Best Canadian Advertising Campaigns
Great marketing campaigns go deep into our collective conscious. They become a part of all of us. We reference them with our friends over coffee, we hum them as we’re on the bus, and recognize them even years after they have stopped running.
The best advertising humanizes us. They show us at our most vulnerable and show us at our very best. They are more than trying to persuade you to do something. They make you feel a spectrum of emotions.
Since we believe in great marketing and advertising, we have put together some of Vancouver and Canada’s very best marketing campaigns. We believe these campaigns go above and beyond the typical, the day-to-day bland advertising and transcend into something timeless.
Company: President’s Choice “Eat Together”
Ad Agency: John St. Advertising
President’s Choice put together a heartfelt commercial very much grounded in today’s reality. As everyone is glued to their smartphones and electronic devices, we are reminded to stop and take in life. The strong connection between food and people is beautifully highlighted leaving us with a craving for diverse foods and true human connection.
The premise is that when we eat together, good things happen. We share what is going on in our lives and we get a little closer. That’s why in 2017, for Canada’s 150th birthday, President’s Choice created this special campaign to help bring people closer. To put down their phones, turn off the TV, and sit down to share a meal.
Ad Agency: Cleansheet Communications
This 60-second ad features a group of kids who make a change to allow their new neighbor, a boy in a wheelchair, to play basketball alongside them. The campaign was picked up by a Times of India blog and the ad has now surpassed more than 40 million views on Facebook without any paid support.
Canadian Tire also made its “Outsider” spot, another ad in the “We All Play for Canada” platform, public again on YouTube, since it has a similar sentiment.
Both “Wheels” and “Outsider” were well-received when they launched during the Korean Winter Olympics, including ranking first and second for “most enjoyed ads,” based on research from Toronto’s Charlton Insights. Positive opinion for the company, for example, increased 13% among consumers aware of Canadian Tire’s Canadian Olympic Committee sponsorship. The retailer also ranked first for “increased purchase intent” among all Olympic advertisers.
Company: molson canadian “atasteofwhoweare”
Ad Agency: Rethink
Molson has a history of making us all feel extra Canadian for years so they knew they had their work cut out for them when Canada turned 150. Since Canada is one of the most diverse countries on the planet, the challenge we were faced with, was how could they bring people together in a uniquely Canadian way?
This campaign focused on celebrating the regular people of Canada that strive to make their communities and Canada a better place. It celebrates Canada and our uniqueness and multiculturalism.
The answer came in the form of the iconic Beer Fridge. However, there was a catch. The only way to open it was for six people to say I Am Canadian in six different languages. It was an amazing idea that has quickly become a part of Canadian culture.
The entire campaign revolves around nominating a deserving Canadian based on their merits to win one of 150 Molson Canadian beer fridges.
Ad Agency: Grip Limited
Kokanee has had a long string of successful campaigns but with this one, they decided to put their marketing into the hands of their customers. They offered fans a chance to be part of a movie by allowing them to audition and then voting for their local bar to appear in the movie, submitting music, or just putting their names in the credits.
It attracted 70,000 interactions on its website and social media. On its opening night, its box office outsold Lincoln and Les Misérables in Vancouver. And the brand has increased its market share in many of its key markets in Western Canada.
Ad Agency: TribalDDB
McDonald’s is no stranger to great advertising, although, in the last ten years or so, it has not had much luck with social media. When its U.S. marketers started a Twitter discussion asking people to tell their #McDstories, the chain was met with disgusting anecdotes, insults and a lot of bad press. But a few months after that fiasco, the Canadian office agreed to tweak that approach, offering to answer any question, no matter how insulting, about its food.
It was a new approach to social media, and some of its video replies such as one about the digital alteration of hamburgers photos for ads, and another about the recipe for its Big Mac sauce went viral. The company expanded the campaign to television and has now received more than seven million questions and answered more than 20,000. As of April, its videos had attracted 14 million views in total. It was Canada’s first gold at Cannes.
Ad Agency: John St. Advertising
Carly Fleischmann, the daughter of john st. partner Arthur Fleischmann lives with autism and has made unexpected strides in her development, learning to write and communicating actively through social media.
To educate people about Carly’s life, the agency built an interactive website to approximate life through Carly’s eyes. The website is called Carly’s Voice and is set in a café, the website allows a user to look around and take in the scene except with one special different. As the viewer uses the website, distractions take over, becoming more frequent and overwhelming until the site is no longer interactive.
