Advertising 101: Monkey Business

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen an advertisement, a TV commercial, Youtube pre roll, or print ad, that made you cringe.

One such commercial that comes to mind is courtesy of Oliver Jewellery, this infamous Cashman spot is one that everyone in Toronto has seen at some point in their life and just cringed, hard. Cashman is so bad it’s almost good in that if the ask, the pure objective, is to create retained awareness, the ad agency might just get a pass.

I’ve always wondered what the concept behind the commercial is. I can’t for the life of me understand why Russell Oliver ever thought it is a good idea to put himself, behaving in an overly loud and intrusive manner, on camera. I guess in some circles it’s always a good idea to wave bills in front of half-dressed girls while singing: I’m the cashman? With this portrayal the Oliver Jewellery brand is associated with adjectives ranging from cheap to gaudy to indent – not exactly the most desirable terms for a brand to be aligned with. Personally, I feel this reel is one that borderlines disrespect for the customer. This whole commercials just screams: WHY?

Why would a client ever chose to authorize a media buy to deliver the commercial that portrays their brand in such a manner? Why did the agency even produce such an artless annoying commercial that is just packed with aggressive selling? Moreover, why was such a concept even presented to the client?

A few weeks ago a member of the creative team I work with shared some insight about the role of the agency as we sat in a meeting musing over concepts. He had this to offer:

Don’t present a monkey (to client) unless you want to hear ooh-ooh-ahh-ahh in the commercial.  

The client may be the one with the final word on the concept that is distributed but it is the agency that has control over what is presented to client. I believe the agency has the responsibility to ensure work that they produce and facilitate is work that the client and the agency itself can be proud of.

On the flipside, head over to Marketing Mag  for Ads You Must See.

Ps. I don’t know about you but I’m feeling 22 :)





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Advertising 101: In the Case of New & Free

What are you doing now?

I currently work in advertising.

Is it like Mad Men?

And the million dollar question has landed. The above conversation set is one that I have relived countless times in the last few months.

According to piece of paper in my parents’ living room I specialized in management and did a concentration in marketing during my years at Rotman. But I have to admit that I left school and dove into the agency life with little knowledge of the ad industry. As a student, the ad industry was one that was rarely ever touched upon in the classroom and as a result, it was one that had remained elusive and even mysteriously glamorous (other than the paycheck comparisons with client side). Now, with a full 3 months of my foray into the industry under my belt, I thought I would share a few lessons and a glimpse into the agency side with fellow aspiring marketers, advertisers, Mad Men enthusiasts, or just the curious soul.

For starters, I have yet to experience the 9 am old fashioneds and closed office door games that Mad Men is so fond of. And the crisp suits that Don Draper and Roger Sterling tend to sport are only seen at the coffee line, on the frames of the RBC guys down the street. My team prefers jeans and I have worn Lulus on Fridays. However, the beer cart is not a myth.

On a less fluffy note, I would like to share an insight a creative director I work with shared with me recently during a meeting:

If you can use new, use it. If you can use free, use it. And if you can use both, do it.

New is a word that is associated with the positive and free is one that triggers the feelings toward loss aversion. Of course that doesn’t equate to throwing these words into the copy where ever. If you do, you will only succeed in gaining single-day or single-week followers on Twitter that are merely interested in obtaining your company’s giveaways through the search function.

For more, Shopify has a fun read with examples.

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The Beauty of Summerlicious

Ciders, patio visits, and trips to the island are all signs that summer in Toronto has kicked off. With the season in full swing, I am more than excited to partake in one of my favourite Toronto summer events, Summerlicious (thanks to scheduled posts, I am likely dining at SoCo Kitchen + Bar as  you read this).

Characterized by prix fixe menus from some of the city’s largest and most prominent restaurants, Summerlicious (and its colder months counterpart, Winterlicious) has been part of the local scene since 2003. The city seems to be divided between two different schools of thought regarding these food festivals that were introduced to boost spending following a decline in spending and tourism as a result of the SARS epidemic in 2003. One camp likes to sing the praises of the -licious events, claiming these promotional menus are of great value. And it is undeniable that these affordable prix fixed menus are a great way to catch a glimpse of honeyed Toronto has to offer. But the other end of the table likes to remind us that the -licious events really just offer a glimpse, a tease. A friend texted me the other day and referred to Summerlicious as “watered down”.

As I read his text I took a step back and shook my head just the slightest bit. As someone who lived in the city for 4 years I’ve visited my fair share of restaurants for Summerlicious and Winterlicious. I’ve had great food and great experiences at some (Pangea and Harlem East) and not-so-great experiences at others (one visit resulted in credit card fraud). But I still adore the -licious events.

