This week we celebrate Eid-ul-Adha - the Feast of The Sacrifice - also known Bakri Eid where I come from. (Bakri is the word for goat in several South Asian languages.)
It is a celebration with ancient Abrahamic roots and commemorates the scriptural episode known as The Sacrifice of Ibrahim/Abraham. 
Typically a family with sufficient means leads a fatted goat or ram to the slaughter. For those who observe the tradition, the meat is ideally then shared: a 3rd for one's own family, a third for friends and relatives and a 3rd for the poor.  The mood of this year's celebration will no doubt be tempered by the tragic Haj stampede on the outskirts of Mecca, and our thoughts go out to those who have lost someone dear to them. 
Still,  for the vast majority of Muslims around the world, the celebration will take place as it always does. Families will gather for the traditional prayers, followed by the traditional feasting. As with most celebrations, food is at the centre of it all, and the food at the centre is likely to be goat.
Food is at the centre of it all, and the food at the centre is likely to be goat.
It's a very big deal if you're in the grocery business, like our client, Sobeys. Billions of dollars are spent globally at this time. In Pakistan, an estimated US$3bn is spent each Bakri Eid on some 10 million livestock.
What of Canada? Well, Canada's Muslim population grew some 82% over the last decade. The Value Chain Management Centre, in a 2011 paper examining the challenges and opportunities for Canada's specialty food market, reported an extraordinary concentration: 59% of Canada's Muslims live in Toronto and Mississauga. A 2009 study estimated the Canadian domestic halal meat market at C$214 million annually. Muslims households were found to spend C$31 per week on (halal) meat products, almost double the non-Muslim Canadian household weekly average of C$17. In 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture noted that the size of the Canadian halal food market had reached $1bn in an amendment to the Food and Drug Regulations that promoted clearer halal labelling.  
This is big business. This is big business for the foreseeable future.
This is big business. This is big business for the foreseeable future. It's my hope that Chalo FreshCo, the store we helped Sobeys brand and launch, will achieve record-breaking sales over these days.
Which is why our multicultural wish for Eid-ul-Adha comes with smile included - a smile for all but the unfortunate goat.
A small sacrifice for a great biryani.
Eid Mubarak to those celebrating.
Gavin Barrett is Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh, a Toronto agency that specializes in the new Canada, a magical place where all cultures are understood, shared and enjoyed and the ideas are delicious, meaty and aromatic with spices.
The Yellow Pages campaign makes it onto CBC. But for all the wrong reasons. Bibimbap is a rice dish. And the visual shows noodles. As tweeter @edwaan points out. Another commenter on Facebook helpfully explained: "Think about having the copy about the best pasta in town and the icon is pizza. It's that weird."

This post is a slightly expanded version of the opinion piece I wrote for New Canadian Media in May 2015.

There are inherent dangers and risks in launching an ethnic channel or publication. In recent times we have seen both new players and well established ones ride into the sunset.

Mehndi TV made a comet-like appearance, flashed across our airwaves for a year, only to fade to black. That was a couple of years ago. It has since appeared in another constellation – on the website for Channel Zero.

Multimedia Nova, a publishing group whose newspapers included the 59-year-old Corriere Canadese shut its presses in 2013.

The 53-year-old Canadian Jewish News shut down its print edition and went all-digital in 2013.

But the Omni announcement makes me wonder if something else is at play here.

I wonder, for instance, if Omni was “too ethnic”? In other words, did Omni take an oversimplified content strategy with the ethnic consumer?

Allow me to explain. There is too often a rush to dumb down our understanding of Canada’s multicultural markets. Too often, ethnic consumer targets are rendered into shapeless homogenized blobs that bear no resemblance to what is actually a much more finely nuanced, multi-faceted cultural reality. A content or advertising strategy created for these fictional language-centric monoliths produces fuzzy, undefined work that has little appeal or relevance.

