Tag Archives: the brief

THE BRIEF: In which Terry O’Reilly persuades us that radio is still the biggest (SFX: BANG) for your brand

By TO411Daily Columnist Linda Chandler

I’m here at Pirate Radio, a creative audio production company based in Toronto and New York, to meet with its co-founder, ad writer and director Terry O’Reilly. We have worked together many, many times over the years, and I consider Terry to be a gift to smart brands looking for an authentic voice.

O’Reilly was chosen by Marketing Magazine as one of Canada’s “Most Influential” marketing people. Which is why we think it’s worthwhile hearing what he has to say about the medium that’s been the soundtrack of our lives since the 1920’s: RADIO.

The Brief: You say in your book, The Age of Persuasion, How Marketing Ate Our Culture* that “Civilization – for want of a better word – has long been based on two magic ingredients: talk and time.”* Maybe that’s why radio advertising survives.

O’Reilly: Radio is an ultimate survivor in many ways because it survived the onslaught of film and television. Prior to the recession last year, commercial radio had three record sales years in a row. CBC Radio has had three record audience years in a row. And growing.

And one of the reasons it survived in the industry, is that it’s affordable and from a sheer marketing perspective, radio is so targeted. Every station delivers a very definable audience, so there is little wasted media money on radio.

Radio offers you more than any other medium.

The Brief: We can be persuaded…!

O’Reilly: You can do more on radio, creatively, than any other medium. Because you are never held back by budget. It’s just a great idea, a script and a bag of sound effects.

Also, radio is the most personal one-to-one medium. People watch TV in groups, but never radio. Radio is a voice in your ear. Knowing that, great ad people can create messages that are compelling, because it’s so personal.

Plus, another perk, radio can drive people to websites. So it is a wonderful partner with digital efforts.

The Brief: It can be used as a conduit, and as a driver. Yet radio is still an entertainment medium, how do you convince clients to use radio for all its worth?

O’Reilly: I still say to clients: here’s my idea, here’s the concept and here’s how I want to do it: I want to launch with 60-seconds for 3-weeks, then transition to 30-seconds for the next 8 weeks. Because if I get to establish the idea with 60-second spots, I then earn the right to talk short-hand in the 30-seconds.

I don’t win that strategy with agencies very often.

Most of the time I win that is with direct clients who have no agencies. Our client, Creemore Spring Brewery Limited, for example, is an Ontario brewery that loves great work, and they let us do 60-second spots for them.

The Brief: Thirty seconds gives a brand so little time to flirt.

O’Reilly: Here’s the thing that suffers when you move from :60 to :30’s in my mind – persuasion. Persuasion takes time. And we’re in a persuasion business. And I think clients have really lost sight of that . . . I always say 30-seconds is a reminder. It’s reminding someone of something they already know. Like Pizza-Pizza needs to remind you of their phone number. They don’t want to sell you on pizza! And so I think persuasion has gone (somewhat) by the wayside.

The Brief: What I love about your work is that there’s always some storytelling involved. And your stories have an O’Reilly rhythm. What do you think?

O’Reilly: It is a lot like music. But it’s more about structure. It’s all about structure. A great story has an inherent structure. It has a beginning, it has a middle, it has an end. I always say in my seminars that I see a brilliant beginning, way too much middle and no end. And to me if you’ve ever judged an award show where you’re listening to 400 commercials in a day – as a judge – you start to pick out all the sins that radio commits and one of them is no great endings, and the award-winning spots all have great endings. The ending moment is the best moment in the spot.

The Brief:
And that’s tough.

O’Reilly: So tough. The toughest write in the business. How many movies have you seen (where you wish for a more) satisfying finale, or a surprise! I love surprise in advertising. it’s so hard to achieve, but that’s what makes great radio, and it all comes down to structure.

The Brief: And the middle of the spot is all about the sale. And that’s right. But the client wants to sell so, so much in that little nest of time, and then there’s no time left for magic. Thieves of precious time, those clients! But then again, even some of the great sketches leave you longing for a better punch.

O’Reilly: And sketches aren’t against a time line – whereas we’re always working against the clock. Eighty-five words. An anorexic paragraph!

The Brief: …and don’t you agree, eighty-five, while correct, is still top-to-top copy?

