Category Archives: Ads

I am a dragon slayer.

If 2010 were a fire breathing dragon deep within a dusty, dark and barren cave, – the only thing standing between me and the life I want to live, then I climbed deep within the bowels of the earth and slayed that dragon.

This time last year I was a green university grad, at grad school and working what I thought was my dream job – for a major political party.

Funny how time passes by and former goals seem like relics of an ancient past. My former self is buried deep within the sediments of time and experience.

Now I stand here a year later, having pursued exactly what I wanted, shed the “friends” who weren’t friends, kept the ones that were, are and will always be.

In the last year I’ve been on welfare, ran a half marathon, suffered from Candida because I couldn’t afford to eat anything but eggs, bread and peanut butter, I slept on friend’s couches for 6 months, left a well paying (supposedly) dream job, worked (unpaid) for an ad agency in Toronto, contacted every ad agency in North America, met some of the most interesting people, changed the way I ate, consumed and thought about the world. I’ve volunteered at soup kitchens, started taking photographs, started a career in marketing, advertising, writing, and consulting. I blogged regularly, tweeted more than Tiger sexts, got glasses, and completely transformed spiritually. Oh and I love riding my bike – nothing makes me feel more free.

Now, with but a few hours left in the year, poverty seems to be another relic of the past but poverty’s memory will live forever – you can never forget that much suffering.

But after it all, I stand here stronger than ever with my own company in hand, head held high and would kill an infinite number of dragons to do it all over again.

Of course any dragon slayer needs help and those that did, you know who you are. Thanks.

Looking for my next adventure…


Today was a double rainbow kind of day!

I am totally exhausted so I will keep this brief.

The last couple of days have been totally worthy of Double Rainbow status, just totally awesome. First, my new digs up on the Danforth. Glorious. I have never seen so many Gyros in such a confined area. My hosts are awesome, hopefully I can get out of their hair soon!

Today was my first day at Grip. Was it what I expected? It exceeded my expectations in every conceivable way. I can see why this agency has been so successful. The people there are top notch. I got a tour of the digs, which comes equipped with lots of neat features (I have mentioned them before).

I got my office too! I am sharing an office with two others, one intern and a freelancer. It’s a corner office, I share it, but still, it’s a corner office. I could see OCAD from my desk all day!

There was something awesome about my run this morning: 6am running across the Danforth to my office and back. It felt nice to be back in Toronto.

I got a project today as well. I think I am going to be challenged with staying disciplined and on brand. I have a tendency to want to make everything funny, sometimes it doesn’t work.

So I am essentially drafting as many headlines as I can think of and will try to have two or three decent ones that I am not ashamed to share.

Anyway, the day was just AMAZING. I feel like getting here was tough, but totally worth it. It was funny, almost EVERYONE I met knew me as the dude who commented on the blog. I am pretty sure I should be embarrassed by this fact. haha. I am too pleased to care.

I will share more tomorrow, if I have time.

Oh yea, the Jays lost tonight, too. That pissed me off.


C is for Cookie and B.A. is for Bad Advertising

**I just spent the last hour writing an awesome post which I lost so forgive me if this lacks in detail or wit.

Have you ever read an ad that pisses you off because it plays to the lowest common denominator and assumes that you/we are stupid? That’s how I felt when I saw this Dare Cookie ad claiming to have re-invented the cookie:

The body/headline copy reads: Why does the milk have to be more nutritious than the cookie?

Subhead reads: The COOKIE Reinvented.

So let’s consider the question, why is milk healthier than cookies? Well for one if I drink milk everyday I will most certainly not have elevated risks of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. Milk has actual, tangible health benefits while the cookie gives you heart burn. Claiming that a cookie is healthy because it has fibre is about as useful as saying that Joe Louis’ will help you lose weight because they are a wonderful source of calcium. Give me a frigin’ break.

Even The Cookie Monster knows that a cookie is “a sometime food”, sweet Mother Mary, save us all.

Yea, I know he eats the cookie but geez, he weighs the benefits and tries to explain to kids that cookies are a snack that you can have from time to time. The ad above is sick and dangerous. Children might interpret this ad as cookies literally being better for you than Milk. Society has many problems already, let’s not ad this one to the laundry list.

