The Really Brief—Week of March 11

March 15

Late night television just got a little less male, a little less white and a little more Canadian with the surprise announcement that Lilly Singh will get a new show on NBC starting in September. Singh got her start as a Toronto-area YouTube vlogger, developing a huge fan following before moving to L.A. in 2015. A Little Late with Lilly Singh, will air at 1:35 a.m., a slot currently occupied by Last Call With Carson Daly.

CBC & Radio-Canada Media Solutions has appointed Joe Gottfried as director of sales and marketing, sports and Olympics. Gottfried has more than 20 years of experience, most recently as director of media sales and integration—global partnerships at MLSE. Goffried’s appointment comes as the public broadcaster begins ramping up its sales efforts for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Travel insurance company TuGo has selected Engine Digital to develop a digitally led customer engagement strategy aimed at “tomorrow’s traveller.” Dean Elissat, vice-president of growth at the digital consultancy’s Vancouver studio, says that TuGo sits at the intersection of financial services and insurance and the travel and tourism industry. “We’re seeing demand from both of these industries to explore new ways of reaching and engaging customers,” said Elissat in a release.

March 14

The Toronto Raptors and Drake are getting even closer, with the rap star’s lifestyle brand, OVO, the new sponsor of the team’s training facility in Toronto’s west end. A report from TSN’s Raptors beat reporter Josh Lewenberg says that the complex, previously known as the BioSteel Centre, has been rechristened as the OVO Athletic Centre. A Twitter picture of the facility shows the OVO owl next to the Raptors logo, and Drake reportedly has a key to the building.

According to SKODA, a dog is transformed into a one-ton projectile in a 50 km/h car crash. The automaker has introduced seat-belts for dogs, announcing the feature with a new TV spot called “Doug the Dog,” which humorously depicts just how damaging a one-ton canine can be.

Marketers, it pays to know your memes—or at least hire someone who spends some time on the internet. According to a report in The Guardian, The Hungarian government is being roundly—and rightly—ridiculed for a new campaign promoting family values that uses stock art images of the infamous “Distracted Boyfriend” couple in happier times.

March 13

Van Houtte is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a takeover of Toronto’s Union Station and a limited-edition blend that will be handed out by street teams each morning next week. The brand is also producing a free booklet of coffee-based recipes from renowned chefs Ted Reader, Michael Allemeier, Didier LeRoy and Sébastien Harrison Cloutier. The booklet will be distributed in grocery stores.

MediaPost reports that BMO analyst Dan Salmon downgraded MDC this week due to recent account loses and rumours about more key accounts being in jeopardy. Recent MDC loses include Coors Banquet (for 72andSunny) as well as creative business from Nestlé, Kraft Heinz and Hershey. BMO also believes MDC’s Paypal and Johnnie Walker accounts are at risk. MDC has been looking for a new buyer and late last week the WSJ reported Mark Penn could soon take over as CEO with his Stagwell Group taking a minority stake.

Jameson Irish Whiskey is marking St. Patrick’s Day with free rides for Torontonians on the TTC’s 501 Queen and 504 King streetcar routes between 7 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. The brand has wrapped two street cars along the routes, and is partnering with select bars along both King and Queen streets to offer Jameson specials. According to Alice Carroll, brand manager, Irish whisky for Jameson parent Corby Spirit and Wine, Jameson sales by volume are up 18% over last year, but the company expects a spike of as much as 30% in March.

“We don’t just think in business quarters. We think in generations.” That’s one of the key messages in new masterbranding for Mars Inc. In other words, as a private company Mars doesn’t have to keep shareholders happy every quarter and can take the long-view. The pet care, food and candy company introduced the positioning built around the tagline “Tomorrow Starts Today,” and focused on how the company is doing good for the world. As spelled out on the Mars website, the scope of the company’s social purpose mandate is sweeping, from sustainability to helping women to pet-friendly cities.


