The NHL took the west coast to the Far East last week staging its first two preseason games between the Vancouver Canucks and the LA Kings in Shanghai first and then Beijing - of all places. As one commentator on LinkedIn said, that's a 1.4 billion man advantage. It certainly appears to be. But is it?


Any expansion into Asia is fraught with the danger of cultural disconnects if unaccompanied by experienced and sober local/cultural counsel. It’s not called the Wild East without reason. India and China are strewn with the carcasses of many a multibillion-dollar mistake made by well-meaning, ill-informed Western clodhopper-corporations seeking conquest. 

I grew up in Asia and the formative years of my career were shaped by my time working in Bombay and Hong Kong, so I am gently skeptical of the western approach. Asians, even without being practitioners of the second oldest profession (advertising) as I am, hail from places that midwifed humanity's oldest cultures, cultures that communicate with degrees of subtlety and nuance rarely practised in the west. Eastern consumers frequently regard clumsy western overtures as one might view an attempted seduction performed by someone without the sense of touch. 

Allow me to explain why I see this particular exercise as, um, unfeeling.

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

Let’s start with the obvious. There are cultural barriers to particular sports and there are cultural affinities for particular sports. Soccer and basketball are "big in China" as the old phrase goes, but table tennis (with 300 million players) and badminton are way bigger as organized sports and are played at a grassroots level. In India, cricket dominates, followed by kabaddi a traditional Indian sport (think rugby meets wrestling), field hockey and soccer. 

There is the climate and the accompanying high cost of ice rinks for countries that are in most parts far warmer than Canada. These are countries where the absence of petrodollar funding usually produces a pragmatic rejection of illusory projects such as one sees in places like Dubai (indoor ski hill anyone?), Doha or Jeddah. The ice rinks that exist in China are largely recreational and used for figure skating, a sport that has a considerable headstart over hockey in China. India has a grand total of six indoor rinks.

Then, there is the matter of income and the access that comes with it.

The average urban Chinese income is about CAD3700/yr (approx. USD3000). This is a huge amount when viewed through an in-China lens because it is a figure that has increased by a factor of 10 compared to what it once was. Yet, in the North American frame of reference, it is shockingly small. 

Here in Canada, hockey is not seen as a sport exclusively for the wealthy because kitting out a minor player costs, at most, CAD1200, and that's well within reach for most Canadians. The average annual income in Canada, after all, is around CAD50,000/yr (or approx. 13.5 times the Chinese annual average). An outlay of CAD1200 for someone earning CAD3700/yr is the financial equivalent of an own goal by a penalty killer. (Surely it must be less for our Chinese Gretzky wannabes because so much hockey gear is made in China? But even if we halve that cost, it is prohibitive.) Hockey may have got a foothold in the thin air of the Indian Himalayas, but as this video shows, there are harsh practical realities. A sport like hockey is simply out of the reach of most urban Chinese or Indian citizens.

Yet, for an audience to love a game, most must harbour deep inside themselves visions of playing it - playing it heroically. Nike knew this many years ago, when it rode the crest of Linsanity, as you can see from this spot.



















In short, this is not a North American sporting landscape. 

But that's not all.

Missing the empty net that’s right in front of you

I am gently skeptical of the NHL's ability to get this right when they don't currently get it right, right here in Canada with visible minority immigrant Canadians, especially Chinese and South Asian Canadians. As an evangelist for and practitioner in this space, I would know.  

Unlike the NBA who have managed to break through to immigrant hearts and minds thanks to Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming, the NHL isn't really paying attention.  

For a start, the NHL appears to be forgetting that the sport likely to become its biggest threat here in Canada is a sport played by immigrants. Cricket, once Canada's national sport, is today one of Canada's fastest growing sports - possibly the fastest. This is largely due to grassroots work in Canadian communities by immigrants from across the Commonwealth who are united in their love for the game. 

Immigrants may be behind the growing threat of cricket, but for the NHL they represent a huge opportunity in an otherwise saturated marketplace. In 2017, well over 6 million new Canadian consumers belonged to visible minorities - and South Asian and Chinese Canadians accounted for well over half of that. 

Like most immigrants, they are eager to understand and embrace the culture of their new home without losing their own. Hockey is a central part of that culture and they know that. While the CBC actually built a successful bridge with HNIC in Punjabi first and later in Mandarin (before HNIC moved on to Sportsnet) the NHL in Canada seems unaware of the market growth goldmine they are sitting on, right here. 

Investing in attracting immigrant fans here in North America represents a huge business upside.

Home ice advantage

For organizations like the NHL considering a market play in China or India, there’s a bonus: lessons learned locally from such an investment can be carried to the "away" game. 

Winning with immigrants right here is the equivalent of having home ice advantage in the series. 

Investing in the South Asian and Chinese Canadian segments is a low-cost, high-reward, learning opportunity slapshot. 

