"Canadian advertising is alive and kicking!"

So exclaims Richard Burjaw, VP marketing at Pepsi-Cola Canada, after vetting a total of 60 campaigns from our 12 agency finalists. And he wasn't the only judge to voice pride over the state of Canuck advertising.

"Canada has a culture of great advertising, and a leadership position in the global advertising industry," notes Canadian ex-pat Scott Goodson, who now runs ad shop StrawberryFrog in Amsterdam. "Agencies like Taxi, Downtown Partners, Zig, Rethink and others are working imaginatively to live up to and go way beyond this creative reputation."

There is a lot of shockingly great work showcased on the following pages. Zig's "Prison" spot for Vim was a favourite among the panel. Perhaps Goodson explains why best: "It's like watching three hours of Les Miserables all compressed down to an incredible 30 seconds."

"The story of Raymond" for Mercedes by Lowe Roche, and DDB's BC SPCA campaign were called out by the judges as well. Both resisted the norm. Imagine a car ad where the car doesn't appear until the very end - crazy! Or an "adopt-a-pet" spot that avoids altogether forlorn-looking pups.

But if you think it's solely about creative risk, think again. James Eagles, marketing director at Moosehead Breweries, was particularly encouraged to see the "importance placed on strategic insight and the consistent focus on the results as a key measure of success."

Nancy Vonk, co-chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather, believes the discipline has come a long way - "way up from totally lame not so very long ago" in fact. But she and others also suggest that mammoth clients still have ground to make up; after all, Vonk only counted 11 "really outstanding campaigns for big brands" out of 60. Adds Burjaw: "An overwhelming amount of the work is outside traditional packaged goods; clients in CPG, take notice."

So you want to know who won? Read on.

The process

As in past years, the AOY process began by selecting which agencies would be invited to compete. This was based on a poll of 47 creatives and client marketers from across Canada.

From a comprehensive list of agencies, each person was asked which stood out on the basis of their work over the last year. (We had a memory-jogging list of each shop's major campaigns at the ready.)

Points were earned based on the number of times a particular agency was selected to be on the shortlist.

Next we chose the judges: six agency creatives and six marketing execs from across the country, as well as one Canadian ex-pat in Amsterdam (see page 68 for details).

Each selected agency was asked to submit five advertising campaigns representing work executed for five different clients over the previous 12 months. The agencies were advised to bear in mind the judges would consider their ability to work across different product categories and across different media.

Working in isolation, judges were instructed to give each agency's submission an overall score of 0 to 10. The cumulative scores from both the creative and strategic panels were then totaled and averaged, with equal weighting. The agency with the highest final score takes the cake.

Copyright 2004 Brunico Communications Inc. All rights reserved.