Affordable Creative Solutions


I’ve been in the communications business for about 40 years now and the story is always the same: everyone wants to  work on the new big budget (TV) ad series, but no-one has the time to come up with a bunch of “cheap + cheerful” ideas because they add nothing to the creative's resume.*

Oddly enough, I don’t know a single ad agency that doesn’t use entry level pro-bono work to get their feet in bigger doors. 

What I love about this solution – is the “humanity”.

Most of us have entered a hospital through the Emergency department and invariably we feel that we’ve been there far too long, that the care is too slow + impersonal. We forget that the universal health care we enjoy in Canada comes with time and budget contraints that affect every aspect of our experience there. But despite the tight budgets and the multitude of challenges that our health care system faces, someone at this hospital identified a bite-sized problem with a bite-sized solution that helps this hospital show that it does care - even if you don’t think so. 

It’s a simple, affordable, long lasting solution that says “we care” in a language that everyone in the world can understand.

Nice work!  

*Actually . . . . it does. When I see this kind of stuff in a portfolio I see that you’re a media agnostic thinker + that you’re not a prima donna. 






Matvey Natanzon, world backgammon champion, died February 14th, age 51. Matvey was born in Russia, spent his early childhood in Israel, and moved to Buffalo with his family when he was around 14. He loved chess and initially hoped to make a living playing chess until he moved to New York and noticed that hustling backgammon, playing tourists who were wandered through New York's parks, was easier. So backgammon became his consuming passion. Like chess, it was a game of strategy, but it's also a game of luck thanks to a pair of dice and a doubling-cube. 

I got into backgammon in a big way in the summer of 1977. I was twenty-two and had just graduated from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto. I was working as a construction laborer during the day, played backgammon at night and on weekends, and when I didn’t have anything better to do, I looked for work in my field of study; management and marketing. One Sunday afternoon I went to visit my friend Jennifer, a lifeguard, at a local pool. While I was waiting for her to finish her shift, I got into a game of backgammon with one of her friends, Rick Pudwell, who was a Sales Representative for Marquee Magazine at the time. Before I left Rick gave me his card and asked me to call him on Monday. He promised to put me in touch with a few people who could help me get a job in advertising. On Monday he gave me three names.

  • Bill agreed to see me although he didn’t have job for me. The hour Bill gave me was invaluable because he helped me understand what to say and what to ask in my next two interviews. 
  • Mary didn’t have a job either but was so impressed with my performance in the interview (thanks to Bill’s brilliant coaching) that she promised to create a position for me if I didn’t find work elsewhere soon.
  • Peter didn’t even look at me in the interview. But a few days later he offered me my 1st white-collar job as a Media Estimator at Foster Advertising, Toronto.

The rest is history. I’ve been in the advertising agency business, on the agency and supplier side, in Canada and the U.S., in Media, Account Service, Creative Services, Management and Consultant capacities for forty-three years now. 

It’s been a very long + interesting journey. It began by chance over a frivolous game of chance with Rick - who I’d never met before. 

Rick decided to take a chance on me.

It was a long shot for him that is still paying dividend for me.      




Migration Marketing 2.0


In 1954 my parents left Germany and came to Canada. They passed up invitations from South Africa and Australia because, at the time, Canada’s invitation was more enticing.

In 1997 Professor David Foot was a very popular guest speaker at business conventions across Canada. 

His book, Boom, Bust & Echo, a Canadian bestseller, promised to help us profit from the coming demographic shift. I was 42 at the time and had one nine-year-old son. 

David helped me understand why my parent’s fresh start in Canada seemed to go so well, why my future looked so bright, and why things were about to become a bit more complicated for my son + his kids. 

Professor Foot was asking questions like these 23 years ago:

  • What are the best investments? 
  • Where are the new business opportunities? 
  • The job market? 
  • Education? 
  • Health care?
  • What are the prospects for real estate? 
  • What will become of our cities? 

In 2020, from an advertising perspective, this book, and how it invites you to look at demographics is pure gold because it enables you develop a superior perspective on the business opportunities before you, how to find them, and how to evaluate them.

In my mind, one of the biggest untapped opportunities for social media agencies lies buried in the last question: the future of our cities because birth rates the world over are plummeting. While the covid-19 epidemic may assist birth rates a bit (in some countries), depopulation, and immigration barriers in the U.S. are already forcing small states like Vermont to pay workers to move there. In seven Vermont counties, more people died than were born. The remaining population can no longer support the local restaurants or hardware store. Imagine.

Social media is incredibly well placed to promote regional migration because, unlike traditional media, social media needs a large cast of characters and a never-ending flow of back-stories to keep the messages + the media fresh, relevant and engaging. 

