New Applied Arts Website Launches This Week


We’ve gotten a virtual makeover, and we can’t wait for you to see the results!

It’s been four years since our last redesign and a lot has changed at AA since then. We know you need a variety of ways to access the most inspiring content about the visual communications industry, so we ensured our new site is fit to deliver.

The new, responsively designed emphasizes the big images we know inspire you — and it looks pretty snazzy, if we do say so ourselves. The Applied Arts Wire blog that you know and love has a new look and name, and it’s now fully integrated into our website. This will be our last post at, but all of this content will live on if you ever need to refer back to it. Our new blog is called The Brief, and you can find it here.

You’ll find our editorial content is more streamlined and easy-to-find under one tab. Over the coming months, we’ll be introducing some new web-only editorial sections and another regular columnist. We’re also making much of our print content available to you online, free of charge, for the rest of the year as we move toward implementing a subscriber-based model in 2015.

Our improved Awards Archive will continue to inspire. The feature we’re most excited about is a grid view of winning entries, so you can see thumbnails of a year’s worth of works in any discipline. We’re also highlighting a selection of pieces from the archive on our home page. If you see an image you like, simply click on it to see its full entry.

We’re excited to announce that later this year, a tablet version of Applied Arts will be available for download. While nothing can beat the quality paper and inks we use in the print magazine, we understand that sometimes you need your inspiration on the go!

We’ve been working really hard to get this site in tip-top shape for you, and we want your feedback — but before we get it, we’re going to take a short vacation. When we get back, you’ll see the brand-new Applied Arts website. We know you’ll love it.

Happy Canada Day and see you on the other side!

Vaya, Vaya México!

It’s no surprise that food chain Mucho Burrito is cheering on Mexico in the World Cup. Now, it’s inviting customers to do the same by literally shattering the competition.

With the help of Toronto agency dougserge+partners, for each game Mucho Burrito is setting up piñatas filled with candy and gift cards at a different location in the Greater Toronto Area. The piñatas are decorated with the flags of Mexico’s soccer rivals, so customers get the chance to smash the piñata and “defeat” the opponent prior to the match.

Mucho Burrito

“Since Canada doesn’t have a team in the World Cup and since Mucho Burrito is our client, it made lots of sense for them to cheer for Mexico,” writes Mike Welling, partner at ds+p in an email.
“When it came to the idea of wanting Mexico to ‘beat’ their competitor, what could be a more authentic Mexican symbol than pinatas styled up in competitor colours?”

“All of this has come together really fast,” he continues. “It wasn’t an initiative that was planned in advance with the client, but rather [it's] a great example of us making sure our teams really understand our client’s brand positioning and encouraging everyone to come up with ideas.

The campaign includes in-store “Go Mexico Go” posters and wild postings across Toronto to showcase the creative.

Mucho Burrito for World Cup

Mucho Burrito for World Cup

Mucho Burrito for World Cup
“[It's been] a great example of teamwork all-round and a fun way to add some excitement and entertainment in some stores, and, just as importantly, of an appreciative client who has enthusiastically jumped on board,” Welling writes.

To find out when and where the next piñata smashing is taking place, visit Mucho Burrito on Twitter.

Winnipeg, Meet Portland

Winnipeg’s Think Shift has merged with Portland, Oregon–based LogiStyle to create Canada’s first ad agency/corporate culture consultancy. David Baker, CEO of Think Shift, and Dr. Balaji Krishnamurthy, founder of LogiStyle, promise to bring a unique hybrid of brand creation and leadership to their existing and new clients.

Think Shift has an experiential marketing track record with many clients in Central Canada, and LogiStyle offers private and public workshops on leadership and corporate culture. Wondering how a Winnipeg agency and a Portland consultancy came to know of one another?

ThinkShift and LogiStyle

Dr. Balaji Krishnamurthy, founder of LogiStyle, and David Baker, CEO of Think Shift, say companies need to get comfortable baring it all in the new ad landscape

“David [Baker] came to one of our programs and found it transformative. He then sent his senior leaders,” Krishnamurthy explains. “They have always tried to explain to their clients about being intentional to the brand you area, and being intentional about what you want to communicate. And here I am talking about being intentional with regard to leadership. They found it synergistic.”

When Baker and his team started implementing LogiStyle’s tenets in their workplace and noticed a difference, Baker called on Krishnamurthy to see the results. “It had transformed the company strategically and financially,” Krishnamurthy says. “When I saw, I was floored.”

