Props to the real risk takers

—Since so much award show hardware goes to non-profits, ANGUS TUCKER wanted to recognize four campaigns for commercial brands—

Eighteen months ago, I wrote this piece about our industry’s obsession with giving awards and recognition to pro bono and not-for-profit clients, while seemingly discounting much of the brave, creative work we do for brands that can’t pluck so hard on our heartstrings.

And while many people agreed with it at the time, it seems that we just can’t help ourselves in the jury room. Most recently, a ranking of the top clients in Canada (based on awards won in the last year) had six not-for-profits in the top 10. Six.


So as a counter to that, I’d like to heap some major praise and respect on the agencies and clients who are taking real risks with the brands they’re running, and no doubt reaping the rewards for it.

Here are a few of my recent favourites (all ads below).

Metrolinx and Leo Burnett:

Equating Toronto’s nasty traffic (due to the construction of massive public transportation projects) with the extreme awkwardness of puberty is the best strategic leap I’ve seen in some time.

“It’s a process” says one of the kids, looking weirdly half-baked (as we all did) midway through her puberty journey.

To anyone who’s sat in traffic and yelled “why is this taking so f***ing long?” this campaign makes me think of just how slowly I crawled through my own adolescence. Three years of traffic is nothing compared to the first emergence of BO in grade 8, to me finally finishing growing in second year university.

It immediately and hilariously puts these multi-year projects and (my own teenage metamorphosis) into some well-needed perspective. Props all around.

 WestJet and Rethink:

The first time I saw the “Cattle” ad, I went “Damn! Air Canada is not going to like that one.” After a decade of doing feel good stunts that never convinced me of anything other than I wished I’d been on that one flight where everyone got the free stuff, Westjet’s “Cattle” spot speaks to the Achilles heel of our national airline—inconsiderate service (epitomized by their habit of overbooking. How is overbooking still a thing in 2020 btw???)

The spot is funny, pointed and smart as hell. I love the insight, and the way they brought it to life. Kudos to all. And so you know, I’m writing this as I wait to take a WestJet flight to Kelowna.

Egg Farmers of Canada and Cossette

It is a rare thing for a brand to accuse its target audience of being weird (“we need to be aspirational!”), but the recent “Eggs for Dinner” work does just that.

The tagline, “Eggs for dinner isn’t weird. You’re weird for thinking it’s weird,” might be my favourite piece of writing since “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

It’s advertising that doesn’t feel like advertising. It feels like truth. Why don’t I eat eggs for dinner? Nice job. And the casting on the girlfriend who looks like the guy’s mom? Hilarious.

Oh, and I’m having an omelet for dinner.


This was done in-house, although “in-house” is two former Wieden + Kennedy ECDs who have a list of amazing work as long as your arm and are, no doubt, being paid extremely well for the amazing work they do. So before any clients get too excited, if you want this kind of creative talent living under the same roof, get ready to pay up. Way up.

This “Mike” spot is the story of how Wealthsimple came to be, seen through the eyes of its founder, Mike Katchen. The script is wonderful, but the end line: “Wealth works better when everyone has access to it” is a lovely and subtle middle finger to every wealth advisor who refuses to talk to you unless you have $1 million in your portfolio.

Wealthsimple has been doing killer work for years, and this is another brave, smart, compelling execution that I’m sure is getting signups as fast as the algorithm can handle it.

So that’s it. Much respect to everyone involved. It ain’t easy doing it on the hard stuff, but that’s the point. It’s supposed to be hard. That’s what we get paid for.

Angus Tucker is the CCO and co-founder of john st., one of Canada’s most successful and most awarded agencies since it opened in 2001. His agency’s “Haulers” campaign for No Frills won a Silver at D&AD last year, one of the few entries from Canada where the client actually paid the agency for their thinking.