O’Reilly: …so I would aim at seventy-five because that leaves me two things. It leaves me time if I want a beat for silence, or it leaves me time for an ad-lib that I know will always come out of the great actors in the room. But I want to make room for that. I don’t want to have a wall-to-wall spot where I can’t leave the ad-lib in or if I squeeze the whole thing in - the whole ad sucks.

The Brief:
How do you know a great idea?

O’Reilly: I look at it and I’m filled with lust and desire and wish to the high heavens that I’d written it.

The Brief: Is there a trend in advertising that you’re not so keen about?

O’Reilly: I don’t believe in “bleeding edge” advertising. The constant drive to find the latest cutting edge music, the most cutting edge graphics, the most avant-garde film

To me, advertising is about simple human truths.

I’ve never done a “cutting edge” commercial in my entire career. Yet I’ve won a few hundred awards and sold a lot of product. Cutting edge advertising appeals to the smallest segment of the population. Most of that population is the advertising community – not the general public.

As Leo Burnett once said to one of his copywriters: “Go down to the bus stop, and read your copy to whoever is standing there. If they understand it and like it, then it’s good.” Persuasive.

I believe that, too. Give me big ideas, wrapped in simple human insights and truths. Not bleeding edge work, which only a handful of “downtown” people get.

And that’s The Brief for this week in “the age of persuasion.”


Sources of wisdom:

The Age of Persuasion, the award-winning CBC Radio One/Sirius Satellite radio show hosted by Terry O’Reilly. http://www.cbc.ca/ageofpersuasion.

Pirate Radio is award-winning in other mediums too

Terry O’Reilly’s blog

*The Age of Persuasion How Marketing Ate Our Culture, Terry O’Reilly, Mike Tennant THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT, Vintage Canada Edition, 2010. 223 http://www.cbc.ca/ageofpersuasion


Comment to Linda at this address: thebrief@to411.com.
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THE BRIEF: “Hey, bleublancrouge and TBWA-Vancouver, what makes you great?”

By TO411Daily Columnist Linda Chandler

I’m thinking it’s independence. 

As with Toronto’s john st., (featured in last week’s column), the two independently-owned Canadian agencies highlighted in this week’s Brief are their own head office. And this freedom, this absence of inherited initiatives and global adaptations is perhaps, in some part, what makes these agencies great! 

They both also enjoy a new kind of collaboration with clients who work in close partnership with them to create relevant brands, and new brand initiatives that manifest in breakthrough communications, in a media neutral environment – that go like Cupid’s arrow straight to the heart of the consumer who tweets, Facebooks and Diggs them a lot. This hotness makes these shops the stop for creative thinkers, not just creatives, who make these agencies worthy of answering the question: What makes you great?

One agency is an iconoclast and the other is free at last. 

Say hello to bleublancrouge – Montreal and TBWA-Vancouver.

The iconoclast: bleublancrouge with Sébastien Fauré , Senior Associate, Chairman of the Board

The Brief: What makes you great?

In 170 bpm! 

Fauré: Courage. Courage forces you to go outside your comfort zone. You need to be scared. Should I do the thing nobody did? 

If you ask everyone around you what they think, and they say it’s good… what then? Imagine if Showtime asked everybody what they thought of Dexter? What we need to be is innovative – We’ll make a little Dexter. 

The Brief: Yes! Do that!

Fauré: You need to be willing to not ask someone’s permission. The problem with the industry is too many agencies and clients doing the right thing! A lot of brands spend a lot of money to stay invisible - to pass the test. Get 7 to 12-year olds and ask them what’s wicked and cool. Then there’s no barriers!

The Brief: Then Fauré said something truly blasphemous!

Fauré: Ask less what consumers think! Trust the expertise of creative people to see what the consumer wants next.

The Brief: Trust has proven to be a sound principle for bleublancrouge. As Marketing Magazine reported in “The Best of ’08 Agencies” … 2008 was a breakthrough year for the shop, which announced itself as a major player on the national stage by winning accounts for clients such as Vidéotron, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Imvescor, a multi-brand restaurant company that owns Baton Rouge, Mike’s Trattoria, Scores and Pizza Delight.

These national wins, Fauré believes, were spawned by successes closer to home. bleublancrouge’s “Believe” ad, part of the “Words Matter” campaign for The Gazette was tapped as the best brand awareness campaign across multiple platforms (for a newspaper with a circulation of 75,000-300,000) by the International Newsmedia Marketing Association last May, and also earned a Campaign of the Year nod at the Créas-the first time in Créa history that the top award went to an English-language campaign.