The two companies worked on some joint projects before the merger and were impressed with their success. Krishnamurthy says the combined offering, which will operate under the name Think Shift, will put clients in a position to develop a fully rounded brand, ensuring not only customer satisfaction and retention, but employee fulfillment as well.

“Most agencies provide ad services, and they might provide brand creation,” says Krishnamurthy. “But they seldom talk about the more fundamental elements of business.” He points to Apple as an example of a company that has been very purposeful in both its brand execution and corporate culture, which has in turn created a consumer loyalty unmatched by its competitors. “[Apple] created the idea of ‘this is what we’re about.’ It was communicated in their brand, in their strategy,” he says. “That’s what we are trying to communicate [with the merger]. A company must have very intentional leadership that creates a narrative…It drives the culture of the company, the brand of the company and the strategy of the company.”

Art and WorldPride 2014

Toronto welcomed the world this past weekend with the kick-off for WorldPride 2014, a ten-day festival of revelry, education and culture for LGBT communities and friends. While the massive parade on June 29 is the biggest draw, there are myriad arts-related events that are worth seeing, too.

One of those events is Generations of Queer, an exhibition staged by Onsite at OCAD University. The show has been on since March and this week is the last chance to see it (GOQ ends on June 28). The exhibition creates a storytelling narrative between the work of two senior artists (filmmaker John Greyson and the late photographer Robert Flack) and two emerging artists (illustrator/animator Elisha Lim and multimedia artist Kiley May) who have benefitted from the activism of those who came before them.

Photo courtesy Karen Stintz/Flickr

Toronto WorldPride flag raising photo courtesy Karen Stintz/Flickr

Another major event is Fan the Flames: Queer Positions in Photography (to September 17) at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Participating artists present contemporary and historical images questioning gender roles, and use photographs and video to explore the notion of self. Particularly notable are a selection of videos chosen by curator Jon Davies.

For a full list of art-related WorldPride events, click here. And if you’re in Toronto, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for some of the cool public art related to the festival, such as the rainbow-striped crosswalks on Church Street.

Welcome Back, Beer Fridge

O, Canada!

The Cannes Lion–winning Molson Canadian Beer Fridge is back in Canada after a 17,000-km trip around the world.

The fridge, created by Rethink, became well known over the past few months in Europe and Indonesia, where it stood locked on street corners. Not just anyone could gain access to the cold Molson Canadian beer inside, though — the fridge could only be unlocked by scanning a Canadian passport.

After winning a bronze Cyber Lion at Cannes this year, the red-and-white appliance is back on Canadian soil. In honour of Canada Day, Rethink came up with another way for us to open the fridge. This time around, passersby will have to sing the national anthem outside the fridge to open it.

Try your luck in Ottawa’s Byward Market on Canada Day, or on July 14 at the Pemberton Music Festival in BC.

Cannes Lions 2014: Fueled by Fuels

The fourth in a series of guest posts by Brent Nelsen, managing partner and SVP director of planning at Leo Burnett Toronto. Brent is filing from Cannes, France, where he’s attending the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. See his other posts here, here and here.

“Branded content” has been the new marketing buzzword, brief objective and campaign add-on for the last several years. But are brands and agencies doing it well? The answer to that question, I’m afraid, is hidden in plain view on the pages of Urban Dictionary:

1.     Branded Content “Long, boring advertisements on YouTube that no one in their right mind would ever watch. E.g, ‘I just watched that awesome new piece of branded content from Dave’s Autos,’ said no one ever.” — by whatlofi January 03, 2014

One whole day at Cannes was dedicated to the collision of creativity and technology this year, and “Fashion Content Remixed” was one of those fascinating and instructive sessions. A session on how to make sexy-as-hell, can’t-look-away, my-god-it-makes-me-shiver (or insert appropriate bodily sexual response here), I-want-to-see-that-again…branded content.

If there were some key takeaways able to impact Urban Dictionary’s definition, they are:

1. Production Value: Branded content must have the very same production values as any film people might pay to see. It’s quite simply the context by which branded content competes and the context by which its quality will be judged. Yet many brands and agencies think of branded content as yet another opportunity to drive reach and frequency with a repetition of the TV spot, cut-down or adapt. A 30-second or 60-second spot, no matter which way you cut it, does not make a piece of branded content. Can I have an “amen!”, brothers and sisters?

2. Narrative Value: Branded content’s success is reliant upon the story and the power of that story to attract, involve and absorb the viewer. Not a different challenge here than for any piece of advertising, but it does require people who get long-form narrative. Maybe a different talent than what may already reside in an agency. People who can skillfully construct a story arch, plot, character evolution and plot resolution.

