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"As a Canadian Industry, We’ve Found our Swagger."

The Immortal Awards 290 Add to collection

Zak Mroueh, founder and CCO of Zulu Alpha Kilo, which is this year's Immortal Awards Canadian jury partner, discusses what's exciting him about Canadian creativity right now

"As a Canadian Industry, We’ve Found our Swagger."

The Immortal Awards is returning to in-person judging in 2022 and will be kicking off the North American jury days with its first ever trip to Canada.

The Canadian jury - which made its debut in 2021 - will meet on October 31st to select the market's very best work from the last year. Those on the jury will be sending the best-of-the-best on to the regional North American round where they will be pitted against the US jury's selections for a place on the global shortlist.

We're delighted that this year's jury is being supported by Toronto indie powerhouse Zulu Alpha Kilo, who have recently expanded across the border to open up a shop in New York. We caught up with founder Zak Mroueh, a former Immortal Awards juror himself, to find out more about what you should be keeping an eye on in Canadian creativity right now...

What's exciting you most about Canadian creativity this year?
Zak > For me the most exciting thing right now is that Canadian creativity has found its groove. Our creative superpower as a nation has always been the fact that we can't hide behind big budgets and big execution, so we must be creative entrepreneurs in how we bring our ideas to life. Lately, almost on a weekly basis, I’m seeing work come out of Canada that I wish I’d done. As a Canadian industry, we’ve found our swagger. One sign of our nation’s confidence is the fact that a lot of agencies from Canada are now opening across the border in the US. That was rare 10 or 15 years ago. 

Which Canadian creatives and companies should we be keeping an eye on this year? 

Zak > Well, there’s Zulu Alpha Kilo for starters (laughs). We were humbled to be named Campaign US Independent Agency of the Year, Drum UK Agency of the Year and Ad Age International Small agency of the year in 2022. And of course, there’s our fellow Canadian indie Rethink. Their most recent work for PEN is a great example of just how much of a creative powerhouse they’ve become.

As for newcomers, I am a big fan of Broken Heart Love Affair. They’re very seasoned creatives. Co-founder Carlos Moreno has been cranking out brilliant work his whole career. His co-founders include two highly awarded and regarded creative partners Denise Rossetto and Todd Mackie, who have also proven themselves in the big holding company agencies. Together, they're putting out some great stuff on big brands and doing super smart work. Their work for Kruger is a terrific example. And what I like about their work is its real. It's not just stuff that was created to win awards. It’s work that has to sell a product and sell an idea versus just something to get attention in social media. They're going to be ones to watch. 

I think it will be interesting to see what Courage does in Toronto. Backed by No Fixed Address founders Serge Rancourt and Dave Lafond, it was founded by former Rethink creatives Dhaval Bhatt and Joe Holtby, along with president Niki Sahni. They did some brilliant work previously for clients like IKEA, Kraft Heinz, Molson Canadian, and Scotiabank.

Lastly, I would say the original Toronto office of No Fixed Address is another one to watch. We all know they’re lightning it up in New York with the Mischief brand under the leadership of Greg Hahn. But locally, they recently recruited CCOs Alexis Bronstorph and Kelsey Horne from Taxi who have an excellent, track record of doing great work. They’re a powerhouse duo.

Which projects should our Canadian jury be looking out for at this year's Immortal Awards ?

Zak > One piece we’re proud of at Zulu is the Micropedia of Microaggressions. That's something that I think has a lot of purpose and meaning behind it. It's been getting a lot of recognition from organizations, governments and mainstream media. Creatively, it was honoured with the Fusion Pencil at the One Show, which is one of the highest honors for diversity and inclusion.

Micropedia of Microaggressions, Zulu Alpha Kilo

Most recently, I would say The Unburnable Book which Rethink did for PEN. It’s a stunningly imaginative idea. I mean, Margaret Atwood with a flamethrower is as good as it gets. I was also a fan of the recent Milk Bone “Chewpons” out of Leo Burnett Toronto. You send a pic of anything your dog chewed, and it gets turned into a coupon, er, Chewpon. As a dog owner, I loved it.

Why do you believe creativity is so important for the Canadian market right now?

Zak > The caliber of creative that you get from the agencies in Canada is top notch, as I’ve said. But for us firing on all cylinders creatively is a matter of survival. There’s a lot of pressure on marketers here to use global work. So, when we do get an opportunity, we put extra pressure on ourselves to shine. To use a baseball metaphor, in bigger markets, where you have much bigger budgets, you're going to have ten at bats. In Canada, we may only have one at bat. It means we have to swing for the fences because we may not get another shot. We know that when we use our creativity to do great things, international clients take notice, and it leads to more global opportunities. Last year, Dove’s Courage is Beautiful, out of Ogilvy’s Toronto office, put them on the international radar. This led to more global briefs coming to their Canadian office.

Courage is Beautiful, Ogilvy Toronto

Why are you supporting the Immortal Awards in Canada this year?

Zak > I judged it last year and I really enjoyed the process. It was absent of politics, and it was a tough show with high standards. I liked the fact that there are no categories. And you know, for us, it was just another opportunity to be part of the global community and act as a bit of an ambassador for our country and for the Canadian creative pursuit of excellence. And that’s what the Immortal awards are about, the pursuit of excellence. It’s also one of the few shows that you don't have to pay to enter. 

And finally, it wouldn't be the Immortal Awards without asking you for one project that you believe to be an Immortal piece of creativity from Canada? 

Zak > I'm going to pick a campaign that was selling a real product in a tough category – packaged goods. And that was Diamond Shreddies. It was an ingenious solution. They didn't have anything new to talk about with the cereal. So, they said let’s just rotate the product 45° and call them Diamond Shreddies. They created news out of nothing. It was brilliant. It was funny. Now just imagine selling that to the client. Imagine what the lawyers would have said. To me, it's immortal for not only being a brilliant idea, but for the fact that they were able to sell it through. It ended up winning so many effectiveness awards and creative awards all over the world. Most important of all, consumers loved it and talked about it. 

Diamond Shreddies, Ogilvy Toronto

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The Immortal Awards, Tue, 09 Aug 2022 14:46:22 GMT