It is tempting to limit or define foreign cultures by language just because it makes it more convenient to sell airtime or diapers or haircuts or oranges but this is both facile and dangerous. After all, there are cultures united by language and separated by geography and, equally, cultures separated by language and united by geography. Add religion and history and we start to see an incredibly complex mosaic. There is rich irony in the mental visual of senior Omni TV executives closing their eyes to this.

Worse, this oversimplification is often combined with an attempt to keep new Canadians in their ethnic boxes. To do this is to deny the powerful narrative contained in the immigrant journey and to forget the impact that becoming Canadian has on the immigrant life. A Chinese citizen in China is not the same person as a Chinese Canadian citizen in Canada.

The words over the Queen Street viaduct remind us “the river I step in is not the river I stand in.” As we make our way in Canada, Canada changes us. And we change Canada. This is powerful stuff that is rich territory for original content.

In fact I think Omni could have significantly helped its cause by taking a leaf out of CBC’s book by using original Canadian content in the official languages to target the multicultural Canadian viewer. And, by that, I mean the Canadian viewer.

I look at CBC’s HNIC play-by-play sportscasts in Punjabi and Mandarin and shows like Little Mosque – very diverse programming that reflects a very diverse reality – and I ask, why couldn’t we see more of that?

We have an amazing talent pool in multicultural Canada. There’s a multicultural renaissance going on. Right now, the Tarragon Theatre is staging an Indo-Canadian version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado and it’s been getting rave reviews. We have writers like MG Vassanji, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry, Vincent Lam. We have  comics like Russell Peters, Mikey Bustos, Ron Josol and Sugar Sammy. Bands like Delhi 2 Dublin, artists like Ritesh Das. This is not a country with a shortage of multicultural content.

Rogers is a sophisticated media-and-message convergence advocate and a successful player in that game, so I find it difficult to accept that it is allowing its investment to fail so easily. 

I feel Omni really had a good thing going with its newscasts, but was shocked when they dropped the South Asian news in English a couple of years ago. Almost every South Asian I knew watched it.

I felt then, that it had stepped off an edge and was suspended momentarily in mid-air. Now it plummets.

Tesco makes a generous donation to our library of multicultural mistakes, with this Ramadan blunder: bacon flavoured chips on a stand with the message Ramadan Mubarak.

The scene of the marketing crime? The Tesco store on Liverpool Street in London, not far from Whitechapel's East London Mosque, one of the largest Muslim places of worship in Europe. An amused Muslim shopper saw the stand and tweeted it and it quickly rippled through the twitterverse, before the chips were moved.

Who moved the Pringles? Tesco. To their credit they acknowledged their mistake and issued a statement:

We are proud to offer a wide range of meals and products to meet the needs of our customers during Ramadan. We recognise these Pringles weren’t in the most suitable place and our store colleagues have now moved them.

As I've commented elsewhere before, marketing and advertising are all about perception and persuasion. Consumer opinion both reflects and affects brand perception.

Interestingly, some of the reaction in marketing circles has been less on the mark than Tesco's.

One media professional defended the mistake saying "if you walk down to any large Tesco you will be surprised to see the number of Muslims picking up this product" - a classic reactive defence based on anecdotal evidence.

We have to be cautious with such evidence when acting as professional counsel to our clients. I have observed some of my (devout but heterodox) Muslim friends indulge in a dram of Scotch from time to time, but it would be an act of insanity for me to recommend to an alcohol client that she begin advertising Eid specials on Scotch based on my observation.

Another commenter observed, "I believe you are from India" and reminded me that there are Muslims there who sell alcohol during Ramadan.

Yes, I am from India, but my knowledge of the actions of individual Muslims cannot be used to explain away a marketing error. Marketing for the most part is a social-risk-averse, share-building discipline in which marketers tend not to risk slim brand marketing budgets on the behaviour of the individual, but rather to invest on the preferences of majorities so as to achieve success on a scale shareholders can go out to dinner on.