It reminds me of something Alex Bogusky once wrote in an essay, I am paraphrasing but it went something like this: kids don’t understand grey areas like adults do. Everything is black and white. This explains why little Charlie thinks dad is going to die from a glass of wine at dinner time because his teacher taught him that drinking is dangerous in health class.

Ads like the one above are awfully dangerous for kids in my view. It tells a fundamental lie about the product. There is nothing re-invented about the cookie, who said it needed to be reinvented anyway? This ad tries to take the “perceived” features of the product and turn them into a tangible health benefit. Guess what, Doritos contain fibre too, doughheads, but you won’t catch me with a bag after a 10K run.

Take some more advice from Cookie Monster as he talks with Matt Lauer:

Of course I am not much of a post-modernist so I can’t just tear this ad to shreds without a suggestion or a version of my own.

I wrote my own spec ad which attempts to appeal to the actual benefit of the product in my mind: it is a delicious indulgence that you shouldn’t feel bad for enjoying, because everyone does.

This is a much more honest approach. Take a look:

The headline reads: Your nutritionist’s dirty little secret.

The subhead reads: Everyone has a vice, make it a good one.

I’ve lost 72 pounds in the last year and I haven’t done it by eating a cookie a day to keep the doctor away. No, in fact I did it by eating LESS cookies because I know they are bad for me. However, I kept my sanity by allowing myself to eat cookies knowing that a cookie here and there isn’t so bad. Maybe that’s why I am so personally offended by the first ad, because I know how damaging that type of advertising can be to a person.

Regardless, in the eternal words of Hulk Hogan, “To all my little Hulkamaniacs, say your prayers, take your vitamins and you will never go wrong.”

Until the internets connect us again,


Are you man enough to ride a Vespa?

Good afternoon internet(s)!

Ever dream of whipping through city streets uninhibited by traffic, picking up your that ginger you need from the market on your way home from a bustling market in Chinatown, the feel of wind in your hair as you take off in your scooter? When I think of this I think of the Vespa.

To me, the Vespa represents the top standard in urban transportation alternatives (outside of public transportation and bicycles of course). So naturally I was drawn to the product and thought maybe I would draw up a couple of spec ads.

See, the problem is no matter how awesome and functional the Vespa is there are lots of dudes who think that driving a Vespa is emasculating. As if to suggest that just getting on a Vespa would make them unattractive losers. As sad as that is, it’s true. So instead of writing an ad to tell these dingleberries how ridiculous they are the approach should be to instruct this very special sect of men to grow a pair and man up.

Trust me, I am sure the most interesting man in the world would tell you to do the exact same thing.

Grow a pair and man up to riding a Vespa? I can see my critics now: “That makes no sense.” Ever hear the phrase “A real man wears pink” or “A real man is comfortable with his sexuality”? Well I think Vespa hit a nerve when they released a Vespa print ad not long ago that tried to overcome this unique business problem.

Here is how I see it.

Vespa’s business challenge was simple: men don’t ride our bikes because they think they are feminine or compromise their masculinity.

Business solution: Make men feel inadequate for NOT driving a Vespa. Get men to believe that a Vespa is in fact a utility that will enhance their lives and not a massive pair of shears that will cut off their testicles upon purchase.

With that in mind Vespa has an ad made with the following copy:

“It’s too manly for you, not the other way around.”

Here is the original. The rest of the print ad run can be viewed here.

I REALLY liked the challenge that Vespa presented and thought I could improve what was already pretty good copy. So I tried to come up with a couple that were short snappy and clever. Hope you like them.

Spec Print ad 1:

An unsolicited speculative advertisement made for my own portfolio.

Spec Print ad 2:
An unsolicited speculative advertisement made for my own portfolio.

Spec Print ad 3 (this is more of a joke, because I doubt Vespa could get Chuck Norris’ permission to write these ads but I couldn’t resist for the fun of it):

An unsolicited speculative advertisement made for my own portfolio.

So guys, would you drive a Vespa? Or are you not man enough?

For the rest of you, does this add to brand? Does this add value to Vespa?

Until next time.


