Goodby’s Matt Edwards on the positivity in Canadian advertising, and judging the ADCC

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Since its founding in 1948, the Advertising & Design Club of Canada (ADCC) has been a non-profit, non-political group committed to encouraging excellence in Canadian advertising and design.

Every year, the most important demonstration of that ADCC commitment is brought to life at the ADCC Awards show, Directions—long recognized by the advertising community as the premiere creative show in the country.

“As anyone who’s been to our show readily knows, there’s something extra special about winning at the ADCC’s,” said Andrew Simon, ADCC president and chief creative officer at Edelman. “It’s one of the rare industry events that celebrates advertising and design work equally.”

One of the unique elements of the ADCC is that the jury is entirely international, made up of leading creatives from around the world. Ahead of the Nov. 14 awards show in Toronto, The Message spoke with some of the judges about their experience judging the show, their thoughts on the industry today, and their own creative inspirations.

Our third and final profile is Matt Edwards, a native South African who is currently creative director with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, leading the BMW account.

Did you see any connective tissue among the work you judged?

Canadian and Canadian advertising generally follows a more positive line of thinking. I find that in a lot of markets, people are trying to find an enemy [and] push up against something to create a lot of tension in the work. I didn’t find that there was a lot of tension [in the Canadian creative].

I have worked at agencies in the past that are disruptors—they want to go in and tell people ‘What you’re doing is wrong’ and I didn’t feel that in any of the advertising I saw.

It was really pleasant. If I’m coming out the commercial break I’m not going to be too upset by what I’ve seen. Good ideas. Good quality. Maybe not trying to create as much of a cultural shake-up like a lot of the world’s advertising is trying to do.

That’s maybe the best encapsulation of Canada I’ve ever heard

I don’t want it to sound condescending, because if the economy of a place, the government of a place and the people of a place are positive, I don’t feel like you need to upset them.

If you look at [U.S.] advertising from before the financial crisis, it was probably a bit more like ‘Hey man, look at this cool thing’ or ‘Here’s a funny joke.’ The charitable [work in Canada] obviously has that more serious tone, but the work for real products that was celebrated felt like it came from a really good place—where they said ‘We’re not trying to take ourselves too seriously or change the status quo.’ It’s just good, memorable advertising that’s funny, well thought-out and beautifully made.

Do periods of great turmoil lead to the best advertising?

It’s a very specific type of art that comes out of tumultuous times, like punk rock or graffiti. I’m from San Francisco and it’s pretty crunchy: everyone drives a Subaru and wears organic wool, that sort of thing.

It’s no secret that some people are a little bit nervous about the political climate in [the U.S.], and big tech is taking over. Every brief that I’m getting at the moment is this tumultuous art brief.

So for me [judging the ADCC’s] was like going on a bit of a holiday to a place that’s like ‘We can just be chill and make some cool stuff.’ I can’t speak for Canadians, but if they feel like they need to shake up a certain thing, I’m sure that sort of work is going to be produced. I don’t think it’s not possible, it’s an indication of the social climate.

What excites you about advertising and marketing today?

There has never been a better time to be a smaller, boutique-style agency. The start-up mentality is really cool. We’ve seen it coming out of the tech sector, but I’m starting to see a lot of small shops that are approaching advertising in a very different way—trying to find smarter production solutions, be more nimble, trying to create only what the viewer needs and not all the gunk around it.

The ADCC Awards are Nov. 14 in Toronto. Click here for more information and tickets. 


Chris Powell