On being green, being an angel, and including Jesus in his own birthday party

by Layla Romero

On Wednesday, December 5th, the BCAMA held a combined Evening Speaker Series event + Christmas Party at the Metropolitan Hotel. In what proved to be a fittingly intimate setting, members and non-members enjoyed cocktails and appetizers, and filled the Cristal Room with friendly chatter and greetings.

As Lindsay Smith, the evening’s MC and Director of the annual VISION Conference, welcomed the speakers onto the stage, it quickly became apparent that each presenter had a different take on the strategy of addressing the challenge of marketing in the over-saturated Christmas market.

The first speaker was Rob Schlyecher, Creative Director and Partner at Spring Advertising. Rob’s approach to marketing Christmas was refreshingly straightforward, yet often took an angle that was easily overlooked: keep the Christmas in Christmas. He pointed out marketers’ tendency to bombard audiences and consumers about the impending generic “holiday season”, and he noted our disconnection from the basic essence of the celebrations. Rob chastised modern advertising for “keeping Jesus out of his own birthday” and he urged the audience to reincorporate the very basics that make this time so special: family, togetherness and charity. He recognized that giving is an important part of the seasonal activities and encouraged us to give at a ratio that was on par with what we receive. Finally, he strictly instructed us, as marketers, not to begin pushing Christmas-related messages any earlier than December 10th. (We can breathe a collective sigh of relief – open season has now officially started.)

Our next speaker was Maureen Broadfoot, Vice-President of Marketing & Community Giving at the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. Her focus was on the successful marketing of programs at a time of year that is crucial to the financial stability of many non-profit organizations. The Foundation’s Angel Campaign draws on the power of storytelling and seeks to engage donors by giving them insight into some patients and their struggle with illness. By sharing these tales, the Foundation shows donors the measurable impact of their generosity. Maureen then showed “Christine’s Story” a video that was just one example of the transformations that donors can effect. Christine’s battle with cystic fibrosis and her life were transformed when she was given new lungs – resulting, in her words, in “a new body”. Maureen also touched on the importance of brand consistency by recounting negative feedback received from Angel campaign supporters regarding the Foundation’s choice of a new logo in a previous year. (The Foundation listened, and reinstated the Angel logo the following year.)

The last speaker of the night was Vida Jurcic, Partner and Co-Creative Director 
at Hangar 18 Creative Group. Luckily for us, this was not your typical speech peppered with pleas to forgo gift giving altogether, but rather a collection of suggestions to enhance our giving in a way that positively impacted others. Vida presented view of two very different campaigns – “Believe” at Richmond Centre, and Metro Vancouver’s “Create memories, not garbage” project – Through the Believe project, the Richmond Centre Mall transformed the image of Christmas by creating a brand focused on the real Santa. (And the collectible trading cards – featuring, of course, the real Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves – continue to be a big hit.) The lucky benefactors of this revamp are the children visiting the mall, who can enjoy a fun and appealing environment. With Metro Vancouver’s campaign, Vida established a mantra where experiences trumped tangible gifts. The campaign encourages the adoption of educational and enriching gifts such as music lessons, charitable activities or even services such as babysitting. Vida’s presentation – a behind-the-scenes perspective – let the audience see the making of these two festive campaigns from a Creative Director’s viewpoint.

The evening ended with, appropriately enough, gifts for the speakers, which was followed by a second opportunity to network.

We look forward to the next BCAMA event, and we wish everyone a Merry Christmas. See you next year, at the next event!

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