All posts tagged Canada

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?

Free stress balls! Free stress balls!

Among us self-appointed cool people in marketing and advertising, trade shows don’t really bubble to surface as a priority. The common belief is usually,

“A trade show? Isn’t that where Dockers-wearing sales people wander past pipe and drape booths to collect free stress balls and celebrate a product launch with the members of Honeymoon Suite?”


I was recently named Chief Content Curator for Dx3 Canada, Canada’s largest trade show dedicated to digital advertising, digital marketing, and digital retail. It’s not a full time job or anything – it’s kind of like being appointed a jury head at an award show. I’ll work with the advisory board (some of Canada’s brightest digital minds) to design and deliver a relevant learning experience for all the attendees and participants.

Admittedly, I haven’t attended a ton of trade shows but I know MY business and we need this one badly. Here’s why:

Talk has to be followed by action.

Trust me, I know how valuable conferences are. Hell, I speak at a ton of them and know critical they are. They allow us to  pause. They allow us to think. They allow us to hear unique perspectives, brilliant case studies, and people we would never get access to. They can shape our thinking, confirm our thinking, or point out that we really haven’t been thinking.

At some point, though, that talking has to translate into action.

Did someone convince you that digital signage is critical to retail success? Great. Now get off your butt and buy some. Wondering what mobile advertising platform you should use? Talk to all of them in one place and get on with it.

The St. Lawrence Market for Innovation

Sure, the peameal bacon sandwiches and loud vocal jarring between vendors is great but what I like most about the St. Lawrence market is that everything is under one roof.

The web is a market itself but when you want to actually meet people, demo a product, negotiate a price, or show off your stuff, you need to visit a technology market every once in a while. And when all the important players have set up shop at that market, it’s even more valuable.

We are better business professionals when we talk and listen. But we’re best when we turn all those those conversations into action.

See it. Hear it. Demo it. Feel it. Play with it. Compare it. Order it. Buy it. And most of all, get on with it.

I look forward to working with the great people running Dx3 Canada as well as the brilliant Advisory Board. Hope to see you there.

Dx3 Canada takes place January, 2012.

Speaking of talking, I’ll be hosting the Art of Leadership in Toronto on June 6th and the Art of Marketing in Vancouver on June 9th. Brilliant speakers, relevant content, and fun all around.

Don Draper is dead.

Bye Bye Mad Men (It's going to Sky)

Image by mrrobertwade (wadey) via Flickr

There’s a lot I like about Mad Men. The characters, the art direction and naturally, the brilliant one-liners from Roger Sterling:

 “She died like she lived. Surrounded by the people she answered phones for.“ (Season 4, Episode 9)

 “Well, I gotta go learn a bunch of people’s names before I fire them.” (Season 4, Episode 12)

As brilliant as the Roger character is, Don Draper gets most of the attention. In fact, when someone outside of the business finds out I work in advertising, they’ll innocently ask, “Who are you on Mad Men?” I can see them waiting in anticipation, hoping I respond ‘Don Draper’ so they can pull out tired jokes about his philandering, binge boozing, and heavy addiction to butts.

The reality is this: Don Draper doesn’t exist anymore(Hell, he hardly existed in the 60’s).
And it’s not because smoking is prohibited or because the only drinking allowed is the 10am shot of Diet Coke. 

No, being a Creative Director is a pretty tough job these days. Here’s a couple of reasons why. 

The Left Brain Coup.
Whether it’s an endless parade of focus groups or an expectation of specific ROI, the left brainers have a lot more clout these days. It’s not right. And it’s not wrong. It’s just different. On one hand, a Creative Director is expected to deliver original, breakthrough ideas that have never been done before. On the other, ROI forecasting is only possible when you measure ideas against everything that has been done before.

Diverse Clients, Diverse Needs.
Draper had it easy. He only had to master TV, print, and a couple of billboards. As a trusted consultant, a CD in 2010 should be able to advise clients on the latest opportunities and how to best leverage emerging channels. But it’s tough to be an expert on anything when one client needs a DM piece and another needs an Android app. 