Niche brands - like hedge funds - often swim the other way but it is rare for a large brand to do such a thing. When it happens, without all the accompanying fanfare, one can be relatively certain it was a mistake. I'm no fan of political correctness in a conversation, but would think it horrifying in our times, if a brand were to use that to excuse the ignorance, laziness or negligence that produced a racist or sexist advertising message.

Our business is all about influencing consumer perception positively.

This focus is often lost in these days of mindless network ad distribution and aggregation, when the motto seems to be "anything goes as long as it goes everywhere" – placing a premium on efficiency of distribution over the effectiveness of the message distributed.

In reality, the wrong ad placed in the wrong medium or the wrong product placed on the wrong shelf could easily leave a bad taste in the mouth.

This is surely not something Tesco intended. A single act of thoughtless product selection on its part resulted in it knocking over its own well-meant Ramadan display.

Tesco's Pringles mistake was neither racist or sexist - it was just dumb - and, I believe, just a mistake.

Like selling combs to bald men. Yes, there will always be a few vain men who buy combs for that single lonely strand they nurse. But most bald men will either treat the message like unaddressed mail or feel insulted by its utter thoughtlessness.

Neither response is the desired response.


Gavin Barrett is Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh, a Toronto agency that specializes in the new Canada, a magical place where all cultures are understood, shared and enjoyed.
I worked at Leo Burnett Hong Kong in the mid-90s as an associate creative director, shortly after Stefan Sagmeister's and Stuart D'Rozario's time there. I took the spot Stuart vacated when he went to Cole and Webber. It was a magical time and one of my magical clients was United Airlines. 

I wrote a campaign for them that called for a subtle anti-advertising take on what made them special and my art director Ferdy Van Alphen and I, felt photojournalism was the only way to do it.
We contracted Bruno Barbey, the Magnum legend, to shoot the campaign and it turned out to be a bit of an award winner. I even hired a few of my friends as talent for a couple of shots when the local Indian talent pool ran dry briefly. 

Bruno was a soft spoken but intense man who endeared himself to me forever when he admitted he chose to do the book on my hometown Bombay for Time-Life's iconic series, rather than Bangkok.
Bruno Barbey made our campaign incredibly powerful because he made it incredibly real in a human way, a gift that informs all his photographs.  

Bruno has shot war and peace with equal insight and here are few photographic fragments that show how he uses colour and composition to bring the human into focus.

Note: All copyright belongs to the artists/owners of the copyrights themselves.

Edward Curtis: Navajo Medicine Man, Princess Angeline, Hopi Mother

These faces from another time in the work of Edward Curtis are an act of photographic conscience.
Multicultural advertising has traditionally been the domain of smaller agencies. But over time, the category has become important to the long-term success - and the survival - of brands in the Canadian marketplace.
Sensing opportunity, a few big mainstream agencies have muscled into the space and begun stealing everyone else's lunch. This is unsurprising. And, the truth is it could be a shot in the arm for the category, if it grows awareness and intelligence and adds to the discipline overall.
But the question is, does Goliath get it? Do these shops truly know what they are doing? Do they have the experience, skills and sensitivity to counsel clients with integrity and courage around the thornier issues? Can they keep their giant feet out of their giant mouths? Or are they bulls in the proverbial (multicultural) china shop?
Like any David, I want to know what I'm up against and regularly go walkabout on the wild woolly web in search of giant scat. Precisely such a journey, led me to visit the website of one major Canadian mainstream agency, wherein I found this pithy phrase: Our dedicated team of multicultural Asian and South Asian market specialists can effectively grow your business within Canada’s wealth of diverse communities. Fluent in the languages and cultures we target (including Asian and South Asian), we blend research-based insights with personal experience to create work... (etc etc)
I'd like to tell them what's wrong with this, but where to begin. And which language I should use? Asian or South Asian? (Clearly English isn't their strong suit - my most generous analysis tells me this could be a Case of The Dangling Modifier but surely Big Mainstream knows English). No, I think I've understood the point. So here goes.
Dear Big Mainstream,
Your little blurb raises some important questions.
#1: Who speaks Asian? And where do they speak it?
#2: Who speaks South Asian? And where do they speak it?
#3: How can I become "fluent in cultures"?
#4: What exactly is a "multicultural Asian"?
#5. Did you just tell me you're an expert in the polka-dotted and pin-striped market because a bunch of polka-dotted and pin-striped people work for you? Because I think that's what you're saying. You know, the "personal experience" bit.
Oh dear. Slingshot empty. Time to find another Goliath.
Gavin Barrett is Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh, a Toronto agency that specializes in the new Canada.