I’d like to add a third factor, not discussed but arguably a driver of the above two executional considerations: Cultural fuels, or observable behaviours that affect what people pay attention to, desire, talk about and consume. There’s no doubt that the fuels of narration economy and “entertain me” are massive drivers of not only what content people spend time with and consume, but also how that content manifests itself creatively. All brands exist within a broader context in which they compete, and knowing what cultural fuels impact people in your category and your brand can mean the difference between content that drives brand and business or simply drives boredom.

The mascot for the Future Lions

The mascot for the Future Lions — young creatives may be the next branding content stars

Cannes Lions 2014: Why Does Everything Have to be So Serious?

The third in a series of guest posts by Brent Nelsen, managing partner and SVP director of planning at Leo Burnett Toronto. Brent is filing from Cannes, France, where he’s attending the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. See his other posts here, here and here.

I feel a strong need to channel my inner Edina Monsoon and repeat in a mantra like fashion “lighten up sweetie…lighten up!”

In his session yesterday, David Lubars talked about how a lot of great work out there right now is void of sarcasm, cynicism and nastiness. That much of the great work is pure, straight up, highly emotional…and highly creative. And yes, much of that work is without doubt skillful in its craft, creativity and human insight. You feel it as a viewer, a participant and a voyeur. Yet, versus previous years at Cannes, there seems to be overall tone from many of the presentations and work that the world is indeed heavy, from press, media, activation, digital and as much film as I could stuff into my eyes. Many attendees I spoke with had the very same question as I did: why so serious?

While I don’t have a definitive answer for that, one can easily observe that yes, Virginia, the world is a serious place. One can’t help but pick up a newspaper, grab a magazine or watch the news without being barraged by a hail of disasters, deceit, wreck and ruin when it comes to the environment, geopolitics and the economy.

So today, I thought I’d celebrate the creators of lightness, laughter and levity…the creatives, planners and account people who manage to bring it all skillfully together with a feeling of honesty, the possible and a place for the brand:



"Bear" for Badabulle by Publicis Conseil Paris

“Bear” for Badabulle by Publicis Conseil Paris

"Rabbit" for Badabulle by Publicis Conseil Paris

“Rabbit” for Badabulle by Publicis Conseil Paris

"Rabbit" for Badabulle by Publicis Conseil Paris

“Rabbit” for Badabulle by Publicis Conseil Paris

"It Looks Bigger" Philips Bodygroomer ad by Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg

“It Looks Bigger: The benefits of trimming down-there-hair” for Philips Bodygroomer by Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg

Thank you for this work. If laughing and crying were the only two options…I’d sooner laugh.

Fake Grey Poupon Ad Goes Viral

If you haven’t seen this hilarious faux ad for Grey Poupon yet, it’s our Friday gift to you. (Warning: finish your breakfast before you watch.)

The spoof was not in any way endorsed by the mustard brand or its parent company Kraft Foods, but with over 2 million YouTube views and counting at the time of this posting, we can’t help but think that it’s been a healthy little boost of PR.

Your Mailbox is About to be Haunted

Legend has it that on her wedding day in 1926, a young woman tripped down the candle-laden stone staircase at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, her dress catching fire in the process. She died after breaking her neck in the fall. Since then, there’s been reported sightings of the “Ghost Bride” floating down the lobby stairs or dancing alone in the hotel’s dining room.

The plight of the Ghost Bride is one of Canada’s most treasured ghost stories, and now she, along with others who met similar fates, is being celebrated by Canada Post in a new stamp collection.

The five “Haunted Canada” stamps are the first in a three-year series designed by Lionel Gadoury, principal and director of creative services for Toronto’s Context Creative studio. He worked with Canadian illustrator Sam Weber, who now lives in NYC, on the project.

“We chose Sam for his interpretive sense and his ability to bring us these magical, hyperrealist images,” Gadoury says. “We knew we wanted something that would stand up to a level of scrutiny.”

Ghost Bride stamp

Gadoury, who has collaborated with Canada Post on stamp collections before, says it was important to represent as many regions of Canada as possible with the first release, and to find ways to make the stamp unique to those regions.

With the St. Louis Ghost Train stamp, which references the story about a CNR conductor who was beheaded by a passing train in the 1920s, Gadoury wanted to find a way to indicate that the story took place in the Saskatchewan River Valley. “So we included a grain elevator and researched what the train might have looked like at that time, and in that particular area. It’s about finding ways to introduce the unique identifying details of the story,” he explains. “There’s an element of authenticity to the stamps.”

