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NEW HIRES DRIVE DATA-DRIVEN PROBLEM SOLVING & CREATIVITY

We are delighted to welcome four new hires to the Weber Shandwick Canada team.

Their arrival fuels our continued evolution from a conventional PR services model to a client solutions mindset. They are also further confirmation that the culture of creative excellence that’s seen us become the most-awarded PR agency in Canada continues to make us a destination of choice for this country’s top talent.

Jamie Hong arrives as new Director of Data & Analytics. Jamie brings extensive experience in analytics and data-backed insights to build brands, drive growth, and measure impact. Drawing on his successes with data projects and technology automation Jamie will help drive the agency’s strategic planning based on deeper insights that guide clients in making data-driven decisions.

Sara Cook joins as our first-ever Vice President of Integrated Project Management. Sara’s experience of process enhancement at leading communications and marketing firms will help her drive efficiency and operationalize new models for our larger integrated clients. She will also lead operational efficiencies across the agency and the creation of new financials, resourcing and communications management processes.

Deane Code joins as Director of Integrated Media. Deane has led communications campaigns for some of the world’s top brands in food, health and wellness, consumer finance, home entertainment and beauty. She will help lead and expand the agency’s media and influencer programs. Erik dela Cruz joins as Associate Creative Director, with a focus on expanding on the Creative team’s award-winning copywriting and art direction capabilities. Erik’s work for General Motors, MasterCard and Molson Coors has been recognized in Canada and around the world.

Based in our Toronto office, and supporting all three Weber Shandwick Canada locations, these new team members will help the agency solve the unprecedented business challenges born of digital disruption currently faced by our clients.


MORE THAN GAMES

Of all the gifts I’ve received, there’s one that stands out. It was a little, royal blue cartridge containing an entire world and 151 monsters to catch. It was Pokémon Blue.

This game established my identity as a gamer. Before I started gaming, my 10-year-old self had interests, but not passions. Gaming calibrated my compass and taught me what it meant to be truly invested in something; an invaluable life lesson. Games present seemingly infinite possibilities. It’s exciting to have a role in the fate of a character. I enjoy an on-the-rail experience that guides a player through a meticulously-crafted story. But I gravitate towards open-world games; the feeling of immersion that comes from diving in and impacting a digital world is unparalleled in conventional forms of entertainment.

While my passions have grown since I was 10, I still try to play some kind of game once every day. I see passion as a muscle. It needs to be fueled and used to stay strong.

In 2018, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of Weber Shandwick Canada’s Nicola Moore Courageous Creativity Prize. The Nicola Moore award is a $2,500 investment in a career-changing experience for a junior staffer. The award was named after a talented employee who started her career with us and went on to become an industry leader with IPG sister agency Golin, but then left all us too soon in life. The award honours Nicola’s spirit, granting the winner the opportunity to go on an adventure and pursue their passions at a formative time in their career path.

I never had the opportunity to meet Nicola, but I’ve learned from those who knew her that she was the definition of a role model: a person who embodied passion and perseverance. After much reflection, I decided to follow my passion and attend E3, the world’s biggest gaming conference in Los Angeles. This trip gave me the chance to see what was at the leading edge of the industry and hear from the experts where they see things are going next.

The World’s Biggest Gaming Conference

The first thing I learned at E3 was just how big this community is. Games have been big business for years, but the extent to which games are impacting pop culture is reaching an unprecedented level. Since its release in 2017, Fortnite has reshaped the industry with massive player populations and subverted its digital world on a scale we’ve never seen.

Case in point, you can’t walk more than a few blocks without at least one person doing the floss dance.

Successful in-game locations like Weezer World and concerts hosted by popular DJs like Marshmello have proven that brand integrations aren’t just possible, they are thriving. With the model more than proven, we can expect to continue seeing Epic Games, the studio responsible for Fortnite, and its competitors continue to focus on building their online communities.

Going Beyond the Console

The second major takeaway was the push to expand in global markets. Many major studios, including Microsoft and Take Two, have noted their ambitions to improve their footprints around the world. While Stadia, a cloud game platform from Google, wasn’t present at E3, it was talked about or mentioned in almost every panel I attended. Unlike the traditional console model that would require the purchase of hardware, Stadia will only require a streaming stick, controller and internet connection. This would be a game changer, particularly in areas where consoles are prohibitively expensive.