May you be prosperous. May you be happy.
A warm wish for the entire lunar new year from your friends at Barrett and Welsh. (Home of the rare and auspicious tartan turban sheep.)

A thought-provoking pair of explorations into beauty and ethnic/racial identity: earlier in 2014, journalist Esther Honig sent a self portrait to photoshop artists across the world asking them to "make her beautiful". 

The results, perhaps unsurprisingly, reveal the impact of culture and ethnicity and a huge variety of beauty ideals/standards.!before--after-/cvkn 

Now, biracial journalist Priscilla Yuki Wilson does the same with very different results.

NOVEMBER  21ST, 2011   |  Vol. 23 |   Issue 45  |  Circulation: 100,000  
An Australian Definition of a Canadian
You probably missed it in the local news, but there was a report a few years back that someone in Pakistan had advertised in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed a Canadian - any Canadian.

An Australian dentist wrote the following editorial to help define what a Canadian is, so they would know one when they found one:

FlagA Canadian can be English or French or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. A Canadian can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan. A Canadian may also be a Cree, Métis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux or one of the many other tribes known as native Canadians. A Canadian's religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or none.

In fact, there are more Muslims in Canada than in Afghanistan. The key difference is that in Canada they are free to worship as each of them chooses. Whether they have a religion or no religion, each Canadian ultimately answers only to God, not to the government or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

A Canadian lives in one of the most prosperous lands in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which recognized the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness. A Canadian is generous and Canadians have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. Canadians welcome the best of everything, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services and the best minds. But they also welcome the least - the oppressed, the outcast and the rejected.

These are the people who built Canada. You can try to kill a Canadian if you must as other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world have tried, but in doing so, you could just be killing a relative or a neighbour. This is because Canadians are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, can be a Canadian.  


In March 2013, David Brown who is Managing Editor at Marketing Magazine asked me to write an article about the best multicultural advertising in the world - or to put it more simply, the best advertising in the world.

I said yes, of course, sensing an opportunity to let loose one of my favourite rants. You see, audiences exposed to advertising of Cannes-dominating stature in their home countries immigrate to Canada only to discover that they are being addressed like idiots. (If immigrants were so stupid, why would they have picked Canada?) And do marketers imagine that immigrants from the largest television and online media consumption markets in the world don’t notice their lack of commitment to connect with them in those media here — or the substandard, step-sisterly low-budget production values when they do? Etc etc.

Well, I worked myself up into a pretty lather. Probably as close as I will ever come to being the man your man wants to be aka Isaiah Mustafa.

Anyway, here's a link to the full article, on Marketing Magazine's website.

And if you like to see how we carry the torch for intelligent multicultural creative here in Canada, click here to view our multicultural work on our website.


Ever since I worked with Bruno Barbey in the mid-90s I have been fascinated with the photographic resplendence radiated by all things Moroccan. Imagine my delight when photographer friend and collaborator Richard Picton drew my attention to the extraordinary vibrant work of the Morocco-born Londoner, Hassan Hajaj, in a Guardian photo feature. With self-assembled frames made from rubber, cloth, plastic, toys, tile and popcans, and portraits that are equal measures of pigment, people and pattern, Hajaj dazzles the heart of the eye where colour lives.

photos via the Guardian, the Sultan Gallery, What's up and other sources.

