Go Back to Africa is Best of the Best at CMAs

“Go Back to Africa” was named Best of the Best at the Canadian Marketing Association’s annual awards show Friday night in Toronto. The campaign by FCB/Six for Black & Abroad also won golds in the Brand Building, Business Impact, Innovative Media and Martech categories.

The tourism campaign turned the racist slur “go back to Africa” into an empowering invitation for Black Americans to visit the continent for vacation.

“The campaign was more than a numbers game,” said awards show host Rick Campanelli as he introduced the Best of the Best winner. “This campaign was astounding in its impact in the community by addressing hate and turning it on its head.” (See the video below.)

As the 2019 awards cycle winds down, “Go Back to Africa” will undoubtedly go down as one of the Canadian highlights of the year—and one of the most successful in recent memory. The campaign won a Grand Prix in Cannes in June, (four Lions in total), won one of just four D&AD Impact White Pencils, a Gold, Silver and two Bronze at the Clios, and was instrumental in pushing FCB/Six to the top of the Canadian creative rankings released by WARC and Cannes Lions last month.

FCB also enjoyed a good Friday night, winning gold for BMW (Automotive Business Impact and Innovative Media), Fountain Tire (Automotive Customer Experience and Martech) and Canadian Down Syndrome Society (Social Causes, Engagement).

See the complete list of winners here.

Aside from the campaign winners, the CMA awarded a handful of special awards including Antoinette Benoit, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer, McDonald’s Canada, as Marketer of the Year, and Fuse CEO Stephen Brown as the recipient of the CMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Benoitte, who arrived from France to take over McDonald’s Canada marketing in 2014, joked about the cultural learning curve she experienced as a newcomer to Canada—like where and when she can park in Toronto without getting a ticket, and the nuances of actually lining up for things, something unheard of in France.

She attributed her professional successes to her marketing team and smart franchisees. “And last but not least, an amazing loyal and fertile partnership with our research, communications and media agencies.” She thanked both OMD and its CEO, Cathy Collier, for their 14 year relationship as well as long-time creative agency Cossette. “We have been with Cossette for a record-breaking 41 years,” she said. “That is not my bad english, that is 41.”

Brown was given the Lifetime Achievement Award not only for his professional successes as a founding partner of Toronto agency Fuse—with client work for big brands like CIBC, Canadian Tire, GE, Mercedes Benz and the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games—but for his contributions away from the agency, including being on the boards of Covenant House Foundation and Casey House, as well as years of work for the CMA.

“Tonight we honour Stephen for a storied career that truly delivered results in every capacity Stephen touched with his leadership and talent,” said CMA president and CEO John Wiltshire.

Brown started his thank you speech with a special mention of his first boss in the industry, “Who was a sexist, homophobic, chauvinistic pig; I want to thank you for teaching me how to be a better leader than you.”

He concluded his remarks by praising the industry where he has spent his professional career. “This is an amazing industry. I love it, and that’s why I’m here,” he said. “But the gift with purchase is the people you meet, and the community you build, and that’s what you call a rich life.’

The Top Cause Award was given to SickKids Foundation for the SickKids VS – Crews campaign with Cossette, part of the larger VS creative brand platform that has helped the hospital raise nearly $1 billion to build a new hospital.

Other special awards included:

  • Environics Analytics Data Marketing Award: Black & Abroad and FCB/Six for “Go Back to Africa”;
  • Facebook Mobile Marketing Award: Sobeys and UM Canada for “Sobeys Global First Video Flyer”;
  • Snapchat AR Marketing Award: Belairdirect and PHD Montreal for “The Real Fan”; and
  • Cannabis Marketing Award: A Higher Level of Thought for “Cannabis Curation Committee.”


David Brown