It’s still a bit surreal that my brain child (born during my last position at CAA) won 2017’s Best Online Campaign last week at Masthead’s Canadian Online Publishing Awards in downtown Toronto. It was an honour that the concept not only came to life, but resonated with audiences and garnered award winning attention.

The campaign was centered on Canada’s 150th birthday, entitled CAA Celebrate Canada Photo Contest. How could we not celebrate, being that ‘Canada’ has been part of the company name for over 115 years? At first, some stakeholders were hesitant of yet another Canada 150 campaign for fear it might come off as “me too” marketing and compete with noise from other brands jumping on the bandwagon. However the concept was earnest and took hold of audiences, providing the loyal fan base a platform to participate and show their pride by uploading landscape photos to create a virtual map of Canada. The photo with the most votes won the cover of the CAA Magazine Winter edition, a Canon DSLR camera, and bragging rights of course.

We pitched the concept to Totem Content who ran with the idea and brought it to life. They celebrated the win as well on the Totem Content blog last week. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Not all concepts are winners, and not all great ideas see the light of day. Never-the-less, here are some things for my fellow comrades in creative to consider when crafting a #winning campaign.


How to pitch your #winning idea

You’re walking along and wham, an idea strikes. Great! Now what? Pitching your concept and winning over the business to put their eggs in your basket can be a marketer’s biggest challenge. ‘Big Bet’ campaigns are a significant investment, and can take the lion share of your budgeted dollars in addition to the always-on marketing (like paid search, sponsored content, display advertising).  However, a focused campaign can create tangible impact, break through noise and clutter, and leave people with a lasting impression.

  • Tip! Build out a thorough business case including forecast, goals, ROI and projected sales. Align them with your company goals and mission where possible.
  • Tip! Build your case to answer your audience’s potential objections. If presenting to a particular Executive, ask around to get a sense of how they tick, and craft your pitch to their vested interests.
  • Tip! They can’t all be winners you’ll want to bring forward, but you’ll know when you have something special on your hands. Let your passion speak for itself.

It takes a village

Collaboration and teamwork are at the heart of any successful campaign and one of my favourite parts of the process. A solid project team includes varied stakeholders with skin in the game; marketers, agencies, designers, developers, community and product specialists, project managers, and let’s not forget the crucial Executive Sponsor. At the end of the day, the team profits and losses are shared, celebrated (and sometimes commiserated) together.

  • Tip! Make sure everyone knows their role and how they contribute to the purpose and goal.
  • Tip! Don’t slack on statuses, dial them up the closer you get to launch (monthly, bi-weekly, and weekly to daily). Statuses are a commitment too.
  • Tip! Bring everyone to the brainstorm table. Every role can bring a new perspective, and makes people feel part of the idea (critical for adoption in later stages).

Engagement or sales?

Engagement is a tricky measure of success, not like the almighty dollar.  Analytics are gauged by clicks, impressions, shares, re-tweets, time on page, traffic sessions, but why should Executives care about that? How can you sell the value of engagement over sales when pitching your concept?

The voting and sharing component of the CAA Celebrate Canada Photo Contest was the tipping point that enabled the campaign to go viral on social media. People were coming back daily (and hourly at times) to check the status of their photo, and drove traffic spikes around Canada Day and before the contest closed by sharing on their social feeds to get as many votes as possible. That engagement is golden promotion, because it is organic. Allowing the brand to get in front of new audiences who will hopefully remember when you put a timely and relevant offer in front of them. No one campaign is a silver bullet, but as part of a strategic marketing mix can strengthen other tactics to create a holistic and effective approach.

  • Tip! Don’t shy away from a concept even if it’s not sales focused. But come prepared to talk about how the engagement can contribute to the business.
  • Tip! Look at all the ways the campaign will be measured, educate Executives on the value of engagement.
  • Tip! Assess the halo effect your creative campaign may have had on other marketing initiatives in market.

Unfortunately I was not there to collect the award personally, as my passions led me to new business ventures by this time, however the CAA eChannel team and the Totem Content agency were there to claim the accolades. And nothing could make me more #proud.