I adore Summerlicious and Winterlicious because it provide a platform and reason to reconnect with friends and reach beyond the highly frequented pizza and sushi joints. These events check off the why,what and where boxes behind each social activity. Summerlicious and Winterlicious isn’t just about lunch or dinner,the marketing and hype behind it make it an event. The nature of such an  event with a lengthy timeline makes it super easy to meet up with multiple different friends with minimal planning without doing the exact same monotonous thing.

The beauty of Summerlicious isn’t found in the relatively affordable menus of participating restaurants or in the experience the glimpses offer, or even in the food. Instead, the beauty of Summerlicious is found at the table, in laughter and jest, with the friends that you see frequently and the friends that you never get to see without an occasion. Without Summerlicious I would be watching Netflix and eating dinner in pjs right now (not that that’s a bad thing…), but let’s face it, hanging out with a number of gorgeous Rotman Commerce ladies in a pair of delightful heels with a glass of wine is probably the better option :).

If you were hoping to read a restaurant review and not a ramble, sorry! To make up for it, let me redirect you to Aija’s review of SpeakEasy21.


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There is More to Pan Ams than Traffic Disruptions

“We can’t take the HOV lane on Monday!”

My father hit the panic button during dinner on Saturday as my mother asked if I had any friends competing at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. The only thing my dad apparently knows about Pan Ams is that effective today, the HOV lanes will require occupying vehicles to carry 3 passengers. Although, after the panic was expressed, he did ask me what sports would be featured.

The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games is a major international multi sport event yet the sentiment within the host city is lacking. But really, who can blame the citizens of Toronto and the surrounding region? Google Pan Am Games, turn on the radio, visit Reddit/r/Toronto and the only stories and hype about the Pan Ams are centered on:

  • HOV lane changes/transportation disruptions
  • Unsold tickets
  • Budgets & committee bonus payouts
  • Low hotel occupancy rates

In trying to prepare for the Games, the committee and media has focused entirely too much on the potential disruptions due to excitement, hype, and activation around the Games itself and the corresponding events. In doing so, building the actual excitement about the actual event, the Pan Am Games, has been neglected. Other than one commercial, Invade, and the TTC wraps on trains, I have yet to see commonplace media buys focused on telling the story, the importance, and athleticism of the Games. I believe the people of Toronto and the surrounding supporting committees feel indifferent, rage, and the readiness to fly out of town because they have only been exposed and educated on the potential inconveniences of the Pan Am Games.

During my first week in advertising the very valuable lesson of not overwhelming your consumers was passed down. If you look at the most effective ads out there, whether it be print or video or digital, there is really only one main Call to Action. As one instructor, a partner at a multicultural-focused agency, once told our class, “Decide whether your goal is to capture the share of mind or the share of market”. A campaign can absolutely have more than one Call to Action but in the event of the Pan Am Games, it seems the marketing team and media has missed an important component.

Over the last few months I’ve been delivered many CTAs by the local media and official bodies, from the Pan Am Games team to the City of Toronto, and each CTA has directed a negative connotation toward the games. Torontonians are being told to:

  • Take public transit inside of drive
  • Stay away from HOV lanes
  • Carpool
  • Take a vacation (to avoid the crowds!)

All of these issued CTAs are negative inconveniences (well maybe other than the last one). In contrast to these numerous issues, the positives of the Games, the experiences, have not been released to create awareness. And CTAs to attend such a large international sporting event, if they have been released, have been buried by the negativity.

Personally, I am excited for Pan Ams. With inspiring athletes like Greg McNeil, Sasha Gollish, Donna VakalisSarah Wells, and Rachel Hannah competing, I am more than ready to throw on a red tshirt and cheer on Canadian athletes. Armed with waterpolo tickets, I’m taking the Games as an opportunity to learn about sports that are not my own and enjoy the higher level athleticism. If only other Torontonians realized that there is more to the Pan Am Games than transportation disruptions.

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Beer Education – Craft of Not?

For those of you reading this who are still wrapping up at the office, already a few drinks in, or just chilling and wondering what should be on the menu for the weekend, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Last year, for our final project, my International Business team chose to analyze the Hong Kong beer market and strategize an entrance for the Boston Beer Company. Although our instructor bounced us from serving Samuel Adams samples during the final presentation we all walked away with a just a little bit more knowledge about brews.

A while ago I drew upon that knowledge as  a few friends and I set up at-home beer sampling tasting completed with fries and gravy, spicy roasted chickpeas, salty edamame, and 14 different beers. As 14 beers in one night, albeit in sampler sizes, is a tall drink order we ended up only sampling 10. Domestic, foreign, and arguably craft beers were included in the line up – from Halifax’s Moosehead to the Belgian export, Delirium, to the Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams. I am not a beer connoisseur but I tend to favour those with fuller bodies or a crisper sense , that night 3 beers stood out: Shock Top, Rolling Rock, and Creemore’s Hops and Bolts.