Without any paid advertising, the site was promoted by celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and spread on blogs and social media. It was shown during a United Nations event on the rights of people with disabilities in Poland. Since then, Carly has become the first autistic talk show host in the world.
Company: Mitsubishi Canada “Electriphobia”
Ad Agency: John St. Advertising
This one is another great campaign from John St. Advertising. A website for Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV used fictitious “scientific therapies” to help “cure” people’s fears of electric cars. One so-called treatment known as “Mapnotherapy” tracked how far drivers could travel on a single charge. Using simple graphics, this campaign is a unique way of promoting Mitsubishi’s electric car, helping educate consumers about innovations in the industry. The i-MiEV is gaining traction among Canadian consumers and even fleet operators.
Ad Agency: 123 West Communications Inc.
To promote the launch of their new agency, 123w, the partners turned to fiverr.com to get short videos recording from animations, jingles, to photos, medieval knight footage, to doing a Christopher Walken impression – all for a $5 fee.
The entire website is built on a shoestring with videos from people on the Fiverr service. When the site loads, a ukelele player sings the intro to the site. The partners’ profiles are described by a spoken-word poet, a man juggling torches on a unicycle, a beatboxer, and a one-woman a capella group. There are contributions from all over the world, including the Cook Islands, Louisiana, and India.
Company: “Bell Olympic invitations to CEOs”
Ad Agency: Leo Burnett Canada
The high-level executives Bell wanted to invite to the Russian Olympics get many invitations. To ensure theirs stood out, the agency made the invitation to the games in Sochi in the style of Russian nesting dolls, with the CEO’s face illustrated on each, and each doll wearing different clothes to represent the events they would be seeing. Every single invitee responded.
Ad Agency: Lowe Roche
To promote the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s new focus on a healthier final 10 years of life with its “Make Health Last” campaign, the agency designed a website that gave each visitor a personalized assessment and was completely interactive.
The agency also created an emotional video asking viewers to contemplate what their last ten years will look like. It showcases images side by side of one senior active and full of life, and another where the senior needs to be fed, is bedridden and is depressed. This campaign questioned senior care and how we view our health.
Company: BIAN “BIAN Posters”
Ad Agency: Baillat Cardell & Fils
Inspired by the quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” the agency created 260 limited-edition posters to promote the festival. The posters were generated randomly by computer software drawing on elements from work being showcased during the events.
Company: LEO Burnett “Cook without the book”
Ad Agency: Leo Burnett
Rather than have their corporate Christmas card simply added to the usual holiday recycling bin fodder, the agency sent a gift inspired by the season’s focus on food and entertainment. Packaged in a box that looked like a book, the denim apron was printed with cooking essentials such as butter measurements, instructions for al dente pasta, a glossary of cuts of meat, etc. It yielded opportunities to pitch on product design accounts and some clients asked for extras as gifts.
Company: Cialis “Mustang” and “Curfew”
Ad Agency: DDB Canada
Thanks to strict rules around drug advertising in Canada, this campaign for Cialis evokes the innuendo of another Canadian Cannes winner, for another sexual aid: Viagra. Canadian pharmaceutical ads are heavily restricted, and some great creative work has come out of winking at the drug’s purpose instead of talking about it outright. In the Curfew commercial, a mother pushes his son to be home at increasingly later hours. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink!
Company: Diageo “Window Pints”
Ad Agency: Grey Group Canada
Ad Agency: Touché! PHD Montreal
The right media placement for a campaign is also an art. To promote Sport Chek’s new slogan debut last year, “Your better starts here,” Touché targeted people at the places where they were searching for self-improvement. They printed the tagline at more than 500 locations nationwide – on the floor at the entrance of gyms, on lockers, on outdoor bike paths and indoor running tracks. They also made a series of digital videos each targeted to a specific sport. During the campaign, Facebook fans doubled and online searches for the brand doubled from the same period a year before.
Ad Agency: Grey Group Canada
Grey created the “milk carton 2.0” to spread the word about missing children in the critical first hours. Following up on earlier work the agency also did with Facebook, this version of the campaign reached mobile devices through the check-in application Foursquare and notifying users when a missing child alert had been issued near them. The program aided in locating six children in its first six months.
Company: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America “Red Riding Hood,” “Dodgeball,” and “Kinder Egg”
Ad Agency: Grey Group Canada
Grey Canada has been working with a newly formed group seeking to brand itself as the Mothers Against Drunk Driving of the gun debate. As the group gained traction, Grey did a television ad, as well as a number of smaller promotions, including one involving a typically Canadian perspective.