“What that campaign helped us to do is convince people that we can do English copy and English creative,” says Fauré. “If you combine strong advertising ideas with strong English and French capacities, then you can work from Montreal on accounts from everywhere.”*

Fauré: Stay courageous! Try new things! 

The Brief: Try to break into an agency like bleublancrouge! But not until you read about our next “great” shop: TBWA-Vancouver 

The Brief speaks with Andrea Southcott, President of TBWA-Vancouver – the one that’s free at last.

The Brief: What makes TBWA-Vancouver great?

Southcott: Fearlessness.

The Brief: Such as buying back the agency from the multinational network a few years ago?

Southcott: TBWA-Vancouver has the best of both worlds because we can make independent, local decisions and work with clients who fit our values without having to report to New York accountants

Vancouver is very creative and has small budgets. That creates an energy in the shop. The idea has to work to attract people. It’s all original. The planning. The culture. And the creative leadership in the brief stage – we put a lot of time into that.

The Brief: The muse of any great idea.

Southcott: And we have a shop full of people who make brands exciting and fearless. And we’re not afraid to swim in the deep end. 

We can approach each of our clients with a fresh start – get the traditional things out of the way. Not be a slave to the old ways of doing things.

The Brief: Advertising is changing radically. The divisions between ads, online, events, testimonial, PR – they’re all open like the wild west. Bloggers have weight.

Southcott: Changes in business have changed how we do business. Clients expect us to be partners and find exciting new ways to connect their brand to the consumer.

With the Smart Car we had a small budget but we wanted the consumer to experience the car. So we branded the car as a taxi. And when people hailed it, we offered them the driver’s seat and a no fare drive. We created small space print ads along with radio to promote the test drive, and TBWA filmed drivers for a later YouTube posting.

The Brief: Small budgets but great experiences.

Southcott: For Okanagan Spring, a Vernon, B.C. beer company, we developed this online engagement campaign which invites consumers to ask Okanagan to sponsor their everyday occasions. Like barbecues and baby showers! 

The website Sponsermespring.ca invites people to send Okanagan videos explaining why the beer company should host their event. Visitors to the site would vote for their favourite entries. Okanagan’s sales went up by 10% in a month, and in two months had received 13,000 hits. By doing great work we naturally attract great talent… and great clients. 

The Brief: Bryce Zurowski, regional VP western Canada, Okanagan Spring Brewery says a great deal about what makes TBWA great.

“After six years of stalled brand growth, the work by TBWA has reaffirmed our leadership position in the category and vaulted us to a place of real aggressive growth again this past year,” he says, adding that the brewery is now hitting double-digit positive growth numbers. “They’ve pushed us into new mediums and they’ve helped move us from very functional type advertising to develop an emotional tone of voice for the brand.”*

The Brief: What we learned from talking with these two great shops is that “great” includes the client. A client who challenges their agencies to innovate in ways that look like frisbees flying above Jack Russells jumping wildly across a vast park…

Or, a collaboration of people who believe great advertising isn’t an inch from good. It’s an inch from terrible. 

Sources for bleublancrouge:


* Marketing Magazine on bleublancrouge

Sources for TBWA-Vancouver


Smart Car Plays Taxi to Vancouverites

*Click to Sponsormespring.ca

Marketing Magazine on Okanagan Spring Brewery

Comment to Linda at this address: thebrief@to411.com.
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THE BRIEF: On the sunny side of the street

By TO411Daily Columnist Linda Chandler

Remember as a kid when you’d get invited to a friend’s house for dinner, and you’d notice that your friend had this really awesome family that wasn’t… well… like yours?

That’s the feeling you get at john st. 

From all appearances, written and anecdotal, john st. is decent, down-to-earth, self-effacing – all the while seizing up new business, killing at award shows, and flying above the turbulence.

I wanted to interview Arthur Fleischmann, President of john st., because it could only help to find out how an independently owned Canadian company of five burgeoned to 100. 

The Brief: You and your partners all met at the great Ammirati Puris, right? 

Fleischmann: Yeah. The five of us – Jane Tucker, Emily Baines, Angus Tucker and Steve Jurisic – worked together at Ammariti for about seven years. We carefully handpicked each other. Then, test-drove the partnership for another five or six years before we bought ourselves back from Envoy Communications. And then we opened up john st.

