Big Ideas from a Small World

Moving to C-level pastures.

If your reading this there is a way bigger party in town.

I’ve joined the ranks of the business owners and opened up my own shop – Switch Advertising.

You can follow us on Tumblr TwitterOn Our Blog

Or head right to our website and send us comments on the main page though facebook.

To the 10,000+ people who have read this blog thank you.

Advertisements

A Word From Jack Bensimon

Posted in Change Something, From Canada, Global Outlook, Make Friends by Ryan Thomas on February 3, 2010

At the Advertising Week Gala hosted by the ICA, I stole a moment of Jack Bensimon’s time.

I wanted to ask a brilliant and independent mind on advertising how he did it; how anyone can be small and independent and build an award-winning advertising agency.

Personally, I think I wanted to hear that strong investors or a rich background with industry connections made Bensimon-Byrne what it is today. That’s the kind of answer that would have excused every small agency struggling to keep above water in our holding-company-owned world.

The answer I got was surprising to say the least, and on a day when TOY in NYC has died an early death I think it’s an answer worth sharing.

Jack’s answer was humble:

We were five people working out of a small agency. I think the one thing we got lucky and did right was the day we were called by a potential client in the rental car business. He had heard of us and wanted us to submit for the RFP.

I made him commit right then and there that if we produced the best creative, we would receive the account. I did not want to create a full pitch and then lose because our agency was too small to handle the account. If we were big enough to submit a proposal, we were big enough to handle the work.

The Bensimon-Byrne team did in fact submit the best creative.

The client was hard pressed to admit it, but they were too small. But, they had promised to take a risk and the creative was there. 13 years later that same agency has created some of the most effective creative advertising in Canada.

Risk and Commitment – the two words we never hear often enough from clients and agencies alike.

To see a little bit of what Bensimon offers its clients look no further than RecycleMe.org:

More on BioShock2 – virtual to real world marketing

Posted in Change Something, From Canada, Get High Fives, Global Outlook by Ryan Thomas on August 9, 2009

Back when I posted about the BioShock2 website, people all over the internet guessed at where the marketing team behind the project was taking this event.

Now there is more on the BioShock2 ambient and digital advertising.

Long story short it’s brilliant:

504x_vancouver2

Tagged with: , , ,

AMC creates online (themed) casting call.

Posted in From Canada, Make Friends by Ryan Thomas on July 23, 2009

It is what it sounds like. If you’re a fan of the show MADMEN and you have a few curves and a dream you owe it to yourself to fire off a picture.

Although it means competing with this girl!

She sortta looks like an Asian Mary Wells.

Tagged with: , ,

Ad Schooling In Canada – Has What It Takes

Posted in Change Something, From Canada by Ryan Thomas on July 16, 2009

Below is a letter I have just written to the editor of Marketing Magazine about their August front page feature. I’m posting it here in it’s entirety. Social networking don’t fail me now:

Matt,

I called today about the feature in the August issue, a few students currently in the program had texted me today when they saw almost no mention of Seneca@York in the piece. My heart went out to them.

Seneca’s CAB program has done some amazing things to stay adaptive in the recent years – as we talk about breaking down silos like in the Juniper Park article in the same issue (page 9) Seneca is one of the few schools that is putting its money where its mouth is. Not simply focusing on copy and art but by teaching an integrated platform of creative advertising, strategy, trend tracking, and public relations with ever increasing focus on the digital spectrum.

Outside of this unique core structure, staff have provided real client briefs to every class for years. This policy of real clients, spearheaded by real agencies was long in effect before my enrollment in the program and because of the creative and business streams taught at the school, it’s much deeper than simply being handed a brief.

Last I checked, Anthony Kalamut program coordinator of Seneca was also advising of the building the advertising curriculum of St. Marguerite d’Youville Secondary School. How this amazing program was not worth mention by your writer is beyond me. Now finishing its second year, Diana has done at the high school level what Humber is still trying to do at the collegiate level.

This year the grade 12 class pitched The Planet In Focus Film Festival to real clients on a three week creative turn around. Real Projects, Real Clients.

I understand the pressures on today’s modern publishers. Tight deadlines, quick turnaround times, but these interviews were conducted at Portfolio Night in Toronto. It’s one thing to miss a few schools when asking if young students “have what it takes to make an impact”, quite another to miss the events lead educational sponsor and the only school to put advertising dollars into supporting this industry event.

Matt if you think I’m bias, ask Scott Goodson – he thought Seneca was worth mention.

Steam Whistle Brewing cures your recession blues!

Posted in From Canada by Ryan Thomas on June 18, 2009

Steam Whistle, a Canadian independent brewing company has done an amazing job growing its market share with word of mouth, location, and a quality product. They have really never been a major advertiser, focusing more on PR and Event Management.

When Sharpe Blackmore pitched them spec work, I’m sure they must have been apprehensive.

Now Sharpe’s spot is running on CBC here in Canada and a great company has realized the value of the advertising game.

Check it out:

Kudos to Sharp for reconizing the opputurnity and Steam Whistle for really putting the brand out there.

Change-vertising: Why it’s ok to make Dungeons and Dragons Jokes

Posted in From Canada, Get High Fives, Global Outlook by Ryan Thomas on May 27, 2009

This morning a good friend of mine and talented writer here in Toronto sent me the following e-mail:

I’ve been reading Goodson’s blogs and articles for days now, and analyzing case studies on the Strawberry Frog site. I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the exact notion of Cultural Movements and how you would go about sparking one.
And also how you could project the success of your idea without actually having to execute it in order to sell the idea to a client.