What does that sound like? Here’s a taste, first via HNIC's Punjabi play-by-play of a Nick Bonino goal that went viral - in the mainstream - last year:



And this little scene (below) at the Stanley Cup victory rally in Pittsburgh gives you a sense of how completely the Pens embraced Harnarayan Singh's epic broadcast.




It's worth mentioning that Nick Bonino has even suggested his family take it up as a personal ringtone. 

Unfortunately, I think the NHL is tone deaf on this one. 

I see its preseason experiment in China as nothing more than a PR play at best. 

It’s a one-goal wonder that will hog ethnocentric headlines at home in North America and barely appear on the Chinese cultural radar in China. 

Moral of the story: grab the bird in hand. It's a win-win. 


Gavin Barrett is Chief Creative Officer and Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh, an award-winning multicultural advertising Toronto agency that specializes in the new Canada, a magical place where the cricket is meh, the beer is good and the curry and noodles are shared with all.
Jama Masjid, Old Delhi. Photo by Gavin Barrett

Eid Mubarak to any of our friends, clients or vendors celebrating Eid ul Adha this weekend. And to those on their Hajj journeys, inward, outward, onward, we say khuda hafiz.

Much of the western world tends to think of Eid as the festival that immediately follows Ramadan - or Ramzan - as we call it where I grew up. They are not wrong.

The austerities of Ramadan culminate in the celebration of Eid ul Fitr - literally, the feast of the breaking of the fast. Eid al Fitr celebrations are marked by a spirit of generosity and hospitality is lavished on friends and family.

But it is Eid ul Adha, also known as Greater Eid, or the Eid of the Great Sacrifice, that is the most important feast in the Muslim calendar. Back in India, it was known to all by its colloquial name, Bakri Eid (Eid of the Goat). The name springs from the Eid tradition in which a goat is ritually slaughtered and shared among family, friends and the poor.

For three or four days our Muslim friends around the world set out in brand new clothes, to visit and celebrate with each other and to pray on one of their faith's great solemnities. Unsurprisingly, food and spending on food is a big part of the celebrations and in places with large Muslim populations, messages from major advertisers reflect this focus, as we can see in this ad for McDonald's in India.

In Canada, Muslims now account for nearly 3.2% of the population. At just over a million people, they are the second largest faith group in the country according to the much maligned 2011 census. The linguistic diversity updates from the 2016 census tell us that the fastest growing non-official languages in Toronto after Tagalog are Arabic, Farsi and Bengali - all of them are largely languages of Muslim immigrants. Calgary's Baitun Nur Mosque is believed to be the largest in North America and serves a large, growing congregation.

So, it's somewhat surprising that very few Canadian marketers have taken note of the opportunity, with some notable exceptions like Metro's Adonis grocery store banner and brands like Maple Leaf's Mina Halal and Maple Lodge's Zabiha Halal. Delivering halal products at moments of need and significance to this market of one million-plus hungry consumers is going to be phenomenal for business - especially for those who move first and move fast. It's time to wake up and smell the za'atar. It smells delicious — as most billion dollar opportunities do.

Gavin Barrett is Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh, an award-winning multicultural advertising 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.



Our #MulticulturalMonday post yesterday took a look at NFL’s simple Kiss Cam twist to the Love Has No Labels diversity campaign. A true celebration of the beauty of love regardless of race, gender, disability, age or religion. 
Kung hei fat choi to all our friends! May this year of the rooster bring you much to crow about.


The Barrett and Welsh #MulticulturalMonday post for January 30, 2017, is a brief musical respite from the savagery swirling around us on the news and in social media. 

Think of it as a much-needed harmonic counterpoint to the cacophony of hatred: the world’s oldest known melody (from what is now modern Syria), played by Michael Levy on a lyre. 


"Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast" wrote Congreve. May it be ever so. 

Peace. Shalom. Salaam. Shanti.



