Rethink and Jam3 among top winners at ADCC while Bruce Mau wins Les Usherwood

After two years of Covid-induced absence, the ADCC Awards—one of Canada’s most revered industry awards programs—returned to a live and in-person show in Toronto Thursday evening.

The biggest winner on the night was Rethink, which has been on a particularly hot creative streak for a couple of years now, dominating domestic awards while also enjoying a strong showing internationally. Rethink won two of the ADCC’s prestigious Scarlet Letter Awards, reserved for the collective achievement of entering companies.

In addition to the Scarlet Letter Awards for Agency of the Year and Design Agency of the Year, Rethink won 13 of the 40 Golds handed out during the show:

  • 4 for Kraft Heinz’s “Draw Ketchup
  • 3 in Design categories for the National Magazine Awards
  • 3 for Over the Bridge’s “The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club”
  • 1 for A&W’s “Beyond Bait
  • 1 for Kraft Heinz’s “Heinz Hot Dog Pact
  • 1 for IKEA’s “The Cristiano Bottle”

“The ADCC is all about the work,” said Rethink’s partner and national chief creative officer, Aaron Starkman. “It’s non-profit and is the most respected show for creativity in Canada, so it was amazing to see Rethinkers acknowledged last night for all the great work they’ve been doing.

“As an agency, we’re most proud of the breadth of work recognized. It wasn’t for just one or two clients—19 of Rethink’s clients won last night, and we’re grateful for the relationships we have with them that led to this.”

The other Scarlet Letter Awards went to Jam3 for Interactive Agency of the Year, while Principal won Design Studio of the Year, and Scouts Honour won Production Company of the Year.

“It means a lot to us to be recognized as standing out in such a great production community of hard-working and talented people,” said Scouts Honour producer Simon Dragland of the Scarlet Letter Award. “You can tell that the Canadian creative community is healthy by the extraordinary work that was on display last night.

“We’re always tasking ourselves with finding production solutions to keep artistry at the centre of the commercial-making process, and have been privileged to have had such great agency and client partners with a similar outlook.”

Jam3 won two Golds, one for Complex Network’s “ComplexLand 2.0,” and one for Adidas’s “Adidas Osworld.” Principal also won two Golds, one for the rebranding of Lambert & Fils, and another for Jardins de Métis’s “Festival International de Jardins 2021.”

The only other multi-Gold winning agencies were

Also unique to the ADCC Awards is the Les Usherwood Award, given for lifetime achievement award to someone who has devoted their career to the craft and has contributed to the quality of Canadian creative. Bruce Mau, internationally renowned designer, author, and design thinker, was given the honour for his body of work and inspiration to others.

Mau was introduced by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and a video traced his life from a small boy in Sudbury to one of the word’s best-known and respected designers.

Mau was on-hand to give a gracious acceptance speech, thanking many people who helped him along the way, while also delivering a call to action for the industry.

“The power of advertising and design to inspire people, to change the way that we live, to promote a new way of life, is without question,” he said. “Today almost everything we do needs to change. Almost everything is old fashioned—even most of the new things, which is really paradoxical. So we need you to promote a new way of life, a way that isn’t only good for us, a way of life that is good for all of life.”

Aside from being the oldest awards show of its kind in Canada, and being a non-profit undertaking, the ADCC is also judged by a jury of top creatives from outside Canada, a conscious effort to avoid any influence that may arise from familiarity of the work or those who created it.

ADCC chair and Edelman global creative director Andrew Simon acted as host for the evening, opening the show on a video screen from his home. “To be honest, I didn’t think anybody would show up, so this is a bit awkward,” he said, before running onto the stage in pyjama pants and slippers.

The rest of the show moved quickly, with Gold winners invited to say a few words of thanks, though most demurred. Simon kept the mood light with a series of inside-the-industry jokes that went over well in a room full of insiders.

At one point he announced that they were redesigning the ADCC trophy for next year, and offered the audience a sneak peek, at which point he pulled a Heinz ketchup bottle from a box—a reference to Rethink’s huge success with its work for the brand.

“The most important thing about last night was it served as a great reminder of the amazing things we can accomplish when bringing all our talents—agency, studio, production—together,” Simon told The Message Friday morning. “Hats off to all the talented individuals who bring vibrancy to the Canadian industry!

Also on Thursday night, the ADCC announced a new website with a revamped archive of past winners. All of the 2022 winners can be reviewed there now, along with more than 20,000 previous winners going back to 1949.

David Brown