Note: All copyright belongs to the artists/owners of the copyrights themselves.
Years ago, I tried to work with Magnum photographer Steve McCurry and contacted Magnum to bring him to Canada to work on a BMO campaign. Alas, it didn't work out - logistics and availability didn't dovetail neatly enough for the client. 
In the end, I went with Robert Earnest who won several awards for the photography on that campaign. (Will share those at some point.)

Steve McCurry is an artist whose paintbrush is opportunity, that most fickle of mistresses. The result is a series of extremely gratifying retinal explosions. 

Rang bharela, rang be rangey we would say in India (one of McCurry's favourite subjects): stuffed with colour, colour upon colour, bursting with colour.

Do not rub your eyes. This is real. 

Note: All copyright belongs to the artists/owners of the copyrights themselves.

Article: Creative Commons License 2012 Gavin Barrett
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.

Shared with me by noted photographer Richard Picton, this typographic development is a worthy addition to the centuries-old interaction between the English language and Indian languages.

The Hinglish Project helps English-speaking tourists wrap their heads around the unfamiliar Devanagari script so often seen across the top half of the subcontinent.

And it's free to download. Enjoy, font hoarders.

The Hinglish Project | Type for you.:

'via Blog this'
In this series of posts on great multicultural photography, I must confess to a deliberate, simple editorial decision - I use the word multicultural to simply mean subjects that are not Western European or white Anglo-American. All other cultures, ethnicities and traditions have been included. 

However, I have not viewed photographers through the same lens as their photography. These images have been shot by great photographers from around the world. There are French and Chinese photographers, Indians and Italians, Americans and Brazilians - all that matters to me is that their eyes saw the wealth we have been blessed with. All copyright belongs to the artists/owners of the copyrights themselves.

Ladies and gentlemen, Irving Penn.

Irving Penn
It's funny, but I haven't addressed multicultural photography much on this blog. It's about time I rectified that. There is brilliant stuff out there. In fact, the best photography has always been truly multicultural. From Steve McCurry's Afghan girl  to Penn's Chinese food and Salgado's Brazilian miners and Indian ship-graveyard-workers, to the work Richard Picton has done for us and others (his black women boxers will knock you out) to Chen Man's 12-month ode to Chinese beauty for the cover of i-D magazine on the occasion of the Year of the Dragon. Without further ado, here is a sampling of Chen Man's work. More photography posts to follow. I promise. Enjoy, but you might have to send your eyes to detox later. I mean that in a drugs-are-good kind of way. Speaking strictly as a non-user.

Via It's Nice That
Photos via The Bohmerian

All copyright belongs to the artists/owners of the copyrights themselves.

The Irani restaurant is one of Bombay's great multicultural traditions, serving hearty working-class meals, hot tea and colonial throwbacks like bread pudding studded with sultanas. Irani restauranteurs demanded tolerance and mutual respect from their multi-faith clientele; demands were typically delivered via idiosyncratic exhortations hand-lettered on placards and strategically placed in key areas - at the cashier (No Bargaining), over mirrors (No Hair Combing), on the menu (No Beef), - and my favourite - on walls, mirrors or wherever space allowed (All Gods are Great).

To honour the spirit of this supreme Irani restaurant directive, I thought I would celebrate with a gallery of good and/or provocative festival advertising for this holiday season post - a sort of "best of all gods" approach. I hope you enjoy them (let me know which ones are your favourites - or send in your own). A Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, A Chillin' Kwanzaa and a Freakin' Fantastic Festivus to you.

Or whatever particular wish rings your bell, rocks your boat, or turns your crank baby.


Article: Creative Commons License 2011 Gavin Barrett, all images are the property of their respective copyright holders. Irani restaurant photograph from IraniChai, via flickr and Wikipedia contributor belasd.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.

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