INSIDER'S VIEW CANADA

LONDON - After the industry's success at Cannes, Canadian marketers should stop being so backward about championing their work more boldly abroad, Trish Wheaton says

Canada's showing at Cannes has really put the quality of our marketing and communications centre stage. With a medal tally of 17, including the Grand Prix, Canadian marketers and their agencies are finally being recognised for world-class creative and innovative work, especially in non-traditional channels.

Despite hailing from a country famous for its humility, Canadian marketers should be very proud. And this on the back of the news that the Canadian marketing services group Cossette has added Dare to its portfolio of UK agencies.

For Canadian clients, all too prone to a branch plant mentality, the acclaim for their campaigns has important implications beyond the thrill of the global spotlight.

In North America, marketing functions are too often centralised and have literally gone south, the justification being that US-developed work can be rolled out into Canada.

Non-traditional channels, especially digital, have provided Canadians with a means to compete with US marketing budgets, creating work that can be rolled into the US.

The top-honoured Canadian agencies at Cannes - Zig and Ogilvy - are perfect examples of the two types of agency that dominate the Canadian marketing landscape: the small boutique and the global network subsidiary.

Zig and Ogilvy prove that Canadian work competes at the highest level and is not held hostage to an agency's business model. Once again, the freshest and most interesting work at Cannes this year was done by agencies that took a simple idea as far as it could go.  

Zig is part of a category of small Canadian-founded and owned agencies that produce outstanding work year after year. Notable others include Taxi, Grip, John Street, Rethink and Capital C.

Though these agencies mostly started out as pure-play advertising shops - except for Capital C, which has its roots in promotion - they are continually demonstrating Canada's rapidly rising command of non-traditional marketing. The digital industry is at an exciting crossroads here, with the edgier agencies moving upstream, taking on ad agencies and proving that the great idea is not confined to the 30-second TV spot.

I have long been vocal in urging Canadian marketers to champion their work more boldly abroad - to be a bit more "American" (or British, if you will). The marketing world needs to see more of Canada. To quote the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith: "Modesty is an overrated virtue." He'd certainly have known. He was Canadian.

Trish Wheaton is the president of Wunderman Canada

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