Looking for better problems at the University of Toronto


The good people at Rotman Commerce asked me to speak with students about advertising. I hope this Einstein quote helped.


New work: Happy Meal

Made specifically for YouTube, this guerilla pre-roll reminds parents that McDonald’s is the place where kids can play with their food. Written by Sanya Grujicic. Art Directed by Andrew Bernardi. Associate Creative Directed by me.

As seen on Ads of the World.


Cannes! Gold!


Miles Savage (left), Andrew McCartney (right) and myself (centre) representing team Tribal Toronto at Cannes. In all, “Our Food. Your Questions.” took home four Lions, including a Gold in Cyber.


New work: From Start to Christmas

Here’s our brand new case study for, “From Start to Christmas.” – a hard-working seasonal campaign for Canadian Tire with a ton of branded content at its heart. Kudos to Kara Wark (Art Director) and Tiffany Chung (Writer) for the great work. Mara Binudin and myself were ACDs on the project.


The art of branded storytelling


Here’s a question: Why aren’t comics more popular among advertising creatives? Many of us read them. Love them. Want to marry them. But there’s an equal or greater number of us who don’t think of comics at all. Or if we do, associate them with a lunatic fringe of male power fantasy nerds.

That’s a shame. Comics are packed with great insights for how ad folks might do what we do better: How to tell stories quickly and powerfully, for example. Or how to make your art and copy sing – even in the absence of audio.

To that end, a few thoughts on what marketers can learn from comics:

1) Erase the line between the product and the ad.
What if instead of thinking of our ads as third party messengers, we put them right in the product line? That’s what the big comic brands do. A Superman book, for example, is a consumable on its own. It’s also a teaser for the next story in the arc – and a soft-sell for merchandise, the publisher, movies, and the entire Superman franchise.

Make ads that are as good or better than the products they’re about. That’s the idea. They’ll probably be more loved by both clients and consumers. (Might even inspire collectors.)

2) Invent new language.
“Blam! Blam!” (Pistol firing.) “Gna.” (Landing hard.) “Thunka Thunka Thunka Thunka.” (Helicopter.) From onomatopoeia to slang and accents, comics use tons of non-traditional words and type treatments to colour the soundscapes of their stories.

Same goes for their pictures, which can range from crude scratches to highly representational on a single page.

Compare that sense of play to most North American ads, the lion’s share of which seem to be written in an approximation of the Queen’s English. And art directed within a narrow pop-culture aesthetic that privileges representation over abstraction.

Great ads, like great comics, push at the edges of the form. In the process they offer new ways to see the world while giving the rest of us permission to do the same.

3) End with a cliffhanger.
Tell a good story. Give it a satisfying arc. And then walk away while they’re still wanting more. That’s how serial comics work. It’s also a good approach to advertising and brand building.

What story are we telling with this communication? Where does it fit with the overall arc of the brand’s story? What blanks have we left the consumer to fill? And how can we make sure they walk away from their experience primed for the next touchpoint along the chain? All questions worth asking at your next brainstorm.

All this just scratches the surface of what comics can teach us about branded storytelling. But, essentially, their greatest limitation (simplicity) is their greatest strength. Panel for panel, pencil for pencil, the tools haven’t changed much over the years. And yet comic makers are constantly innovating. And along the way, they’ve created some of the world’s strongest and most enduring brands.

Originally published in Applied Arts.