Give me a blank page, and I will give you some ideas.

Do you know where your ideas come from? Do you have a well that you go to when you need creativity and inspiration?

Some people believe that their ‘well’ is a bottle of red wine or some sort of narcotic. Just ask Van Morrison or Lewis Carroll. For me, creativity comes at unpredictable times and in unpredictable places, and trust me there is nothing more nerve racking than knowing that you have no idea where your next idea is going to come from.

More often than not my ideas come from random encounters, discussions with people and even after deep, pensive thinking.

That being said as a person looking for work in an ad agency as a jr copywriter it is critical to show your creativity and writing ability. So I have started developing a spec ad portfolio. For those of you who don’t know what this is let me explain. Speculative ads are advertisements that a person will make that are unsolicited and written or designed by you. Sometimes you may design and write your own ad, or as a writer like me, most of the time you will take the copy off original ad and replace it with your own copy.

So everyday I will post a spec ad that I have made up here on my blog for you to enjoy, hate, critique, share, laugh at or ignore.

Today’s ads: Smart Car. (I realize that some of you have seen these already).

Business Challenge:

Ad agencies are hired by businesses or companies to develop creative problem solving solutions to contemporary business problems. Designing good ads with great content for a great brand or product WILL add to a company’s value and will help drive their business. This is a very rewarding task.

I imagined a challenge for Smart Car and it goes like this:

Smart Car executives and marketing personnel feel like their product is stigmatized, people believe the size of the car is a negative, they aren’t aware of some of its impressive features and others believe the car is unsafe. These assumptions are holding Smart Car back from increasing its market share in the category.

Proposed solution:

I am the kind of thinker that likes to take a seemingly negative aspect from a product, flip it upside down, and turn it into a positive. I always want people to think and laugh when I write as well. I assume that the consumer is just as intelligent as me and try to do two things: 1. Illicit an emotional response (laughter, happiness, sadness, excitement, shock etc) and 2. Illicit a behavioural response (get someone to buy your product and or service, have a compelling call to action, have a person reconsider their current product usage etc).

So with all that in mind I wrote two separate speculative ads for Smart Car.

1. Raging Bull: I wanted to have very little copy, have good use of white space and make you think differently about the car. I also chose the colour of the car carefully.

2. It’s not a teapot: I wanted to make an ad that I would have fun writing and reading. I also wanted to dismantle a common stereotype that Smart Car faces; people think they are dangerous, slow, and tip easily. I have heard that some people go around and tip Smart Cars like some people tip cows. Ridiculous. I also wanted to surprise consumers with some of the features about the product that they might not have known.

Tomorrow I am serving up some Vespa ads. Until then I have to go finish watch Brandon Morrow DESTROY the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He has 14K’s through 7 innings. Unreal. My Blue Jays rock! And how about JP Arencibia yesterday?!

Until the internets connect us again.


It’s not you, it’s me… and oh yea, thanks for reaching out.

Can you guess how many applications I have now sent to ad agencies?

The answer:
Over 1,100. I have personally contacted every agency in Canada and every agency in 37 American states. No word of a lie I send dozens of personally tailored and researched letters to ad agencies every day. I personally follow up with people and now send them samples of my spec ads to give them a taste of my style.

You figure with that much effort the results must be astounding, right? Wrong. As you know I was given a freelance copywriting job with Saatchi and that is all fine and dandy. I successfully wrote some febreze ads last week and I am still waiting for my next assignment.

That’s it though. Of course we are facing a recession and ad buys are down across the board and many agencies are cash strapped and simply aren’t hiring new talent but you figure I have got to stumble upon somebody who just landed a new client who now has staffing needs, right? I follow Ad Age magazine, I write to every agency that lands a new account personally and tie my letter to their new account. For example one agency was just named the AOR (Agency of Record) for Virgin Mobile. I wrote to these guys congratulated them on their new deal, introduced myself and told them that I could help make the 911 fees and other annoying billing features sexy as a joke. No response.

When you do get a response in the Ad industry people are very nice and the one line you get over and over and over and over again is “Thanks for reaching out.” If I had a dollar for every time I have had this phrase written to me in the last 2 months I wouldn’t need a job let alone one in the ad industry. Gee whiz.