This can become a whole new business category for your agency.  

Read this post, the book, think about it and then act on it.




I once knew a man who sold hotdogs.

I once knew a man who sold hotdogs. He had inherited the recipe from his parents, made each one by had and sold them on a busy Toronto street corner for 25¢ each. At the end of each long day he took his earnings, paid his bills + reinvested the balance in his business.

Because people loved the man and his hotdogs, his sales grew quickly. One day the man had saved up enough to build the restaurant of his dreams. It was located on the same corner that he sold his first hotdog on 20 years ago. Now the man was able to sell his wonderful hotdogs all day, all night and all year long. And to ensure the old man could sell all the wonderful hotdogs that he could produce he began to advertise.

He advertised everywhere. He advertised all the time.

On the day the man’s son left for college, he stood in front of his beautiful restaurant and cried because he was so happy. Because he was thankful for that little hotdog recipe that his parent’s had given him + because it had enabled his wife and children to prosper. 

One spring morning, many years later, the old man’s son returned from college and sat his father down. He explained to his father that there was a war on, that people were not spending money the way they used to, and that the recession, which was projected to follow, promised hard times for everyone. 

His son told him to stop wasting money on advertising. “No more TV, newspaper, radio or outdoor billboard ads. And no more big search lights on the roof all night long. O.K. Dad?

All that advertising shit’s gotta stop right now!

And the old man thought; “Wow - my #1 son must be right. He just came back from university where he studied business and economics for six years. What do I know? I’m just an old man now - even though I still love to sell my wonderful hotdogs.”

So that night, for the 1st time he bought them 15 years ago, the big searchlights on the roof were turned off. The next day he cancelled all of the advertising contracts. 

And the next week sales fell for the first time in all of the years that the man had sold his wonderful hotdogs.

The man went to bed in shock + disbelief. Then he + his wife counted their blessings and thanked God for every single one of them. Especially for their smart son and his amazing business foresight.




Advertising, Corona Virus, Financial Crisis


Most advertising that you see online, on-air and on the street is tactical, designed to build traffic and clear out excess inventory. The number of tactical ads you see each day is estimated to be in the thousands, depending on where you work, how you commute and how you spend your day. These ads were the bread + butter of daily, weekly and ethnic newspapers as well as community access TV and Radio. Today the low cost of online advertising is challenging the viability of most tactical (off-line) media and has already led to the demise of many great media. I predict the rout will continue for any medium that cannot demonstrate that it offers retail advertisers a decent short term return on investment (ROI). Why? Because too many of today’s inexperienced retail media planners believe that ROI is a great way to sort media options – since they’re only interested in short term ad response rates. 

I’m suspicious because ROI is not directly correlated to the medium’s reach + frequency potential, or the inherent credibility of the medium. Think CBC News vs. Graffiti.    

Tonnage is another piece of the equation. You can see the impact of massive media weight levels in the U.S. Primaries right now. The candidate with the most media support has the best chance of winning the race. 

Here in Canada, we have a lot of micro agencies and a few large ones. Each serves a handful of clients who believe that the thousands they spend every month, or the millions they spend every year are wasted.

Maybe so. Maybe not. Thoughtfully designed research and campaign tracking can address some of their dilemma. A broader perspective would help these clients as well. They need to understand that in the bigger scheme of things, their tactical campaigns really are just a few drops in the daily adverting bucket. So GREAT media planning is mission critcal. 

Last weekend’s ROB featured the above chart with this headline: “Markets see worst week since financial crisis”. 

Last week’s economic down-turn story has been tied to the coronavirus story - the top news story for the past six weeks. Think of it, from an advertising perspective, like a compelling two-part story that has now been told and retold on every TV station, radio station and newspaper in the world. Byond these traditional media, a Google search for “Corona Virus Update" on March 1, 2020, returned 59,200,000 results.

That's the power of advertising! Enough of it can significantly alter global behaviour in a few weeks.

This post is not a rehash of what we actually know about the virus today or about the direct economic impact. 

This post is an appeal to you to assemble your own case study for your own agency + your own clients to help them understand what can + will happen when a highly relevant story is told + retold by a lot of on + offline media many, many, many, many times from sea to sea to sea in every language and dialect. 

This is a once in a long-time opportunity to see the difference between the impact made by a small, local, online media buy (the kind Google encourages you to set-up and run exclusively on its network) and a real global multi-media campaign. 

The markets saw the worst week since the financial crisis not because there was a financial crisis last week, but because all of the global advertising said there is one. Big difference. 


And remember . . . 

“Even a stupid lie travels faster than a brilliant truth.”