I’m hoping you have some knowledge about this and could provide some insight?

Insight I have. Dental and Medical I do not. So without further ado…

Step 1:

kindling

Think of a closed culture as a log cabin. They are structurally sound, tightly packed and cozy – but above all they keep the outside out. We all belong to closed cultures or have at one time. Your family is a closed culture, your work place, your hobbies and interests make for great closed cultures.

Well before advertisers stumbled onto the idea of starting cultural movements, closed communities have been breeding them. Jazz spawned whole new way of looking at music, addressed racial barriers, and spawned some of the greatest cultural movements of the 20th century. Remember the beatniks were proto-hippies.

Now it’s important to make a distinction here.

Open Cultures are: Represented in mass media

Closed Cultures are: Not represented in mass media

For this example though, we are going to use one of the strangest closed cultures ever to grace North America:

Dungeons & Dragons

In the mid seventies there was nothing quite as geeky or socially ostracizing as Dungeons and Dragons. Groups of young men limited to 5 or 6 would sit in basements and spend entire afternoons fighting imaginary creatures and playing pretend. The game itself worked on a rules system that was totally inaccessible to people outside the community. To purchase books or products you had to find a store, a rare jewel where often the owners knew you by name.

In short if you were a member of this community you felt a sense of belonging and ownership – yet you were also an outcast.

Step 2:

wet

Closed cultures over time build up vocabulary, preferences and commonalities between its members. The stereotypes often associated with the gay community did not start that way. They developed as a cultural short hand. A way of seeing and speaking that told others that you were a member if they also spoke the same short hand.

Skateboarders did the same thing, though were far less persecuted. If you didn’t know what a heel flip was, you did not belong to the community. It was a simple test and you were a tourist.

These communities developed well in advance of the internet and today closed cultures dry much more quickly. Meme’s can now race through a community over night, developing what once took years in a matter of days.

In our Dungeons and Dragons example cultural short hand revolved around the rule system already packaged with the game. A great roll on a 20 sided dice would let a character do amazing things. Members of the culture announcing “I roll twenties” is a kin to rappers promising “I’ll make it rain on these hoes“. Once a closed culture has developed a cultural shorthand, brands have an opportunity to partake in the culture.

Twentiesshirt

Nothing is more tragic than when marketers start fires with wet kindling. Free running never had a chance to really develop before it started appearing in marketers’ pitches. It never got the opportunity to call something it’s own before it was sold back to its members.

Step 3:

trees

So you have a culture that is under represented and perfect for your brand. It has its own shorthand. But how do you know if your culture is big enough to really get a good cultural fire started?

Look for trees around the cabin.

Many people may be associated with a closed culture by virtue of personal relationships. You many never have played D&D yourself but that boy you dated in university did. There were always sharp dice on his floor, his bookshelf embarrassed you at house parties. Or you had a Magic the Gathering phase in high school. You knew some of the terms associated with D&D but never really got involved yourself. In many articles about the death of Gary Gygax one of the founding fathers of Dungeons and Dragons his reach is estimated at 20 million players over 30 years. If the average person has upwards of 100 personal contacts, the question begs to be asked: how did D&D stay out of mainstream media for so long?

The same goes for jazz, street racing, guitar hero and about a million other closed cultures.

Your trees have reach and are well connected, if you start a fire big enough, they burn too and you’ll have a fire lit under the ass of a much larger culture.

Step 4:

spark

Use what you have learned about a culture. Borrow its language and images and bring it to mass.

Why mass media?

In an age where everyone is talking about social media, why would starting a cultural movement be about mass?

The answer is simple: To open a closed community’s doors.

Television represents the collective everyman. Even in a market of 1000’s of specialty channels, if it’s on television or on radio or on the side of a billboard, surely you’re not alone.

The community is bigger than you think.

  • Skateboarding is not a crime.
  • He’s a hip cat.
  • I have a plus one to social rolls.

That’s the best activator of social media you will ever find. Suddenly people are willing to say ‘I did it’ or ‘I used to know someone’. The closed community grows and with it your brand and the connections you have made.

It’s high risk and still requires great creative, but sparking a cultural movement means your brand is no longer simply jumping on trends but helping people to connect and recognizing their passions.

Here are some of the closed communities growing in Toronto today:

  • Fixie Bicycle Riders & Slow Bike Gangs
  • Amateur Burlesque & Sideshow groups
  • Stictch n’ Bitchers & Square Foot Gardeners
  • Web & Indy Comic Readers

Given time any one of these could develop into a brand new touch point to help grow people’s personal interests and your brand.

Happy Rolling D&D Image

Couche-Tard aptly named. Manic new spots.

Posted in From Canada by Ryan Thomas on May 11, 2009

If you have never had the privileged of seeing gross-out humour worked well in advertising, you need to see Couche-Tard’s Sloche ads. They have won many an award over the years but this takes the cake.

Cossette does Mentos in Toronto

Posted in From Canada by Ryan Thomas on May 7, 2009

I love a good ambient peice of stunt marketing. They are fun and strange and still not the way we are used to seeing brands in our public spaces. I wince a little at the sound track though, mentos always seemed like such a fun product for such a down tempo score.

Tagged with: ,

More on Toronto’s Billboard Tax

Posted in From Canada, Global Outlook by Ryan Thomas on May 7, 2009

More from Toronto’s Possible Billboard Tax:

torotno

On June 2nd this proposal goes to Executive Committee. From everything I have been hearing there is a really good chance that this may just really happen.

Be ready because your next campaign might be competing for eyeballs with publicly funded art – personally I can’t wait to push my clients towards really creative work.

Tagged with: , , ,