The (pizza) party is so over, says OpenCircle

Who: OpenCircle, with FKA Canada for strategy, creative and media; Joe Media for production (directed by Ryley Burghall).

What: “Pizza Party,” a national B2B campaign for the benefits company. It marks a new brand strategy for OpenCircle, which rebranded in May after previously operating as Merit Contractors Association in Alberta and Merit National across the rest of the country.

When & Where: The campaign debuted Sept. 12 and runs through March, with a media buy that includes online video and digital, as well as paid social, radio, print, and billboards appearing in major markets throughout B.C., Alberta and Ontario.

Why: In basic terms, it’s an awareness play for OpenCircle, with an emphasis on raising the profile of the company and its products outside of its traditional stronghold of Alberta. “It was about creating awareness of the [rebrand] in Alberta, but getting some traction nationally,” said FKA’s account director, Alysia Lambertus.

While OpenCircle’s precursor, Merit, was heavily focused on the construction industry, the newly rebranded entity is focusing on small businesses across all industries (the company’s sweet spot tends to be businesses of 50 people and under). “They’ve opened up in terms of the membership they’re targeting, so they wanted their brand to reflect that,” said Lambertus.

It’s also about demonstrating how OpenCircle can provide small businesses with the types of services that modern employers need to attract and retain employees in the age of the “Great Resignation.”

How: There are lots of opinions out there about the ubiquity and merits of office pizza parties, but the campaign suggests that they’re being given to employees in lieu of more tangible rewards, like benefits and career training.

The campaign is anchored by 30-second spot that opens on an employee (played by Alberta actor Jean-Mickel Velasco) dejectedly attending yet another of these parties in a drab, dimly lit office. As he stands surrounded by co-workers and a tower of pizza boxes, the voiceover states, “The month was rough. Morale is low. You thought a little pizza party would smooth things over. David doesn’t think so.”

As the spot continues, it transitions to a shot of “David” cleaning up after the party, while the voiceover lists just some of the things that David wants from his employer, including career training and benefits. We then see him angrily quitting, cleaning out his desk, taking family photos off a bulletin board and throwing down his ID badge. “Keep David happy. Keep David… period,” the spot concludes.

“People aren’t getting the benefits they want, and we thought it was a great way to tie in what OpenCircle is offering with what’s going on right now, with office workers in particular—managers thinking a pizza party should be fine, everybody will be cool with this,” said FKA’s executive creative director, Craig Markou. “We really wanted to magnify that as ridiculous and not going to get it done in this day and age.”

The pizza theme is being extended into other campaign elements such as print and out-of-home, which feature images of a empty pizza box—complete with grease stains that form frown-y faces—and accompanied by headlines like “The party is over” and “Employees need benefits. Not pizza parties.” A radio ad features a boss extending an undisclosed “offer” to an employee, hoping it will keep her with the company for years to come. The woman responds she wants more, leading the boss to implore her to “be reasonable.” The back-and-forth continues before the woman responds that she doesn’t even like ham and pineapple.

And we quote: “We’re targeting business owners who are very intelligent and used to seeing really good, high-quality advertising in any other aspect of their life, so why not make this fun and intelligent?” — Craig Markou, executive creative director, FKA Canada

Chris Powell