The technology is great in theory, but the talk among industry experts is somewhat skeptical. The crux of Stadia will be a stable and high-speed internet connection which isn’t accessible to everyone, especially in developing regions. The main source of optimism is that making gaming more accessible through technologies like Stadia improves the capacity to tell more diverse and inclusive stories for a global audience.

The Art of Game Development

Finally, E3 showed me that the people who make games are filled with an overwhelming passion for their craft. While watching a number of panels over my three days at E3 it felt like development teams needed to defend their art to people outside of their core audience. One of the most highly anticipated games of 2020 is Cyberpunk 2077 from CD PROJECKT RED. During a panel with the company’s co-founder and joint CEO Marcin Iwiński, he made it clear that the company was about more than profit or turning out games on tight timelines: “We are not a games factory. We treat games as an art and we want to push the bar higher with every single game we make.”

Like any work of art, creating a game involves countless hours of dedication before the final product is delivered. One of the top-selling games of 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2, took nearly eight years (!) to develop with a team of nearly 1,000 people. Their process for delivering an impactful experience to the audience deserves as much praise as the latest Oscar winner or masterpiece in the MET.

I could go on about all the incredible things I saw, experiences had, and insightful panels attended. But reflecting back on my experience at E3, I’m nostalgic for all the traits I’ve picked up while gaming. I believe that searching along every hidden path and in every corner of the map helped me become a more dedicated person, ensuring every task is completed. Raising my Pokémon to be as strong as possible helped me learn patience and kindness. Replaying a challenging boss multiple times instilled a sense of perseverance. And taking on challenges with friends made me a team player before I played sports.

Too often in my life, I’ve heard people say gaming is a waste of time. I’ve made a point of choosing not to listen. As gaming continues to become the most popular form of entertainment, and opening new opportunities, I can’t help but look back.

I know I made the right decision to power up that little blue cartridge.


CIVILITY, THE WORKPLACE AND YOUR BRAND’S REPUTATION

Weber Shandwick’s recent Civility in America study with Powell Tate and KRC Research found 93 per cent of Americans think there is a ‘major’ problem with civility in their country. And the future looks bleak to them, too: More than half of those questioned expect social norms in America to deteriorate even further in coming years.

We Canadians can think ourselves insulated from the worst elements of incivility experienced by our neighbours. But we may not be so different. There are signs uncivil behaviour is on the rise in Canada—in social life and at work—and we can no longer be complacent. Business leaders can help stem this tide by making workplaces a beacon of the values Canadians hold dear. Stepping up for civility in the office is not only the right thing to do, it makes business sense, too. Here’s what you can do about it.

Is Incivility on the Rise in Canada too?

Whether it’s the sneers of MPs, the voices on social media seeking to exploit our anxieties about the future, the ‘fake news’ targeting us online, or a distressing rise in cyberbullying among youth, we continue to see a wearing down of social discourse at home.

Speaking earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reaffirm our status as a country “…that understands respecting someone else’s fundamental rights in no way takes away from your own…”, encouraging Canadians to come together and “have real conversations…in a respectful way that doesn’t shut down or shut off people.”

Many Canadians identify civility as an important national value, alongside multiculturalism, openness, compassion and equality. So how do we, as Canadian marketers and business operators help combat its breakdown?

The Workplace: Beacon of Civility  

One bright spot for civility is the workplace. Despite having a not-so-rosy outlook on social discourse across the country, nine in 10 Americans polled in the Civility in America survey nevertheless described their office as ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ civil.

As GM of Weber Shandwick’s Vancouver office, I’m responsible for growing and maintaining our culture and reputation. I firmly believe when our values are under attack, the work spaces we share become an important place to champion civil behaviour (we spend a third of our lives there, after all). Faced with declining social norms, Canadian leaders have a unique opportunity to help build and preserve a culture of civility in the office.

Here are four ways business and HR leaders can make that happen:

  1. Organizational Values

Making civility the foundation of a culture that prioritizes respectful collaboration with peers and clients will help people understand what’s expected of them. It will also encourage employees to take responsibility for the co-creation of an organizational culture that values and promotes civil discourse.

