with it. So, after much deliberation, I just decided to leave so I could figure it out.
In true Sharpe / Blackmore fashion, the fine folks at Euro gave me a new title, an email address and an office when I needed it. It was all unpaid but little things like that are more appreciated than they ever appear.

So, I set out on a quest much like Karl Pilkington’s An Idiot Abroad.
(Only without the mumbling British accent)

I met with network programming people.
I met with TV producers.
I met with entrepreneurs.
I met with media sales people.
I met with media planners.
I met with content publishers.
I met with senior clients.
I met with junior clients.
I met with academics.
I met with creatives.
I met with agency management.
I met with recruiters.
I met with developers.
I poked. I prodded. I asked. I listened.

And now, I’m almost ready to talk. 
Look for an exciting announcement in the next couple of weeks.

There are already some floating around so let’s add to the rumours. What do you think I’m going to do?