The Brief: So you advise an outrageously long courtship and perfect alchemy?

Fleischmann: True. The magic of john st. is that we have five relevant but diverse skill sets. We’ve also built up years of trust and can challenge ourselves. A lot of agencies are, by necessity, a hodge-podge of people who came together. A new President hires a CD he’s never worked with, or New York sends somebody up. If that gels it’s luck.

The Brief: Do you still pitch? 

Fleischmann: Yeah, we do.

The Brief: Spec?

Fleischmann: Nobody likes to, but we will at times. I’ll tell you a great story about pitching that transformed us.

The Brief: That’s why I’m here.

Fleischmann: Back in 2006, I received a call from a client at AstraZeneca asking us to pitch a project for them. I said we’re not a ‘pharma’ agency; we’re a consumer goods agency. I don’t think we’re right. And the client said, “…we’re only talking to non-pharma agencies because we’re going through a transformation and we’re looking for a different kind of shop.”

The Brief: Pharma, huh? 

Fleischmann: Yes. We did a strategic pitch, and AstraZeneca hired us and became our largest client. It’s a multi-million dollar piece of business and a great learning lesson. 

The Brief: Lesson being?

Fleischmann: Don’t presuppose that only some businesses are worth competing in. Look at all industries because you never know. Some of the most creative work we’re doing, we’re doing for AstraZeneca — helping them transform their business. 

The Brief: AstraZeneco actually transformed your business model too. Tell us something about that.

Fleischmann: Sure. john st. was fairly traditional until AstraZeneca came along, and here we had a new client whose business needed to move from the old-school, paper heavy model to online digital. Enter AmoebaCorp, one of Canada’s most lauded design firms, which is now part of john st.’s collaborative model. We’ve done some incredible things together. Like the campaign with Stanfield’s* called “the guy at home” in support of testicular cancer.

The Brief: The perfect segue to my next question. Is there a movement toward linking brands with causes? 

Fleischmann: I think consumers are looking for more action-oriented behaviors in their brands. Don’t just tell me that you’re good, show me why I should believe in you. 

The Brief: As you say, “a groundswell travels faster than advertising.”

Fleischmann: Yes. In this world where everything is commoditized, with the exception of very sophisticated technology – in a highly commoditized world you need something authentic to stand for. 

The Brief: How do you marry cause to a commodity?

Fleischmann: If you have a clear definition of the brand’s values, than that should align with a core set of values shared with the consumer. Then you build a campaign around that. 

The Brief: How’d that campaign go?

Fleishmann: A statistic just came across my desk wherein during the 25 days of the campaign, Stansfield’s generated 6.1 years worth of time spent on that website.* 

The Brief: I’ll send my readers to the website. Can you explain the ad, “We suck”*?

Fleischmann: john st. was nominated for Strategy Agency of the Year in 2009, and since we have ten planners in Canada working right here, with the most sophisticated research tools, we thought why not turn that learning on us. Are we creative because someone says we are, or are we really that good? Creativity is our only competitive advantage.

The Brief: Getting to the truth about yourself as a brand.

Fleischmann: I think this is john st.’s strong suit: We have all the core disciplines right here. We can actually surround the client by 360 degrees. At the table you’ll find: the designer; the digital strategist; consumer strategist; digital planner; creative team; accounting team.. me! There is no profit/loss involved in this.

The Brief: It takes a village for a brand to breakthrough.

Fleischmann: Or, if you’re going to build a better mousetrap, it better be an Apple!

The Brief: And cut. 

I want to personally thank Arthur Fleischmann for making himself so accessible to The Brief. 


The five partners at john st.: Arthur Fleischmann, President; Emily Baines, Head of Planning; Angus Tucker, Creative Director, Copywriter; Steve Jurisic, Creative Director, Art Director, and Jane Tucker, Client Service Director.* http://www.johnst.com”.

The ad “We suck” http://www.johnst.com

The Stansfield Underwear campaign – http://guyathome.com

Next Wednesday: I ask three hot new shops “What Makes You Great?”

Comment to Linda at this address: thebrief@to411.com.
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THE BRIEF: Born to be wired

By TO411Daily Columnist Linda Chandler

As digital advertising has the unique capacity to launch a brand straight into your iPhone and then into the zeitgeist, traditional agencies have re-branded themselves at the speed of click. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners was a traditional advertising agency until 2006 when they became “highly useable” and won “The Digital Agency of the Year”. * Taking nothing away from the consistent brilliance of Goodby, or, their nimbleness, I have a nagging feeling that all traditional advertising agencies have a kid’s table. And I’m guessing it’s Generation text.