  1. Employee Code of Conduct

Almost all organizations communicate to their employees the type of positive workplace culture they want to create. To go one step further, onboarding sessions and materials can include clear and unequivocal guidance as to the level of civility expected at work. Consider including a measurable and time-sensitive contribution towards creating that culture in employee assessment goals. 

  1. Forums for Debate & Discussion

It’s crucial to create a positive and inclusive space for discussion of civility and workplace norms, and to make time for those discussions to happen. Set the meetings, invite experts and speakers from outside the organization if possible, and make this compulsory time to reflect on and discuss the importance of a civil workplace culture for all employees. 

  1. DEI Committee

Establishing a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) committee is another indispensable part of creating a positive and inclusive space and wider culture of civility. Doing so holds the organization accountable to its goals and engages the broader workplace community to participate in the key parts of DEI strategy that reflect their needs and expectations.

Civility and Reputation

Why make civility a priority? Here’s another important reason: Disregard for social norms in workplace culture can profoundly affect reputation. Simply put, your brand as an employer is your public brand. And research tells us that corporate reputation still drives market value by up to 60 per cent.

An organization can work for years to create its story, only to lose control of its narrative when bad behaviour tests a culture of professionalism. Heightened sensitivity to sliding social norms in the workplace has prompted organizations—and entire industries—to overhaul their cultures to ensure survival. And while metrics are set, and met, we would do well to remember that protection and maintenance of reputation is a long-term, and an ongoing, project. There’s no magic pill, no silver bullet. The most effective strategy remains proactive management of risk as a best practice, within a culture of civility and preparedness designed to anticipate, prevent and diffuse negative issues.

“Civility costs nothing, and buys us everything.” The poet Mary Wortley Montagu’s words, written more than 250 years ago, still ring true. Worsening incivility on either side of the border creates considerable challenges for our business and that of our clients. Let’s strive to make our workplaces better prepared to weather the storm, by building and growing cultures that cause our shared values and respect for each other to resonate throughout our workplaces and shine in our work.


THE REWARDS OF INDUSTRY AWARDS

Our industry has a love-hate relationship with awards. It feels great to celebrate our hard work. But it also takes so much effort to submit. On top of that, each year it seems there’s another new award show to enter and follow.

It all makes you wonder sometimes if awards really matter.

My answer: Absolutely yes. And here’s why.

Awards hold us all to higher standards and better work. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say ‘hey, I want to engage with a brand today.’

It pays to pay attention to the winning work. With our industry constantly evolving, award-winning work serves as a snapshot of where we are today. And a catalyst to where we might be going. The stakes are higher for marketing these days because people don’t see marketing as simply marketing anymore. It’s treated like any other piece of content in the public domain. With no clear borders between culture, business, technology, marketing and politics, what brands say matters more than ever before. Seeing world-class work challenges us to level up the work we do for clients.

Creating value wins awards. And hearts, minds and wallets.

With everything demanding our attention, building awareness is not enough. Campaigns must create value in order to have impact. They need to be designed to have a value beyond the product, service or message we are promoting – be it problem solving, social good, driving change, empowerment, access, entertainment or utility. In other words, it needs to be something people seek out to benefit themselves or society.

Take for example, our #BuickStyle: The Ultimate Driving Shoe campaign, which captured CPRS 2019 Ace Creative PR Campaign Of The Year and a 2019 SABRE Diamond award. Our approach was to engage a younger demographic by partnering with a fashion brand to produce a new product – and tell a design and craftmanship story in the process. Our other award-winning campaigns like the Big Mac Coin and The Woods Parka Lodge also tapped into something real to create genuine value; both have been celebrated at many awards shows so far.

And with the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Championships for the first time, I’m reminded of our Bud Light’s Victory Fridge program in Cleveland that allowed the brand to become deeply involved in celebrating and rallying a community.

Based on our benchmarking of the recent award show circuit, the most impactful campaigns address three critical questions:

  1. How do we make the idea stick? This ensures the message and activation build a bridge between the brand world and the real world. It’s about the context, and how to insert the brand’s point of view – and opportunity – within it.
  2. How do we make the idea real? This is about going beyond channels and starting with audiences to ensure news value, accuracy, repetition, trust and advocacy. Positioning used to describe how your brand related to competitors in your category; now, it’s about describing how your brand relates to society at large.
  3. How do we make the idea count? Ultimately, any campaign must ladder back to a business objective. Ask yourself: what are you putting out into the real world that is tangible and demonstrable? Use data validation, audience journey mapping and asset/tool production to create that real impact.