Of the three, none are actually considered craft beers by the official bodies. In today’s consumer market, the term craft beer is associated and aligned with a sense of intimacy between the brewer and consumer and superiority in taste and brewing. But the Brewer’s Association (America) has a more defined take, they state that production of craft beer must be carried out by brewers that are within the scope of being small, independent, and traditional.  With Ab Inbev owning the breweries that churn out Shock Top and Rolling Rock and Molson owning Creemore Springs a question of what exactly is craft beer and what definition should be employed arises.

An interesting timbit to take note of is that the brewery that ignited the craft beer movement and education in the United States, the Boston Beer Company, sold 2.3 million barrels in 2010 – over the 2 million limit [ a brewery must produce less than 2 million a year for it to be considered craft] set by the Brewers Association. That year, the allowance was changed to 6 million barrels. Tastes are arbitrary and apparently numbers are too.


The truth is I am not a beer expert and I can’t really tell you if a beer is craft or not but I can tell you this:

Shock Top – Tastes light and golden with hints of citrus. Personally, I think it tastes like sunshine.

Rolling Rock -Refreshing light taste with a slight hint of lemon

Hops and Bolts – A bit harsh with a fuller malty flavour with strong citrus and light caramel notes

Sorry, I lied, I don’t have you covered – I am not qualified to give out beer recs.

That’s all she wrote folks!

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Treat of the Week: Baked Chocolate Donuts

Every morning, after the emails have been checked and the urgent matters resolved, my team makes a coffee run down to Tim Hortons. And every morning, while standing in line, I will glaze my eyes longingly at the display of donuts. The desire is strong and the temptation is near. I woke up yesterday morning with the realization of how I can have my donut and eat it too, without consequences.

Tomorrow, as I stand in line wincing at the Creamy Chocolate Chili sign while craving a sweet chocoately baked treat, I will only have to picture one of my own baked goodies.

Sidenote: While I adore the creative heights that Tim Hortons and JWT broke with the Creamy Chocolate Chili Levitation stunt I can’t believe they let the product go to market with such a name. The product title is just not appetizing, and although I would probably enjoy this frozen treat I don’t think I can ever bring myself to order an item with such a title. 

Baked Chocolate Donuts 

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Makes 7 donuts

  • 1/3C + 2 tbsp almond milk
  • 1/2 all-purpose flour
  • 1/4C oat flour
  • 1/4C cocoa powder
  • 1/4C sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • coconut oil spray


  • 3/4C powered sugar
  • 3 tbsp almond milk

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Melt the butter. In a large bowl whisk the melted butter with the almond milk. Add the sugar, maple syrup, and egg and mix until will blended.   Incorporate the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt until just combined.

3. Spray the donut pan with the coconut oil spray and ladle the batter until each donut mold is 2/3 full.

5. Bake 12 minutes

6. While the donuts are baking, combine and whisk the glaze ingredients.

7. Glaze the donuts once they have been removed from pan and cooled.


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Upwards and Onwards

The sun is shining and a new chapter awaits.

After months of searching, bleak silence, and bouncing from interview to interview I am pleased to let you all know that the job search chronicles will now be paused.  Instead, commuting horror stories are about to be my topic of conversation du jour. I am excited to share that I will be joining an awesome advertising agency, effective Monday.

The last couple of months were bleak as I faced periods of silence before bouncing from interview to interview. Every night, at bedtime, an image of a dark tunnel would emerge as my eyes closed.

It was an endless dark but glimpses of light from some distance above peeked through the dim sooty bleakness. The little dots of light that had penetrated the otherwise somber twisting road looked to be far off and in irregular stretches. Sometimes the distance between one burst of brightness from another would be so lengthy that one would be encompassed in the darkness.

The ups and downs of the last couple of months and years, in reference to the academics, the professional life, and my personal shenanigans, have taught me the power of hope. We cannot control when or where the light will be able to break through the solid earthen walls next but we can and must visualize the next flicker. Hope, it’s a powerful thing.

Every year at this time, with the stress of school over, I try to dig up a contribution to the surrounding community to place smiles and ignite hope. Last year I baked goodies for the homeless and this year I am donating to Gregory MacNeil’s funding campaign for this summer’s Pan Am Games and Rio 2016. While my resume lists a number of intern positions Greg’s athletic resume includes titles such as Silver Medallist at the 2014 Canadian Nationals Track & Field Championship and CIS Gold in the 60Hm. Greg is an amazing athlete whose only fault may be influencing the Madison girls to call me Jojo. If you haven’t already, hop over to TrackieProfile to make a donation to ignite the flame and fund his dream.

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