This is especially apparent in the Fort George, Ontario stamp, a tribute to the War of 1812 and the ghosts of its casualties heard moaning and crying behind the fort’s walls. Gadoury paid special attention to the medallions depicted on the uniforms of the stamp’s skeleton soldiers, and re-created what they would have looked like at the time. On the uncut press sheet, which is available for purchase from Canada Post, those elements are even more apparent. “All the detail is there. The more you enlarge the illustrations and the closer attention you pay them, the more it brings the whole story together,” Gadoury says.

Ghost Train stamp Fort George stamp

Designing the stamps and accompanying collateral to capture all of the necessary detail did pose some challenges. “There isn’t necessarily any visual reference [for these stories], just text descriptions of what people saw or thought they saw,” Gadoury explains. “The stamps also had to have a certain simplicity of composition.”

The stamps were finished with holographic spot foils, which produce a shimmery effect fitting for any paranormal story. In addition, Gadoury designed a complementary souvenir coin of the Ghost Bride, issued by the Royal Canadian Mint. The coin uses lenticular printing to create a holographic illusion. When the coin is tilted one way, the bride appears with her eyes closed; when tilted another way, the Banff Springs hotel appears, her eyes open and candles from her fateful story surround her.

Coin 1 Coin 2

The stamps, which were released last week on Friday the 13th, have already resonated with the public. Gadoury credits the Haunted Canada theme as the reason people have taken such quick interest. “The really interesting thing is when someone brings up a ghost story, how quickly other people share their own,” he says.”The interest for Canada Post is to create themes that are popular with collects and that capture popular imagination. The coin sold out in a matter of days — the whole run. We’re hoping that all of the print collateral strikes a similar chord.”

Count of Frontenac stamp Phantom Ship stamp

Cannes Lions 2014: Is Planning Dead?

The second in a series of guest posts by Brent Nelsen, managing partner and SVP director of planning at Leo Burnett Toronto. Brent is filing from Cannes, France, where he’s attending the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. See his other posts here, here and here.

Photo courtesy Daniel Incandela/Flickr

Photo courtesy Daniel Incandela/Flickr

As Mark Twain said in the New York Journal of June 2, 1897: “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Is planning dead? A provocative question…yes. A valuable question…debatable. Dead or alive, this was but one of the many planning-focused topics up for discussion at Cannes. The basic premise of the presentation to a jam-packed room was this:

Planning for ideas, for creativity and planning for insight is relevant, but within a traditional agency or network is lost and its real currency undervalued.

Three key points formed the basis of the argument. One, that in large network agencies, planning has become a highly fragmented discipline focused less on what matters most to driving brand advantage and more on tactical micro-slivers of planning — channel planning, digital planning, experience planning, etc. Two, that planning is increasingly trapped and subjugated to a life of toil on briefs and nothing more. And three, that by accepting these roles, planning has willingly or been forced to abandon its primary reasons for being: helping brands redefine and articulate their true purpose, understanding humans as people to create mutual value and working with creative teams to find fresh ideas that move business.

Wow. Okay. Let the games begin. Release the lions. Talk amongst yourselves.

Two thoughts for consideration:

1. If planning has been relegated to a small, dark and lonely corner in your agency because of politics, colleagues’ insecurities or disbelief about planning’s ability to aid creativity and creative, find another agency. Seriously. Only medication can solve those issues. You can’t. Call me, email me and let’s have a coffee or cocktail together and talk about a better way to spend your time and share your talents.

2. If planning has lost its currency because of a complete lack of perceived or actual contribution to the creative product, then we need to ask ourselves, our creative teams and other planners if we’re actually doing our job. Regardless of whether the task is defining a brand purpose or defining a contact strategy…are we doing our job or relegating it to others? Are we providing actionable value or just trying to sound like the smartest person in the room? Are we blathering endless, incessant theory and rhetoric or simple, concise and helpful insight and direction?

Here’s a prescription for finding out if planning has a pulse where you are. Be brave. Share your work. Share your thinking. See what people say. See if you’re actually planning or just posing…then you’ll know what you have to do. Pick door #1 and get the hell out of dodge because planning is dead and buried OR pick door #2 and start trying to be a better planner.

It’s fantastic that account planning is a part of the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, but my only wish is that we could stop talking about planning in the abstract and get on with sharing learning that makes better, more effective, more compelling, more meaningful and award-winning ideas. Talk less. Do more.