Are you ready to push your work into award-winning territory?

If you’d like to hear more about this year’s awards show learnings, get in touch. We’d love to share Weber Shandwick’s ‘Cannes-piration’ – a look at the trends, benchmarks and insights after the festival wraps later this month. We’ll walk you through our POV on the best work from the world’s biggest creative festival and talk about the insights and innovation that earned the awards.

We may have a love-hate relationship with awards, but we love sharing great work.


C2 Takeaways: Act More Human

It is estimated that by 2030 Artificial Intelligence (AI) will contribute $15.7 trillion (USD) to the global economy. Machine learning is poised to impact everything from manufacturing to medicine and from agriculture to financial systems. Meanwhile, consumers interact with AI on a regular basis, whether it’s Amazon’s recommendations or Gmail’s auto-complete feature.

It’s no surprise that talk of AI was inescapable at C2, especially considering the theme for 2019 was ‘Tomorrow’. Keynote speaker WILL.I.AM made headlines when he announced a partnership with Stradigi AI during the conference. The musician-turned-tech entrepreneur will take on an advisory role with the Montreal-based AI company.

So, at a time when organizations are becoming increasingly intertwined and dependent on AI, what’s a brand to do to ensure a healthy bond with consumers? Act more human. Throughout C2, discussions repeatedly circled back to the idea that to succeed in the future companies must be more authentic, trustworthy and values-driven.

According to Hollywood, self-aware machines aren’t to be trusted. And while we’ve yet to witness a robot uprising, consumers are wary of the technology that we use daily, especially when it comes to data and privacy. It’s no wonder that companies have an incentive to act more human, now more than ever.

Acting human isn’t just reserved for those employing AI – it’s a sound strategy for any company at a time consumer trust is at dangerously low levels. So how does a company act more human?

  1. By caring about the world and its inhabitants. IKEA’s Dominique Fularski presented a plan from the Swedish retail giant to become completely circular by 2030. In the not-too-distant future, IKEA will be exclusively using existing materials to build new products while helping customers extend the life of or reuse IKEA products they already own.
  2. By treating people like people, with real emotions. Alicia Tillmam is CMO at SAP, the world’s largest provider of enterprise application software. One might expect a presentation from a tech giant to focus on speeds and feeds. Instead, she did a deep dive into research about the 27 distinct feels humans have and the importance of appealing to one another on an emotional basis.
  3. By having values, and actually living them. Refinery 29 co-founder Piera Gelardi talked about how Gen-Z is a values-driven generation: a group who will decide to patronize companies based on its values. Be warned though: ‘having values’ and living them are two different things, and Gen Z will be more discerning than previous generations. Piera talked about the evolution of its 29Rooms event, which evolved from an Instagramable pop-up event to a series of experiences informed by the values important to attendees: social justice, gender equality and disconnecting from technology to reconnect with each other.

Acting human requires trust and care. Is your company one that people can trust? And a company that genuinely cares for the world?


LARGE AGENCY OF THE YEAR X 3!

They say good things come in threes.  For the third year in a row, IABC has named Weber Shandwick Canada the Large Agency Of The Year!

At last night’s gala we came home with a total of sixteen IABC Ovation Awards. And like last week’s CPRS Ace Awards, we left with more wins than any other agency in the country.

Our partners at McDonald’s, Buick, Chevrolet, Air Canada, Canadian Tire, Sport Chek and Splenda were all recognized. An extra hat tip goes to Sport Chek’s Woods Parka Lodge for winning the People’s Choice Award – the final and most prestigious award of the night.

We congratulate them all and remain grateful for the opportunity to do incredible work together. And we look forward to generating more value and impact next year.