Are twenty-somethings to the manner born?

Where better to go than GRIP LIMITED, where Leilah Ambrose, second-generation writer, and editor of The Big Orange Slide, explains why young people are so good at it.

Ambrose says: It’s funny. As a child of the digital age, I know that I have an innate expectation of instant response. Which pretty much sums up one of the challenges of the digital space: the lack of “dark periods.” Marketers used to plan around ebbs and flows in the calendar year. Creatives now have to reckon with daily – even hourly – tides of opinion, engagement, numbers and innovations. At any given time, you’re addressing or connecting against new conversations, new dev platforms, and new ways to target, new social media and new mobile opportunities. Campaigns can come and go, but in the digital world you’re always “on”.

I just remembered I left my hair iron on.

Ambrose continues: Story and utility are the currency of the digital space, manifesting in everything from mobile apps to games to branded entertainment. Because these things offer a depth of experience that feels more like a play date than a marketer’s message, consumers are doing something improbable — actively inviting advertising into their day. 

“Since this is all an opt-in system, the amount of time consumers spend with a brand is a measure of success. In some ways you could say that a creative’s job is as much about getting consumers to vote with their watches as their wallets.”

David Ogilvy’s great-great-great granddaughter couldn’t have said it better.

Next, I called Christina Yu, the young EVP/Creative Director at Red Urban and unexpectedly, she picked up the company telephone. I asked her about this “digital is for the young” notion but instead she gave me the bottom line, common denominator for any great campaigns. Digital or otherwise.

YU: “It’s all about the idea. If it’s a great idea, then it’s what fits the medium best. We’re creating content and storytelling for an audience with a short attention span and we know as an agency that we have to come up with big ideas for every client. Having one campaign go viral isn’t enough. You have to hit it out of the ballpark consistently.”

Easy for Yu to say inasmuch as her latest digital campaign, created with David Bonder for Fortnight Lingerie, has had over one million hits. And if SUPERSEXYCPR.COM hasn’t shown up on your Facebook wall yet, go to the Fortnight Lingerie website (not NOW!) and watch “the big idea”:

Fortnight Lingerie sells sexy lingerie and save lives at the same time. How stunning is that!

The vimeo’s have such stickiness the UK Armed Forces are using SUPERSEXYCPR and its companion piece, ABDOMINAL THRUSTS, as instructional pieces. 

The following was created by guys being guys who have to show their IDs to get a beer.

Coors Light “Mystery Mansion” interactive campaign

A bunch of guys are at a bar when one of them starts divulging some secret information which is aborted by a wrecking ball that bashes him into a wall. That’s when you notice three hidden Easter eggs planted within the scene which nudge you to pause your PVR and read, “Uncover a mystery”, wherein a URL (Cimm.ca) and a code then lead you to the site where you are offered the chance to win an exclusive Mystery Mansion watch, after which you click back to Facebook to check out the Coors “Maid to Order” app. that prompts you to create a personalized video, for the chance to win a trip for two to the Secret Locale, whilst viewing the video triggers a phone call from a spicy “Mansion Maid”.* 

What sort of brain is wired to think this stuff up? NETLINGO - THE BLOG found the answer in some stunning research about “The Always, Always, Always-on Generation” funded by The Kaiser Family Foundation. It found that “…the average young person from 8 to 18 now spends (nearly) every waking moment outside of school on the Internet, watching TV, listening to music on MP3 players, texting, or using some other electronic device. That comes to kids spending an average of seven and half hours daily consuming media in some form, AND, when you include multitasking, kids actually consume close to 11 hours worth of content in that time.” 

At least we know that when the time comes, there’ll be no staffing problems.

My sincere thanks to the following sources:

For command in-coming text– I submit:

The List of Chat Acronyms & Text Message Shorthand

AdAge Digital Agency of the Year (2006)

Coors Light “Mystery Mansion” Strategy, October, 2010

NetLingo: The Blog

Next Wednesday I’ll be speaking with Arthur Fleishmann, President/CEO of John St. about the proven relevance of traditional media and his strategy for growth.


Comment to Linda at this address: thebrief@to411.com.
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