The Canadian city is stepping out of the shadow in a big way, believes Prime Chuck founder Charlie Janson
Already feeling as though it was an age ago, the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity was without a doubt a week to celebrate the best creative work the advertising and marketing industries have to offer. It was also the most important week to actually connect and begin relationships with the greatest talent, from up-and-comers to seasoned veterans.
When you’re flipping through the cards you find in your pocket, look for ones with the magic 416 code, your friends in the north… we’re talking about Toronto… that’s in Canada.
When you’re on the quest to build new relationships, Toronto companies should be a top priority. Toronto is a unique, multicultural city that is saturated with top creative talent. Brands and agencies need to start considering the city as a destination for creative, production and post production resources.
Despite the traditional stereotype that we’re all living in igloos up here in Canada, Toronto in fact has more high-rise projects under construction than any other North American city - even more than New York, the original home of iconic skyscrapers. We’re no longer in the shadow of US cities, surpassing Chicago as the fourth largest city in North America. Toronto is finally on the international map - but not just for size either.
Vogue has, in separate articles, named Toronto a foodie city and voted the neighbourhood West Queen West the second coolest neighbourhood in the world. Not too bad in terms of global recognition. I mean, The New York times even gave us the backhanded compliment of being “suddenly hip!” Thank you New York, you’re hip too.
In relation to the advertising industry, Toronto has been busy pumping out Lions-awarded work that’s been created and executed by our extensive pool of local talent. The city is recognised as a tourist destination for arts and culture but unfortunately isn’t utilised enough as a creative resource within adland.
As the media model has grown more complex, agencies wishing to keep up have evolved to meet brands’ new requirements. Having a competitive edge now means having a smarter approach and more accurate execution; creative problems are no longer solved by simply throwing money at them. Independent creative agencies are popping up in Toronto with this new workflow in mind, adapting to the need for a more efficient way of creating and executing ideas. Don Saynor and Ali Dalfen, both veterans of J. Walter Thompson Canada, have built The Jack Russell Agency on the idea of doing the same level of work as a big agency, but doing it more efficiently by being smaller and nimbler, and by always creating “real work for real people”. Currently servicing the Bushmills whiskey brand for all of North America, their clients are seeing amazing creative work as well as immense cost savings from working across the border. Looks like it’s finally better to shop on our side of the Falls!
And let’s not forget the other thing that makes Toronto even more unique. The people! We’re talking the land of hyper-politeness. I’m telling you, if you deliberately elbow a stranger on the street, they will apologise to you. This kindness carries over to the client services offered by all vendors. I’ve travelled the world visiting agencies and post production partners and nothing beats the way you are treated in Canada. Take for example walking in the door at one of Toronto’s top post production houses, Married to Giants. You are greeted with warm smiles and warm maple donuts or back bacon or poutine or other stereotypically Canadian things that aren’t really all that Canadians eat but sound good for the point I’m illustrating. There is a simple reason why we have a global reputation for being nice… because we’re nice!
What’s more, clients are particularly pleased with the cost savings when working in this market. “Toronto Editors are represented all over the US, but when you work with them in their local space you’re accessing the same great talent but also seeing a dramatic difference on your bottom line,” says Ben Valiquette, owner of Married to Giants.
When US and European agencies work with a Canadian company, they benefit not only from the exchange rate but also the general living costs - it’s cheaper to live in Toronto than, say, New York or LA. Inevitably you’re going to see this reflected in your cost of services. Hourly rates are different, studio hours are different. Your bottom line is different.
So please (see how I said please there) don’t forget about your neighbours in the North. We gave you hockey, Bieber, maple syrup, Drake and, let’s not forget these particularly cool Canadians, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen. Now let us give you the best creative execution you’ve ever seen.
If you’re thinking of heading to New York, LA or Chicago for your next big project, maybe come visit your friends in Canada.
We have a downtown airport that can get you from plane to editing suite in 20 minutes. We have people who will apologise to you for no reason. We have self-deprecating humour. And lots of bacon.
It’s time to realise that Canada is rich with culture and this is reflected in the people and our work. We are the North.
(Edited by Torontonian, Graham Chisholm.)
Charlie Janson is the founder of Prime Chuck