Here’s the full list of Weber Shandwick Canada 2019 IABC Ovation Award wins:

Large Agency Of The Year

  • Weber Shandwick Canada

People’s Choice Award

  • Sport Chek – The Woods Parka Lodge

Media Relations

  • Chevrolet Canada – Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup: 2017/18 Season (Excellence, $50,000 – $100,000)
  • Sport Chek – The Woods Parka Lodge (Excellence, $100,000)
  • Air Canada – Signature Service Launch (Merit, $100,000)

Marketing Communications

  • McDonald’s Canada – McCafé Bagel Launch (Excellence)
  • McDonald’s Canada – Certified Sustainable Beef (Merit)
  • McDonald’s Canada – The Hottest Collab of 2018: The Big Mac® x Bacon (Merit)
  • SportChek – The Woods Parka Lodge (Merit)
  • Splenda – SPLENDA® Stevia Sweetener: “The Sweet Spot” (Merit)

Advertising and Brand Communications

  • Splenda – SPLENDA® Stevia Sweetener: “The Sweet Spot” (Excellence)
  • McDonald’s – The Hottest Collab of 2018: The Big Mac® x Bacon (Merit)

Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Chevrolet Canada – Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup: 2017/18 Season (Merit)

Special Events

  • Canadian Tire – Canadian Tire Christmas House (Excellence)
  • Buick Canada – #BuickStyle: The Ultimate Driving Shoe (Excellence)
  • Splenda – SPLENDA® Stevia Sweetener: “The Sweet Spot” (Merit)

Crash Course: Six Lessons From Collision

Last week Collision descended on Toronto for the first time. Weber Shandwick was there – Chief Digital Office Chris Perry led a panel, and I joined my colleagues and clients to attend many sessions. Our partners at IBM were on hand as well, with Chief Digital Officer Bob Lord

If you weren’t among the 27,000 attendees over four days, here are six takeaways to consider in our rapidly-changing landscape.

  1. AI, AI, AI. Speakers in virtually every session were using terms like “machine learning” as they were debating opportunities and fears around AI. Our client IBM’s Bob Lord shared how technologies like AI and Open Source are the biggest drivers of innovation in business today. While the general feeling was that AI is making a positive difference and is enhancing products and services, many questions arose around ethics. How do we ensure human biases are not transmitted to AI? What does the future of work look like with AI? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What’s exciting is that some of the most interesting advancements in AI are made in Canada. There’s Thena, an AI that helps entrepreneurs with bookkeeping, payroll and analytics. And Oscar from intuitive.ai, that empowers buildings and spaces towards zero waste. Another standout AI assistant born in Canada is Lisa, the first autonomous lifeguard robot that detects drowning and rescues the person in distress.
  2. Looking at viability of media, Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith summed it up perfectly: “There’s never been a better time to be a reporter…if you can get a job.” Consensus among speakers from Vox and The Guardian is that media have figured out the new model. Rather than relying on ad revenue, it’s about finding the audience who values what you do and then enabling them to subscribe and direct what you cover.
  3. There was some green among the grey. Standing out among the overwhelming number of martech exhibitors and presenters is key. Some highlights included Startup Edmonton’s donut wall to engage passersby, and plant-based dairy startup Spero’s simple pitch: “There are a lot of you, and only one food company here. Come visit our booth.”
  4. While this was a technology conference, doing the basics well is still important. A lot of speakers touched on the implications of talent, ethics and privacy, while GE CMO Linda Boff said that during its recent troubles she’s focused more on culture and internal engagement than running marketing campaigns.
  5. Women to the front! I was thrilled to see more women here than at usual tech events. Collision reports that 45 per cent of the Toronto event’s attendees were female. With discounted tickets and onsite networking and mentoring areas for women, it’s heartening to see the tech industry do something about gender disparity.
  6. That’s (business) entertainment – Sure, this conference has opportunities to learn and network, but to me this was really about entertainment. Collision is catering to a need for people to follow the latest drama with tech titans like Google and Facebook. They want to see what small characters may become future stars. Audiences want to applaud the heroes and boo the villains. With the future of business in the balance, the scale and production value of these events will only get bigger and slicker.

Missed Collision? Not to worry. There are plenty of video recordings of the sessions, and it’s set to return to Toronto for 2020 and 2021. See you there?


WEBER SHANDWICK CANADA SWEEPS 2019 CPRS ACE AWARDS

Nothing succeeds like success! After becoming the most awarded agency at the 2019 SABREs, we led our industry once again with 24 wins at last week’s CPRS Ace Awards.

