The Really Brief—Week of December 16

Dec. 20

Santa’s past remarks about elves come back to hurt him in a new holiday video from Church+State entitled “The man behind the holiday.” Presented as an investigative news piece, the two minute video calls out Old St. Nick for his past discrimination against elves. There’s even a Don Cherry reference, with a drunken Santa referring to elves as “you people” and railing against them coming to the North Pole for its milk and cookies.

We all know that holiday dinners can be awkward, particularly when talk turns to controversial topics like politics and social issues. Rethink has created a solution with “The Conversation Platter,” which contains hidden conversation starters intended to steer the subject towards safer subjects. Among the included topics: “What would your dog name you?” and the old classic “Why do men have nipples if they’re useless.” The agency has sent out about 600 of the porcelain platters to clients across the country.

McDonald’s Canada and its charity Ronald McDonald House have come together for the first time ever on a holiday themed campaign called “Giving the gift of family.” The ads from Cossette highlight the McDonald’s McDelivery service, and its “delivery” of cherished family traditions—and loved ones—to two families who are staying at a Ronald McDonald House in London while their child is undergoing treatment at a nearby hospital. The paid ad campaign debuted today on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify.

He sees you when you’re tweeting… Leo Burnett Toronto has introduced a new holiday initiative called SantAI (short for Santa Artificial Intelligence), which invites people to enter their Twitter or Instagram handle in order to determine the most appropriate gifts.

“While it seems to have become harder to know what to gift our friends and loved ones, they are telling us what they like every single day on their favourite social platform,” says Leo’s chief creative officer, Lisa Greenberg. “So we thought we’d give Santa a helping hand by pulling that data into one place for him and his helpers.”

In our case, apparently, that means gifts that are “musical” (right) and “nerdy” (hey, wait a minute).

December 17

For its creative contribution to the holidays, Union asked all of its clients to give it as much feedback as possible.

Every time a client asked for a “last minute tweak” or to “make the logo bigger,” Union would donate $1 to the Daily Bread Food Bank. While agencies tend to bellyache about client requests, Union will use those requests to help fill hungry bellies this holiday season.

“If having a fuller plate these next few weeks means someone else gets to fill their plate for the holidays, than it’s more than worth it,” says CD Rica Eckersley.

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, creative agency Giants & Gentlemen has created a “Holiday Greeting Generator” to help those worried about saying the wrong thing when trying to offer best wishes for the season. Simply visit, answer a few questions about the person and the algorithm will tell you what to say, based on data.

“We know that data is the most important thing in advertising,” said Natalie Armata, co-founder and CCO. “There isn’t a question it can’t find an answer to. So we put it to its biggest test yet: how not to upset others during the holidays.”  You should try it out to get the punchline, but the joke is on anyone annoyed by all this “political correctness” and the ad industry itself.

December 16

Innocean Worldwide Canada recently hired Sherry Gu as VP, production. Gu joined from KPMG, where she was director of national creative services. At Innocean, she will be responsible for assisting the agency with identifying areas of growth and acceleration within the creative industries, overseeing design, content creation, technology, and end-to-end project management.

Fuse Marketing Group has skipped the Christmas cards this year in favour of an irreverent nod to the tradition of a kiss under the mistletoe that’s more appropriate for the modern workplace.

“It’s 2019, and times have changed,” says the accompanying message. “And we think it’s time mistletoe changed too.” The Mistle 2.0 comes with a two-sided tag: One side informs the would-be smoocher that they have consent, while the reverse tells them in no uncertain terms how the other feels about their amorous intentions.

“It’s the same mistletoe you know and love, updated to let holiday partygoers make their intention, and boundaries, as clear as a shot of peppermint schnapps.”

Food delivery service SkipTheDishes has appointed UM Canada as its media agency of record following a review. The company has a stated goal to “leverage data in a way that highlights [its] personalized services and increase market share.”

“But data isn’t the whole story,” said Shelley Smit, UM president. “To be used effectively, data must be married to the right cultural insight. Our unique approach positions us to tap into the full spectrum of Canadian motivations for food delivery and increase their audience touchpoints.”

SkipTheDishes parent JustEat selected UM as its global media agency earlier this year. Kendall Bishop, director of marketing brands at SkipTheDishes, says that it selected UM on the basis of its cultural fit with the company, as well as its strong business leadership and “robust” strategic capabilities.

Weber Shandwick Canada has announced a series of hires, including two new VPs: Jane Almeida as VP of client experience, with an emphasis on helping clients transition to more integrated communications strategies, and Gabe Mederos as VP of integrated media strategy, with a focus on building out the agency’s influencer strategy.

Almeida was previously with Restaurant Brands International, overseeing communications for the corporate entity and Tim Hortons. Mederos has extensive experience in the social media, influencer and digital marketing space, driving media strategy and activation for brands including Scotiabank, Purolator and Telus.

The other new hires include Katie Wright as planning director, Milena D’Agostino as senior account manager in its Vancouver office, working on the integrated media team, and Yonnie Chan as senior manager on its client experience team.

Publicis Toronto has promoted Alister Adams to managing director, chief digital officer, and hired Andrea Isbester as EVP, head of planning and strategy.

Adams has held a number of leadership positions at Publicis, and was most recently VP, digital. “[Adams] has helped drive significant growth in our social/content practice, our CRM discipline, and our web and mobile platform offering. More importantly, he played a leading role in bringing all of our digital disciplines together as a single, integrated offering,” said Brett McIntosh, who was named president of Publicis Toronto last month.

Isbester joined the agency on Dec. 2. Prior to Publicis, she held leadership and planning roles at Arrivals + Departures, DDB, JWT and Anthem Worldwide. “We are looking forward to having Andrea connect all of our strategic expertise, tools and services into a more consolidated, powerful whole,” said McIntosh.


Chris Powell