Noting that the popular candy Kinder Surprise eggs are banned in the U.S. because of the alleged choking hazard, the Canadian advertising team worked up an Easter campaign sending eggs to Anderson Cooper and other news personalities. The point was that there are more limits on Kinder eggs in the U.S. than there are on the purchase of assault rifles.
This ads struck a chord with viewers, especially on social media. One poster depicts a striking image of two children, one of whom holds a copy of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. The other holds a gun. The text points out that only one of those items has been banned to protect children.
Ad agency: Anomaly Toronto
What to do when your biggest competition takes a lucrative National Hockey League sponsorship away in the most important market for hockey lovers? Take back hockey in Canadians’ minds. Labatt has been working at that goal against Molson for more than a year.
One step was a new product, launched during this year’s Super Bowl: Budweiser began selling red goal lights, which could be programmed through a mobile application to go off whenever its owner’s favorite NHL team scores. They sold out in the first day. A second batch sold out in three weeks.
Company: Ford “Avocado”
Ad agency: Y&R Toronto
Ford wants its customers to come to its own parts and service shops for their oil changes. The agency focused on how with generic oil, “stuff may get through that shouldn’t get through” by lacing its radio ad with words that shouldn’t have been there, such as “armadillo,” “gravy boat,” and “avocado.”
Company: Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (Ontario) “Social smoking”
Ad agency: BBDO Toronto and Proximity Canada
This campaign was designed to shake people out of the denial that made them claim they were only “social smokers”. It compared that common claim with people who might say they are “social farters”, “social nibblers”, or “social earwax pickers” (above) with ads that started a conversation on social media. The campaign was viewed roughly 2 million times on YouTube and earned about 117 million media “impressions” through coverage of its humorous take on the public service announcement.
Company: Procter & Gamble’sAlways “Like a Girl”
Ad agency: Leo Burnett
The truly great commercials don’t promote a product, instead they promote an idea. Why is it an insult to tell someone they run or throw or hit “like a girl”? The Always brand attacked this language with an emotional video that quickly spread on social media. In the campaign, a number of people were asked to ‘run like a girl” or “fight like a girl.” The video shows both men and women ineffectively flailing about. The video goes on to show how girls should actually be portrayed. The campaign was so affecting that P&G decided to drop millions on its first-ever Super Bowl commercial for a feminine care brand.
Company: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America “Groceries not Guns”
Ad agency: Grey Group Canada
Although this advertisement is mainly for American audiences, it was created by a Canadian agency.
This campaign which includes a website and television commercials criticizes grocery chain Kroger for a policy allowing customers to carry loaded guns. It encourages people to boycott the retailer in favor of stores without such policies; to contact the chain by phone and social media to pressure it to change its policies; and to sign a petition. The website lists a running total of money spent at Kroger’s competitors. It attracted considerable media attention to the issue.
Company: Vancouver Airport“YVRCANADA”
Ad agency: Spring Advertising
There is so much you can do with airport and travel. However, YVR took a unique approach with 600 feet of hallway boarded up by construction, the walls at YVR were looking pretty bland. But by simply inviting travelers to share Instagram photos from their flight using #YVRCANADA, the dull hallways at Vancouver Airport quickly transformed into a captivating canvas of crowdsourced art. Getting everybody involved, it was a huge hit with travelers from all over the world.
Company: Coca Cola’s “Great Canadian Chase”
Ad agency: Sid Lee
Coca-Cola is world famous for its marketing advertising so it’s no surprise they make this list. For Canada’s 150th birthday they went with a new campaign from Sid Lee Toronto that highlights the best of Canada’s countryside and camaraderie, as well as the lasting, lively relationship generations of Canadians, have had with Coca-Cola.
The campaign, called “The Great Canadian Chase,” depicts a thirst for Coke that’s so earnest and passionate it spans the whole country over; from British Columbia’s rolling mountains to Nova Scotia’s rocky coves, a single bottle of Coca-Cola rambles its way across the country, hotly pursued by two Canadians racing each other to claim it. Their escapade is set to music by Canadian singer Bryan Adams and ends by poking light fun at Canadians’ unrelenting politeness when the Coke-chasers catch up to the rogue bottle and rather than claiming it, start graciously and incessantly offering it to one another to drink.
At the center of this campaign is Canada’s beauty and charisma, which has been a staple for over a century of the country’s history. The spot emphasizes the prideful sentimentality and joyful spirit the drink has continued to elicit in Canadians as the brand has evolved to reconcile with changing Canadian culture and tastes.