The Economy
In 2010, clients cut budgets as they responded to economic realities in North America. That put a lot of pressure on Creative Directors to sell more, push more, win more, and accept more. As a good friend and Creative Director of an international agency said to me recently, “I’ve never worked so hard for so little.”

Tune in tomorrow and I’ll share a couple more.

+ Be sure to read more about this in Jeromy Lloyd’s piece, “Rumbles in the Jungles”, in the upcoming Marketing Magazine.
In addition, I’m hosting a panel discussion of some of Canada’s top Creative Directors on the subject, “It’s not really fun anymore.”
It’ll be available in video form next week through Marketing. If you have any questions that you’d like me to ask them, leave them in the comments below. 


Talk about a Thriller…

The current logo of Fox Television

Image via Wikipedia

I have never really understood why Americans sing God Bless America before sporting events. It’s kinda Stephen Baldwin to the Star Bangled Banner’s Alec – related but not nearly as important in the grand scheme of things.

Well, Glee’s Lea Michelle (who I always want to call Michelle Lea) sang it the other night at that football game. Fair enough. Until you think about it.

It wasn’t a song.
It wasn’t a pre-game ritual.
It was an ad.

The game’s broadcaster, Fox, was airing a special episode of Glee immediately following the game and Michele’s presence certainly helped promote the show.

Fox sells content to advertisers. That’s their business. That’s their product. The more viewers they get, the more they charge advertisers and the more money they make. So Michele’s presence was nothing more than a carefully orchestrated in-game commercial to get as many Super Bowl viewers to hang around for the post-game Thriller Glee-fest.

And you know what? I love it.

Somehow, Fox managed to create a 360, integrated campaign that featured branded content, an experiential event, unofficial sponsorship, credible in-game mentions, and traditional 30 second spots leading up to the big product launch… um….I mean.. show.

Most importantly, it worked.

Glee scored 27 million viewers for the episode. That’s the most ever.

There’s a lot that us ad folk can learn from the networks. They get it. They created a Thriller and brilliantly got people to buy.
My only question: What were the Link scores?

Tune in tomorrow when I’ll address Rogers media presence in Canada. Here’s a hint: I don’t think they’re evil.


Be Proud of Canadian Advertising.

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Canadian Super Bowl Advertising. It’s not lame.

Coast to coast, the Super Sunday commercials are debated, discussed, and dissed. As much I participate in critiquing the ads aired, there’s one annual collective Canadian statement I don’t agree with:

“The Canadian advertising is lame.”

I like the American ads as much as the next Joe Canadian – I actually muted the game and watched the US spots on Youtube – but it doesn’t mean that Canadian advertising is worse than American advertising. We’re lucky to have some of the best creative minds in the world living and working right here in our home and native land.  

No, it’s not about talent. It’s not about ability. It’s about money.

With ten times the population and the budgets to match, our American counterparts can afford to deliver spots with insane production values that are created exclusively for that one event and the audience it attracts. A brief that targeted is bound to create brilliant work. And it has. Some of the best commercials of all time – Apple’s “1984”, Budweiser’s “9/11 Tribute” and Google’s “Parisian Love” – were aired only once and that was during the Super Bowl.

North of the border, we just can’t do that.

There aren’t many Canadian clients who can invest a significant portion of their budget for one big spot created exclusively for one big night. And if you tuned in last night, you experienced what that means.

It means we get pretty good commercials that we’ve probably seen before or new ones that were produced in the US and customized for our market by changing “.com” to “.ca”. Even the select few that are specifically created for CTV’s Super Bowl feed (Thanks, TD) are done with modest budgets and a lot less fanfare.

We don’t blow our budgets on one big party. We’re Canadian. We’re responsible. And sometimes, that’s better in the long run. Right, Fannie Mae?