I feel like I am trying to ask the captain of the cheerleading team to the prom and she won’t return my calls. On paper I am exactly what she’s looking for but no matter how creative I get or how cool I am she is going to pick the dude on the motorcycle wearing the leather jacket.

Today alone I received 9 personal emails (and its only 3pm) all of them congratulating me on my wit, creativity, ingenuity and writing ability. Presumably these are skills that these agencies would want to recruit, but in the same breath they consistently tell me that there are no openings.

Here are some excerpts of emails I have received, just today:

“Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to email XXXXXXXXXXXXX. Of all the submissions to Talent I have received to date, I must say this is one of the most witty I’ve ever read.
We’ll be going through your work and we’ll keep you on file should a need arise in the future, as we are not hiring at this time.”

Never give up your dreams. I remember times being out of work and went
through what you are going through. These are difficult times for
everyone. Take a job outside the agency business for the time being.
The experience will pay off later when you least expect it. All your
experiences will find its way into a great campaign someday. David
Ogilvy was a door to door salesman, researcher and chef before getting
a job in the business. He used much of this experience later in his

“Just shared your work with a colleague, who was also impressed with your work. ”

Thanks for your interest in RLF and a most engaging email\cover letter. It does get one’s attention. I have no openings on the horizon, but will keep your skills and creativity in mind. Best of luck with the job search.”

“I think your ads look nice and clean.”

How can something like this not catch my eye…happy to catch up with you on the phone if you’d like and have copied XXXXXX XXXXXX, our chief creative officer as well to talk.
Let me know when you might like to speak with one or both of us…we aren’t really hiring right now, but you sure cut through the clutter.
All the best.”

“Hi Liam,
Thanks for reaching out to XXXXXXXXXX. (NAME REMOVED) is our creative recruiter and is the one you should be in touch with. I’ve copied him here and forwarded all your attachments.
Good luck”

“Good evening Liam!
I did in fact receive your email as evidenced by the fact that it sits right below this message. And while having an office fern who can silly walk with the best of them is downright appealing, having a lion-clothed man who smells of raw fish and pine tar wondering aimlessly about the office is not. Which is to say, I have no budget for a new person (or fern) at this time, but will file away your silliness in case of serious silliness emergency.
Good luck in your search (and cabin building endeavors).”

“Liam, thanks for your email. You’re correct! Haven’t received one like that before. And that can be a good thing. I am directing your info to my erstwhile partner, XXXXXXX XXXXXXX, who supervises our creative discipline. His email is in case you want to shoot him a note directly. Thanks – I hope the two of you talk soon.”

I should mention here that I have a new approach with my opening email. It has become infinitely more absurd than it was originally. This is what you would receive if you are a creative director or partner at an Ad Agency:
Good day (Insert name(s) here)!

I just finished reading your website and I felt compelled by the power of Bill Bernbach to write to you and introduce myself. I hope you have 5 minutes or are a speed reader with less than a minute to spare.

We haven’t met before, but I think we should. You want interesting people, in fact you need them. So here I am – wanting to work for your agency. You have no idea how badly I want this – I actually dream about it.

I want to work as a copywriter in a Jr. position, an internship. Heck, I’d even dress up like a fern and stand in the front foyer during business hours to add to the decor if it meant me getting a crack at this place. All I need is enough to clothe, feed and house me. If you can do that at a minimum then we’re talking. If you can’t well I guess I could consider making an outfit out of loin cloth and sleeping in a self constructed log cabin in the woods. After all, I am from Canada and know how to survive this thing we call “winter” and we love the outdoors – a lot. As for the food part, I was never any good at fishing or hunting but I suppose I could give it a try if I had to, we have lots of moose and geese up here.

If you can’t stand the thought of me dressed as a potted plant in your office, then know that I just got a gig freelancing for Saatchi.

I realize you probably get more ‘job application’ emails than you could possibly shake a stick at – but I doubt you get many like this. So before you delete this I ask that you do a few things for me (I know we just met, relax, I am not asking you on a date or anything):

Read the cover letter I wrote for you (because I think it is super cool and therefore you will too) and take a look at my CV – it is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. I promise.

