MiC’s Nice List: Best of 2014

From Kraft's adorable shift in strategy to an anti-littering PSA that got yanked, the editorial team at MiC and strategy pick their favourite campaigns from the last 12 months.

It’s that time of year again when we get to reflect on the work from the Canadian advertising industry that stood out in the memory of our writers and editors, then pick one to write about. Check out what strategy and MiC chose as their favourite projects from 2014 and keep the genius work coming in 2015.

Tanya Kostiw, copy chief and writer, strategy magazine

The best brands are often those that forge the strongest emotional resonance with consumers. Kraft has been all over this strategy of late, and in my mind, its “Stick Together” campaign takes the cake for being able to strike the right chord. The so-called “hero” in the world of CPG is often the product, but with this Kraft Peanut Butter push, it’s a pair of downright adorable teddy bears that help convey sentiments around nostalgia and the ties that bind. (The teddies are based off the bear mascots which have been on the product label since its 1960 launch.)

The campaign represents a shift in the brand’s strategy from a utilitarian-sort of love for the product to one that aims to incite consumers to spend more time with their loved ones. Kraft rolled out a heartstring-tugging spot portraying a woman as she grows up, with appearances from the teddy over the years, wrapping with the new mom and baby sleeping, with not just one teddy by mom’s side, but its mate, carefully placed by her partner.

The brand says it had an overwhelming demand from consumers who wanted a teddy of their own after seeing the spot (the latter provided an ROI 65% above industry norms.) So it started to sell teddies this past fall, shipping 80,000 to grocery stores and has nearly sold out of the 7,500 units (sold in pairs in a little house) available online. A spot called “Friends Forever” depicts children receiving the teddies and captures their excitement in slow motion, tapping into the notion of special moments.

Among the strengths of the original spot is its relatability – I immediately see myself as the woman. Talk about the power of advertising.

Emotional resonance overload? Check.

I challenge you to find something stickier than that.

wearewinter imageJennifer Horn, ‎special projects & multimedia editor, strategy magazine

There was once a time (as difficult as this may be to believe) when Canadians were excited, nay, boastful, about their country’s icy, frigid winters. If you didn’t notice, their intense pride was plastered everywhere. There wasn’t a dealership door or a retail wall that didn’t tout three simple words that made Canucks thrilled about nippy winter days.

We Are Winter” made even the angriest winter-haters warm up to the cold. The Canadian Olympic Committee’s marketing campaign, which was created by Proximity for the Sochi Winter Olympics, tallied more than $15 million worth of media, all of which was donated by companies like the CBC,Globe and Mail and Twitter, thanks in large part to partnerships spearheaded by OMD.

In total, there were more than a thousand billboards, 160 restaurant screens, over 230 newspaper ads, and multiple TV spots and online docs that put a spotlight on Canada’s athletes. All of the creative pushed viewers to share the hashtag #wearewinter, and basically gave thanks to the country’s inclement weather, boasting that it’s what gives Canadian athletes a foot up against competitors who may have not grown up battling the icy elements.

And it worked to get people pumped about the Games. Twitter was on fire with mentions of the hashtag, the COC’s followers grew by 336%, and the program generated more than 23 billion earned impressions. But the biggest measure of success, giving this campaign even more credence to be named one of our top picks for the year, was the #wearewinter mentioned tweet from the one-and-only William Shatner (seriously, the man has enough followers to equate to about 5% of Canada’s population).

Quick & Easy Image1Mary Maddever, publisher, strategy magazine, Media in Canada and Stimulant

My pick for the most brilliant marriage of insight and media this year goes to IKEA’s Quick & Easy campaign out of Leo Burnett and Jungle Media, that hit the street this summer. It was the retailer’s first textile push, and the insight was that people can be timid about changing up the look of a room because they think it requires a time-consuming and dough-prohibitive renovation.

Since the fear of “getting things right” gets reinforced by a plethora of reno shows stressing Dos and Don’ts, Ikea decided to show that a makeover can be “quick and easy” with the injection of a no rules policy – a pillow here, new curtains there, voilà, new look. So Leo created two-minute TV eps called the “Quick & Easy Room Makeover Show,” with real people working with designers to refresh a room in minutes.

The cleverest bit of this campaign is that they created free-standing OOH boards with giant samples of Ikea textiles – rugs, curtains and cushions – that folks could take home to see how it worked in their own rooms. Product info was on the back for those whose Swedish-name recall is low, and almost 9,000 paper samples were nabbed. Plus, on YouTube a masthead takeover let wanna-be-designers play with throws and other fabric décor item sliders to create a look. Ultimately, it increased fabric sales 11% and store traffic 10%.

TelusurinalMatthew Chung, editor, Media in Canada

You might think I’ve picked Telus’ urine-activated installation because I’m a fan of potty humour, but that’s not the whole story. For me, this World Cup campaign in Toronto-area bars was one of the best of 2014 because of how the brand turned the mundane (a pee break) into a memorable experience to promote its device price-matching offer.