#BuickStyle got the honour of Best Creative PR Campaign Of The Year, along with two other Golds and a Bronze. This comes after #BuickStyle was given the prestigious Diamond SABRE Award earlier this month. A huge thanks to the Buick Canada team for their partnership.

Our partners at McDonald’s received a whopping 10 CPRS accolades – the most for a single brand this year. Some of our standout McDonald’s work included Certified Sustainable Beef, the RMHC Cookie Launch and McCafé Bagel Launch. Congratulations to our friends and partners at McDonald’s.

Other recognized work includes the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup, the Canadian Tire Christmas House and Triangle Rewards Launch, the innovative Woods Parka Lodge, Air Canada Signature Service Launch and The Sweet Spot for Splenda Stevia Sweetener. We thank all our clients for their trust and true partnership. You can read the full list below.

Recognition is nice, but the real magic comes down to three things: the value and impact of our work, the incredible clients we get to partner with, and the amazing team at Weber Shandwick that propels the work forward.

BuickStyle: The Ultimate Driving Shoe

  • Best Creative PR Campaign Of The Year
  • Brand Development Campaign Of The Year – Gold
  • Best Use Of Special Events – Gold
  • Best Media Relations Campaign over $50,000 – Bronze

McDonald’s Certified Sustainable Beef

  • Brand Development Campaign Of The Year – Gold

McDonald’s #ShareSomeCookie: RMHC Cookie Launch

  • New Product Or Service Launch Of The Year – Gold

McDonald’s McCafé Bagel Launch 

  • New Product Or Service Launch Of The Year – Gold
  • Marketing Communications Campaign Of The Year – Silver

McDonald’s Beyond the Arch – Raptors x McDonald’s

  • Marketing Communications Campaign Of The Year – Silver

McDonald’s MacCoin: 50 Years Of The Big Mac

  • Marketing Communications Campaign Of The Year – Silver

McDonald’s Big Mac x Bacon Launch

  • Product Or Service Launch Of The Year – Bronze

Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup

  • Brand Development Campaign Of The Year – Gold
  • Community Relations Campaign of the Year – Gold
  • Best Media Relations Campaign over $50,000 – Gold

Canadian Tire Christmas House

  • Best Use Of Special Events – Gold

Canadian Tire Triangle Rewards Launch

  • Best Media Relations Campaign over $50,000 – Gold
  • Product Or Service Launch Of The Year – Bronze

Canadian Tire The Woods Parka Lodge

  • Marketing Communications Campaign Of The Year – Gold

Air Canada Signature Service Launch

  • Brand Development Campaign Of The Year – Silver
  • New Product Or Service Launch Of The Year – Silver
  • Best Media Relations Campaign over $50,000 – Silver
  • Best Use Of Special Events – Silver

SPLENDA Stevia Sweetener “The Sweet Spot”

  • Best Use Of Special Events – Gold
  • Marketing Communications Campaign Of The Year – Silver

 

Featured photo: Team Buick, Chevrolet and Weber Shandwick Canada celebrate at the CPRS Ace Awards Gala May 23, 2019 in Toronto.


PR Inspiration in Five Brilliant Films

Last week at the 2019 SABRE Awards gala, I was struck about the similarities between brilliant PR programs and the best movies. But the lessons and inspiration that movies offer go far beyond fancy parties.

Game-changing ideas come from the edges, not from where you usually look. That’s why I like how the arts — and especially movies — let you free your mind to explore new ways of looking at familiar things.

With that in mind, here are five films that are great on their own merit, but also highlight the path to success in our work and in our client relationships.

Vice

Adam McKay’s brilliant follow-up to The Big Short is a tour de force about the broken social compact that has severely wobbled western democracies. In McKay’s view, everyday politics is just a brassy, empty show that distracts from the deadly maneuvering that takes place in the shadows, where the real game is fought. Vice has a jumpy staccato pace and some clever dramatic devices that are true craft. It’s huge fun.

Vice should remind us to beware of the blizzard of competing priorities and remember that focus is everything. Prioritize a few simple things, stay on them, get them done. And don’t waste time. Finding quiet time to renew your energy and get the real work done is what drives success.