With all that in mind I have attached the following:

1. A mugshot so you can see who you are dealing with
2. Cover letter
3. Resume
4. An ad that I made just for you

The attachments are big so I would really appreciate it if you could email me to let me know that you received my application. This way I will know that this email hasn’t ended up in the nebulous world of the internets.

Also, you should know that my portfolio dwells in this internet cave: – keep an eye out for the cover letter inside.There is a lot of spec ad material in there. You will find the most relevant stuff in the “Print” folder. If I modified an ad previously made I simply included the original, labeled it as such and included my revised versions with the new copy, you tell me if I improved the ads. Some of the ads are original concepts that I wrote and designed myself. My favourite work is in the “Smart Car” and “Vespa” folders located inside the “Print” folder.

Thank-you very much for considering my application and I hope to hear from you soon!




This has definitely yielded a lot more responses! People are taking notice that’s for sure. But what give with one of Toronto’s best independent agencies? I emailed their HR Department, and every single partner, all 11 of them and I have not received a single response. Makes me wonder.

Now, this isn’t meant to be all gloom and doom, it’s just simply a sample of what I deal with each and everyday. I wake up early apply and by the end of the day I am so thoroughly frustrated that I can’t imagine applying anymore, but then I wake up the next day and realize that if I stop applying opportunities will stop presenting themselves. Funny how that works.

Before I go I want to apologize for not writing at all in the past two weeks. My mind has been in other places.

Peace in the Middle East,


Will “Antennagate” diminish Apple’s brand?

Before you read you must watch this video.

Last month Apple experienced some turbulence after the release of its highly anticipated iPhone 4, the phone that changes everything. Again. Shortly after the product’s release some consumers began complaining of a problem whereby signal strength would be greatly diminished or at worst a call would drop if the phone was held in a particular manner.

Apple quipped back asking consumers to simply not hold the phone this way. This added fuel to the fire for the detractors and Apple found itself in the centre of the Company’s first major public relations crisis in over a decade.

Rather than make immediate pleas, the Apple executive team waited until July 16th to address the media and public directly with respect to this issue. Jobs who gave a rather persuasive presentation posited that signal loss due to the way the phone is held is not unique to the iPhone, in fact it is something the entire smart phone industry battles with. The hard data Jobs presented with respect to the drop call rates, return rates and other metrics are hard to debate. When you look at the numbers you wonder how it is that this particular story became so big, so quickly. The complain rate on the new iPhone 4 at Apple Care is .55%. That’s half of one percentage point. The return rate on the new iPhone 4 is 1.7%, less than 1 third of the iPhone 3Gs return rates. Gosh, what is all the hoopla about?!

This begs the question: Will all of this diminish Apple’s brand in the long run?

I look back to Maple Leaf’s handling of the Listeria outbreak in their Canadian facilities as a benchmark. When faced with a real and truly deserved public relations crisis the leadership at Maple Leaf foods actually enhanced their brand by taking immediate ownership and claiming responsibility. They took out full page ads in Canada’s national newspapers and sought to control the discourse in its early stages of development.

Here is an example of one of their ads:

Apple on the other hand waited. Mainly because they could and more to that end they wanted to wait until there was data to present to people so that comparison and benchmark analysis could be made. Apple is actually a leader in antenna technology and has produced the most sophisticated antennas in the industry. Some have complained that Apple waited too long to address this problem, but these people don’t understand that addressing ‘the problem’ would be an admission that there is a problem in the first place and if these individuals can look at the hard data they will see that there is no problem.

Anyway back to the question at hand: diminishing the brand. I do not see how this can have long term, adverse impacts on the brand. iPhone 4 has already sold 3 million units and the general sense is that the product itself is culturally stick – people want it. People know that Apple makes great products, has great customer service and will buy their stuff. In the normal course of a brand there will be hiccups and challenges that must be faced – just ask Toyota. Great companies and great brands will persevere though because they offer something tangible and desirable that people want, maybe even need. So I can’t see this eating into Apple too much for any longer. So perhaps I should just stop talking about it and let the story die?

In the end, if you don’t like the phone, don’t buy one.