Smashing Silos:
Jay Chaney On The New Creative Team
JULY, 2018
Written by Katherine Pendrill
Photos by Andrew Pieroni
Jay Chaney isn’t your typical strategist. He’s not too academic, he hates making presentation slides, he doesn’t test his concepts, and he has unwavering faith in the power of great creative. As unconventional as his approach may be, it’s led to some major successes, including SickKids VS, McDonald’s Our Food, Your Questions, Honey Nut Cheerios Bring Back the Bees, and his latest venture, Koho Financial. To share his unique perspective, Jay dropped by Miami Ad School Toronto to make his case for strategy and creative as the ultimate advertising duo.
Not one to waste any time, Jay started off by explaining why it’s time to reframe the role of strategy. For Jay, strategists have long clung to the idea that their job is to “make sure the work works,” which is all well and good, but not exactly how he sees things. For Jay, strategists are actually in the business of behaviour change. Meaning that whether you’re trying to get people to buy a triple patty burger or to donate to kids in need, it all boils down to changing consumer behaviour. As Jay points out, the problem is that “the brain is designed to ignore the things that it thinks it knows,” which is why he has built his entire career on breaking any rules that get in the way of changing consumer behaviour.

“Remember that we are in the business of behaviour change and therefore we must understand human behaviour.”

“Remember that we are in the business of behaviour change and therefore we must understand human behaviour.”

So how do you change behaviour? One word: creativity. Sounds simple, but (as most creatives will gladly tell you) clients are inherently biased against creativity because there is no basis for comparison or prediction. But before any creatives out there get too smug, Jay is quick to point out that the ad industry is no better. In fact, he argues that advertising is just as biased against creativity. Problematic? Definitely. But this contradiction actually presents a great opportunity for strategists.

So instead of being in the business of “selling what’s sellable” and “clinging to what’s provable,” it’s time for strategists to forge a new path. As Jay explains, “The opportunity for us to provide value is not in predictability, it’s in creativity.” In other words, maybe it’s time for strategists and creatives to pair up just like art directors and copywriters. While artistic expression is still the domain of the art director and copywriter, strategists can help to focus the opportunity. In other words, this winning duo that goes together like avocados and toast.

“Identify the most creative way to solve a problem and inspire everyone to buy the vision”

“Identify the most creative way to solve a problem and inspire everyone to buy the vision”

To bolster his call for a new creative team, Jay brought up three “stories from the front lines” that show how a killer combination of strategy and creative has led to unprecedented success.

#1 McDonald’s “Our Food, Your Questions”

Starting with Google images research (seriously), the strategy team at Tribal Worldwide Canada uncovered a key insight about McDonald’s and how people actually felt about the company’s food (pink slime rumours anyone?). In turn, this sparked an idea among the creative team about what the company was willing to say out loud about its food. The result? An international campaign that won the agency and the team multiple Lions.

#2 Honey Nut Cheerios “Bring Back the Bees”

With cereal on the verge of extinction (we’re looking at you millennials), Cossette was brought in to help Honey Nut Cheerios reconnect with its audience. For Jay, this meant honing in on the popularity of the cereal’s (adorable) mascot Buzz and the inherent human desire to dominate, but definitely not destroy, the natural environment. His idea: take Buzz off the box and people will want to “bring back the bees.” Though an unusual move for a strategist to execute a creative, the risk paid off, big time.

#3 Koho Financial

Making the leap to client-side may seem unexpected for someone like Jay, but in actuality it’s the perfect opportunity for him to prove that you can break the rules and still achieve incredible results. Case in point, Koho has no corporate colours. Instead, the designs are fluid and dynamic, just like people’s real lives. Even more bold, the company is launching with a fully produced 13-minute movie. The takeaway? Give people an opportunity to be creative and you can break all the rules.

In short, it’s time for strategists everywhere to smash silos, break the rules, and inspire great creative.

Want to learn from Jay one-on-one? Enrol in our 12-week Strategy & Planning Bootcamp and learn the ins and outs of strategy from Jay Chaney in the very first week. Applications are due July 1st, 2019 and classes begin September 3rd, 2019.
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