Also, with consumers now able to fast-forward through the commercial block and turn on ad-blocking software to ignore native ads on their phone (which they have their eyes glued to as they walk the streets oblivious to TSAs), the public washroom stall may be one of the few remaining places where marketers can have a consumer’s undivided attention (well, a male consumer at least, assuming they’re using both hands and not balancing their smartphone atop the urinal). Telus, working with Cossette for media and then-creative agency Taxi, didn’t simply bombard that captive audience with its panda, it gamified the experience, letting users control the goalkeeping panda with their stream to try and prevent goals. To top it off, the ad next to the game screen featured this kicker – “Don’t feel the burn.” (I told you I’m a sucker for toilet humour).

My pick last year recently took top honours at the Canadian Marketing Association Awards, so perhaps Telus and its agencies have something to look forward to in 2015.

Toronto-5-623x350Megan Haynes, associate and online editor, strategy magazine 

Here’s a digital bedtime story for ad folks out there: Once upon a time, there was a cool ad campaign from the City of Toronto and Publicis. It featured brands mashed together to form words like “Lazy” (Crazy Glue and Lay’s potato chips), and “Low Life (Sweet and Low and Lifesavers). It was meant to discourage littering and ran for a full two weeks. But then the brands got wind and asked the ads be removed.

But fear not – there’s a happy ending: someone posted the ads to Tumblr and Reddit and the ads took off. Commenters praised the campaign, media loved it. The ads that weren’t supposed to be went viral.

I don’t know if this was a planned stunt (did the agency know brands wouldn’t appreciate their trademarks used as trash? How did the city, with its massive legal team, not anticipate this fallout?) with viral ambitions, but it certainly made a splash – and more importantly, got people talking about not littering, which was the whole point in the first place.

 CarmillaVal Maloney, special projects editor/associate editor, Media in Canada 

This summer U by Kotex took content creation to the next level, financing a web series that people actually wanted to watch, and then subtly integrating its brand after an audience had already been built.

Vampire web series Carmilla is produced by Smokebomb Entertainment and shift2, with episodes airing on the VervegirlTV YouTube channel. It was just picked up for a second season of 36 episodes with a separate group of 12 branded content pieces.

A recently-announced Carmilla Christmas Special will go live the morning of Dec. 24.

The first season of Carmilla generated 25.4 million minutes of watch time and picked up nine million views on YouTube since its launch in August 2014, according to information provided by Smokebomb and shift2. More than 52,600 unique users engaged with the series in some way through Facebook and Twitter. Of those users, 83% were female, with almost two-thirds falling into the 18-to-24 demographic.

Carmilla was one of the first moves into branded video for U by Kotex, with Denise Darroch, brand manager feminine care, Kimberly-Clark Inc., saying the series was made to reach its target of millennial females “where they live and breathe.”

BudweiserEmily Wexler, editor, strategy magazine

When Budweiser’s Red Light turned out to be a hit, the beer brand decided to go big with its follow-up execution – very big. Back in February, it introduced “The world’s largest goal light” during the Super Bowl broadcast in a spot by Anomaly with a media buy by UM.

A zeppelin (called “Red Zeppelin,” naturally) was created that measured 70 feet long and 22 feet high, with a special sound system and LED lighting. The idea was that the zeppelin would tour the country coast to coast and be synched up with the men’s and women’s hockey games during Sochi, going off when goals were scored.

It was an ambitious execution and clearly difficult to pull off. So difficult, in fact, that the campaign really took off (pun intended) when the zeppelin got loose over New Brunswick and struck out on its own, appearing to be lost for three days. It was eventually found on private property in Sussex, NB. It all resulted in some unexpected publicity from major media outlets across the country. Oh the humanity!

notokay_logo_enJosh Kolm, reporter, strategy magazine

Hearing that a hashtag is being used in a campaign is rarely exciting news today, which is why YWCA’s #NOTokay campaign was so invigorating. Looking to raise awareness about depictions of violence against women in media and entertainment, the brief campaign, created in conjunction with creative agency Juniper Park and media buyer PHD, sought to empower people to speak up when something crossed the line. Besides promoting a cause I think we can all get behind, it took to social networks without trying to innovate or do something that had never been seen before, and instead used them the way they were actually meant to be used.

It helps that the creative was also incredibly bold. YWCA put its money where its mouth is by directly calling out Family Guy, Grand Theft Auto and Kanye West in a series of Instagram videos that turn the time constraints of the platform into an advantage by cutting as many scenes showing the abuse of women together as it could in 15 seconds, driving home the reality of how numerous these depictions are. On the radio side, the matter-of-fact descriptions of the very same scenes are downright chilling when spoken over the airwaves.

But the very best thing is that it provides a lesson for all advertisers about the hashtag. With media content being shared across social media platforms, the #NOTokay hashtag the campaign was built around made complete sense, as something that could be easily used to flag down something making the rounds on social media for what it is. And #NOTokay not only provides a utility, but one that will serve a function long after the promoted tweets fade away, which is far more than can be said for most.