U.K. Grocery chain Aldi has launched a playful but pointed campaign to push kids away from their gaming systems and toward the dinner table. Frustrated parents can visit “TeaTimeTakeDown” to sign up and provide their children’s gamer IDs to professional gamers, who will then join the children’s games and “take them down”—removing “my game’s not over” as an excuse for not being at the dinner table. Aldi’s research found that 38% of British kids don’t sit at the dinner table, with more than one-quarter of parents blaming online gaming. The work is from McCann U.K.

Rupert Mudoch’s News Corp. is calling for the break-up of Google, Reuters reported on Tuesday. The Australian arm of News Corp. made the request in a submission to an Australian government inquiry, claiming that Google acts in an “anti-competitive” fashion and should be forced to either sell its advertising sales unit—or parent company Alphabet should be forced to sell its main search business. You can see the entire 80-page submission here.

British department store Argos has added shop-by-photo functionality to its mobile app. Users can take a picture or upload an image and the app can search the Argos online catalogue for similar furniture, curtains or homewares. “Customers seeking a product or even an entire room set they’ve discovered online, or seen in a friend’s home, can now browse our vast range of homewares and furniture to find great value similar items in an instant, simply using a picture,” said Mark Steel, Argos digital director, in a release.


Reebok just released a quirky new ad that starts out on the basketball court only to introduce a whiplash-inducing—and sorta creepy—plot twist. This is Reebok pushing its chunky sneakers and retro ’90s apparel. “The same old, same old needs some shaking up. Be the thing no one sees coming,” reads the “Sport the Unexpected” microsite.

The spot, the last from creative agency Venables Bell & Partners—which lost the account to IPG’s Deutsch last month—follows another video spot featuring rapper Cardi B sporting retro Reebok styles and riffing on ’90s trends.

Dan Strasser
Max Sawka

Following the recent departure of Steve Miller, OneMethod has promoted Dan Strasser and Max Sawka to creative director positions. Strasser, who joins from OneMethod partner agency Bensimon Byrne, will focus on advertising, while Sawka, who takes the title strategy and creative director, will focus on design and branding. Both will report to chief creative officer Amin Todai. “We believe all design is to be viewed as a starting point,” said Sawka in a release. “For advertising. For stories and experiences. For business… never think of design as a pure end, but one that has had an impact on all the things we touch, from brief to build to beyond.”

Tesla is backtracking on plans to close most of its retail locations—a price saving move announced earlier this month to enable the electric carmaker to cut prices on its Model 3. Tesla now says it will keep about half of its stores open, and increase prices on all models except the Model 3 by 3%. (More from The Verge.)

It’s time to break up Google, Facebook, Amazon and other tech giants, according to U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. In a Medium post published Friday, Warren said that companies with more than $25 billion in annual global revenue and offer the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties, should be designated as “platform utilities,” and broken up. Under her proposed law, Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be broken up, and Google Search would also be spun off.

Warren also wants to reverse some of the biggest tech mergers in recent years because they have reduced competition. She cited Amazon with Whole Foods and Zappos; Facebook with WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google’s acquisitions of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick.

Nearly half of creative industry invoices were paid late in 2018, according to British business finance firm MarketInvoice. A typical invoice of £38,137 was pays 13 days after it was due, leaving the industry £1.1 billion out of pocket at any time. MarketInvoice reviewed nearly 16,000 invoices between 2012 and 2018 from 501 creative sector firms, and found that larger clients were more likely (51%) than smaller clients (41%) to pay the creative industries later. (From The Drum.)

Initiative Canada has hired Ryan Van Dongen as vice-president of client advice and management. Van Dongen was previously director of global media strategy, planning and marketing science at Scotiabank. “Having worked with Van Dongen in a previous role, I knew he was the right fit for our team and our clients. Not only is he gotten himself to Cannes three times, but he has a unique ability to win clients over by dissecting exactly what it is they need and delivering results,” said Initiative’s President, Helen Galanis. In a release, Initiative said it has almost doubled its employee base over the past three years and plans to continue hiring through 2019.



David Brown