The Romanoffs

I am in the minority here, but The Romanoffs is the most dazzling storytelling on screen this year – or any year. This series of eight short stories by Matthew Weiner (Mad Men) is about people who think their life is the center of the universe. Each protagonist stakes their claim to specialness based on some distant and unproven link to a diaspora of royal Russian blood. They are so self-absorbed that they blind themselves to the needs of everyone around them. Privilege leads to their self-destruction; kind of like it did one century ago to the Russian Czar.

There are many takeaways here. But for me, the biggest is that good relationships are about listening and giving. A happy life is about your impact on others, not their utility to you. In a good agency, the best talent makes everyone around them shine brighter. We don’t suck the energy out of each other, we empower one another. And when we do that, we empower our clients to create a virtuous circle.

The Favourite

This is a darkly beautiful film about powerful women engaged in a ruthless competition for favour in the dysfunctional court of Queen Anne. It is a zero-sum game with no winners. Ultimately, the player with the deepest ambition rises from lowly bedchamber woman to become the favourite bedchamber woman in the closing scene. Some reward! The lesson here: be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

The same is true in agency life when it comes to the scramble for new business. We should never pursue a new client because we like the thrill of the hunt or to burnish our egos. Chasing RFPs is a tough way to build a business given how flawed the agency selection process is. It’s always better to treat your current clients like royalty and grow your remit with them by finding new ways to contribute to their business success. Replace zero-sum with win-win.

Isle of Dogs

I have three dogs, so of course I love this movie. But that does not help me make sense of it. And like my dogs, there is a lot going on under the surface I don’t understand.

Wes Anderson has explored the bleakest corners of human nature in his last few films as a way to prove that the resilience of the better parts of our nature is our true saving grace. This dystopian view of the future (why is it set in Japan?) anchors unshakeable love in the loyal bond between boy and dog. They are friends; best friends, even. Adults are not to be trusted. Only children have the answers and the courage to act on their principles. This argument can be found in Anderson’s recent work like Moonrise Kingdom and Grand Budapest Hotel. It makes me wonder why we surrendered our innocence in the first place.

The real bite in Isle of Dogs, however, is as a cautionary tale about the banality of evil. The bad guys are mostly bland and robotic, estranged from nature, pursuing our heroes as part of the Megasaki Municipal Task Force. George Orwell would admire the use of language in this movie to mask bad intent as public service. This is a deep movie that is must viewing for anyone who wants to better understand the devices we use to communicate. Not a lot of answers provided; but all the right questions are raised about how authority figures can frame a narrative and use fear to make the public complicit in its embrace until confronted with a more powerful emotional truth.

Tokyo Drifter

This film is not new and yet it is always new. Seijun Suzuki is the Quentin Tarantino of post-war Japanese cinema. Here he smashes together a classic gangster noir with the social upheaval of the swinging sixties to break all conventions. The plot is a familiar mob drama. A fading Yakuza godfather surrenders his empire to an upstart rival leaving his No. 1 enforcer suddenly without a job and without a future. Honour forces him to abandon his past and exile himself to the frozen hinterland, where he is hunted by killers eager to tie up loose ends until he realizes he has been double-crossed. Then he returns home to avenge.

It’s a predictable plot, except everyone acts against cast to create a stunning movie with bold contrasts. Think music videos circa 1966. Everything is exaggerated, from the bright colour palette to the spare soundstages that accentuate every move. It’s eccentric to the max. This movie punches way above its weight because it never stops punching. Especially on repeat viewing.

How does a 54-year-old movie relate to communications today? As Miles Davis once said, “if you are going to tell a story, come with some attitude.” In this time of industry disruption and transformation, we need to be bold. We can’t shrink our way to success. We can’t be the admiral so afraid of the risks at sea that the navy gets sunk in its port. Better to act. Even if we might get it wrong. Then, iterate together to find the right course.

 


#BUICKSTYLE WINS 2019 DIAMOND SABRE AWARD

You could say we were a shoe-in.

This week The Holmes Report awarded Weber Shandwick a coveted Diamond SABRE Award for our work with Buick Canada. The campaign #BuickStyle: The Ultimate Driving Shoe was recognized as a ‘Superior Achievement in Brand-Building’ by the prestigious industry outlet.

Congratulations to our partners at Buick Canada for trusting us to take risks that generate real results for the brand. Our team put our hearts into this campaign. We’re thrilled to share this honour and look forward to continuing down the road with Buick Canada together.


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