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Mark Tungate 2024-02-29

"Nurturing a love of great ideas." Rethink was Independent Agency of the Year at the Epica Awards with the help of a very special print campaign.


The Canadian agency Rethink has previous at the Epica Awards. It regularly notches up Golds – and in 2022 it won Agency of the Year, as well as a Digital Grand Prix with a highly prescient AI project for Heinz. This year it returned to scoop Independent Agency of the Year.

One of the keys to Rethink’s success (and I’m sure we called it “the secret sauce” last time around, too) is its very own operating system, against which all campaign ideas are measured. It’s called CRAFTS, which stands for Clear, Relevant, Achievable, Fresh, True and Shareable. As you’ll see, this year’s outstanding Heinz campaign hits all the marks.

While Rethink is clearly at the head of the pack, it appears there’s something highly creative about Canadians. We tried to unlock the mystery by posing a few questions to Mike Dubrick, CCO and Partner (left), and Aaron Starkman, CCO and Managing Partner (right).

Rethink was our indie agency of the year, but Canada in general did really well in the Epica Awards. What’s the Canadian formula that appeals to awards juries? 

Mike: I think the fact that Canada is a very multicultural country allows us to have different and unique perspectives. We have something of a global mindset: the insights and observations feel relatable to someone halfway around the world, as well as down the street from us.

A lot of Canadian advertising has a light and humorous touch that’s very appealing to audiences – and awards juries. 

Aaron: It’s so cold here that you need a sense of humor. Interestingly, if you look at Hollywood actors and actresses, particularly in comedy movies or sitcoms, there’s an absurd amount of Canadians. Ryan Reynolds, Seth Rogan, Will Arnett, Jim Carrey…I could go on. Canadians have a naturally self-deprecating sense of humor – and they like to make each other laugh. But they also seek external validation. They like to make it big out there. And I think it’s the same with our advertising. We want our ads to be famous.

“Heinz Ketchup Fraud” was particularly popular with jurors. How did that idea emerge and how did it the restaurants take it? 

Mike: When we were first talking about the idea, it could have been perceived as a negative for the brand. It was showing the brand’s labelled bottles, with generic ketchup inside them. Plus there was the relationship with the restaurants. The tone was really important: it couldn’t be seen as an antagonistic finger-point. It was more of a rallying cry to consumers. The fact that we asked consumers to name restaurants where this had happened actually became a business-to-business opportunity for Kraft-Heinz. They won restaurants back. To give just one example, Fenway Park (baseball stadium) became a customer again, which was a huge win for them.

Aaron: Clients will often ask: “What’s to stop another brand slapping their logo on this?” But this was an insight that specifically concerned Heinz.

The starting point for the whole thing was a print campaign, which is quite rare these days.

Mike: With every campaign, we choose the medium that feels right for the idea. Print felt like the most powerful way to express this insight. But because of the simplicity of the idea, we knew we had to double down on the craft. We wanted something that felt authentic and observational, but was elevated by an aesthetic polish. By the way, we already had that good line – “Even when it isn’t Heinz, it has to be Heinz” – but it was originally at the bottom of the image. When we moved the text up to make it level with the Heinz bottle, suddenly the whole thing jumped off the page. It took it to another place. I think that speaks to the value of craft, when a gesture as straightforward as moving a line can make a campaign.

See the full print campaign (with un-cropped images) here.


We’re constantly looking for opportunities for clients to do something that they haven’t done before.

We spoke a lot about your relationship with Kraft Heinz last time – but your work with IKEA also performed well this year. What is it about IKEA that inspires consistently creative work among its agencies? 

Aaron: They’re one of the world’s most creative companies. It starts with democratic design, and the smartness and efficiency of their products. They’re always devising creative ways of making people’s lives better, or making the products inexpensive. And that creative culture is present in every aspect of the company, from marketing to legal. It’s why they’ve been winning so many awards for so many years now. They’re truly inspiring.

Mike: If you meet anyone from IKEA, whether it’s the staff in the stores or the brand team, they put an emphasis on taking care of people. And I think that thoughtfulness and “care” translates into the work. It’s a fun, accessible, optimistic culture. Plus the products are different and interesting. All those elements have resulted in a body of creative work that continues to inspire any agency that works with them. IKEA is the kind of brand you dream about working with when you’re at ad school. The bar is already very high, so our challenge is to try and elevate it even further.

The Ramadan Iftar Bar was a lot of fun. Can you talk a little about the genesis of that project? It feels like a very open thing for KitKat to do. 

Aaron: This actually began as a passion project by an art director in our Vancouver office. He saw that, in North America, Ramadan was not as celebrated or talked about as holidays like Christmas and Easter. He also saw the natural fit between KitKat and what they stand for – “Have a break” – and Ramadan. He shared his idea with us, we shared it with the client, and that’s how the whole thing began.

Mike: As an agency we’re constantly looking for opportunities for clients to do something that they haven’t traditionally done before, or explore a new way of thinking. So it was exciting to be able to bring this to them – and they were just as passionate about it as we were.

Aaron: At Rethink we promise our clients and our people, “You will do the best work of your career here.” To live up to that, we need famous work to happen often, and quickly. And sometimes that means not waiting around for briefs. We want our people to be so in love with good ideas that they’ll dream them up just for fun. That’s the culture Mike and I try to create.

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