Image from http://thisisnthappiness.stfi.re/?sf=zzprgrl#aa
 My annual habit of sharing the links that led me to think most, love most, give most, pause most over the past year, has long been a replacement (for me) of less useful customs, such as the making of new year resolutions. As the dull disappointments of 2016 fade however, my favourite links for the year ahead are in fact resolutions of a kind.
And so here — in no particular order — are the thinks I enjoyed most in 2016. It strikes me as ironic in the extreme to post these in a year in which thinking itself was valued so little and forgotten so much.
  1. Cure blindness. To see more start here: a quarter of a million photographs from the Eastman Museum. Yes, you can find all sorts of things, but it’s the joy of searching that is most rewarded. From accused murderer Eadward Muybridge’s photographic studies of movement to Warhol’s obsessive iterative experiments your eyes will be opened and your mind blown.
  2. Fight racism. Ask when you don’t know. At yoisthisracist.com Andrew Ti answers your questions about if something is racist or not — and on his podcast of the same name. Hilarious, smart, insightful.
  3. Say what you are feeling. Invent new words if necessary. I felt a strange wistful satisfaction when I happened upon The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a web series which invents new words for the emotions that afflict us and propel us. A labour of love (another powerful emotion), written, edited, and narrated by John Koenig, new episodes are published weekly.
  4. Do not accept accepted wisdom. Revisionist History is a startling, insightful Malcolm Gladwell podcast that looks at the past and discusses forgotten, misunderstood and missed opportunities.
  5. See with your ears. The city of my birth is a tower of sound. Explored through your ears it is equal measures cacophony and music, magical and mundane. Sounds of Mumbai is a beautifully crafted immersive web experience that allows you to plant yourself in my beloved Bombay and experience its clashes, chaos, choral harmonies and rhythms. If you have never been to Mumbai, plug in your earphones and open your mind.
  6. Meet a Nobel Laureate. Read a poet along with his poetry. “You are one of the strangest children I have ever had anything to do with.” That quote comes directly from a note T S Eliot sent Marianne Moore. TSEliot.com is a treasure trove of a site lets you discover Eliot’s poetry and correspondence like never before.
  7. Discover a new subcontinent. Learn to listen to a billion voices. On the Tip of a Billion Tongues is a remarkable radio journey by Indo-Australian novelist Roanna Gonsalves (full disclosure, she is a friend) for the Australia Broadcasting Corporation. Roanna dives into 21st century India through the voices, thoughts and ideas of its writers in Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Goa.
  8. Hate hate. Kill the hate with laughter. If you struggle to cope with all the online hating, David Thorne’s blog will leave you ROFL. Laughter is the best revenge. Hate less. Laugh more. Or vice versa.
The pleasure is all mine. Feel free to post your own favourites in the comments. To a wonderful 2017 my friends.

 

 

The worst of times?

On one level 2016 was a shocker. Rarely has so much prejudice, ignorance, misogyny, homophobia, bigotry and straight up xenophobia been displayed so proudly or delivered in such toxic concentrations. Rarely have so many good people despaired of so many other good people.

As an agency for whom diversity and inclusion is in its very DNA, this could be cause for great self-doubt.

Is what we do futile?

Questioning ourselves seems only natural in these circumstances. I feel the only way to answer is with another question: how can we ensure that diversity will always be celebrated?

In fact, when I look at 2016, I think to myself that there has never been a greater need for a shop like ours, one so entirely committed to finding ways to include all and celebrate all. Inclusive communication and the awareness it brings is a potent antidote to ignorance and a subtle, sharp weapon against even the most despotic agenda. We must carry on with the work we do because it is vital to reach underserved minorities who are easily neglected and forgotten. We have tremendous work to do ahead.

The best of times.

Despite its bleak moments, 2016 has been one of the best years in our history. We have never won as many awards as we did this year. Our work for Chalo swept the podium at the Summits (a show for small agencies), winning Gold, Silver and Bronze. We dominated our category with a best in class performance at the Marketing Awards, with seven awards. We won an MEA silver for Marketing Effectiveness. We even won a gold for the best campaign never produced, work for a TTC pitch presentation on priority seating awareness.

And, in a marvellous affirmation of the work we do and the passion we bring to it, we were officially certified as a #BCorp for our work with minorities and for our positive impact on the planet.

We capped that with an extraordinary showing in New York, winning seven EMMAs from NAMIC, the premier organisation advocating for multi-ethnic diversity in communications in North America. We tied, believe it or not, with BET, for the second highest number of awards handed out. Yup. Little old us.

We closed off the year with a peak moment in our many years of celebrating diversity when we were invited to design and contribute typographic art and poetry to This|ability, a remarkable new book that now resides in the National Library of Canada. This|ability, is Canada's first ever book on Art Brut and Outsider Art. Conceived by Ayako Ellen Anderson, a social activist, artist, advocate for Universal Access and founder of the Creative Spirit Art Centre, the book features the remarkable vibrant, raw work of the Centre's artists, shining a light on their talent rather than their disabilities.

Looking back, there is reason for austerity and sober reflection, yes. It's why we have scaled back our usual celebrations this year and are instead making a corporate donation to Médecins Sans Frontières. But it's been a good year too, and so we are keeping with our annual tradition of sending out a cheeky seasonal greeting to clients, vendors and friends at this time of year. Which is what I would like to close with.

A merry Barrett and Welsh Christmas Powerpoint

As we head towards the Christmas break, we want to ensure you are fully leveraging all holiday assets for maximum efficiencies. So we put together this handy Christmas video* that provides a handy recap of the season's key metrics. Turn up the volume or don ye now your headphones and simply click here to view the video on Vimeo.

Merry Christmas and to all a happy new year.

*No data was mangled in the making of this video. Any numbers that appear were safely released into the wild once production was complete.

This fascinating read in the Washington Post exposes the expectations the mainstream has of the multicultural and, equally, multicultural expectations of the mainstream when it comes to what a cultural brand should be named.

Emperors and Empresses fence with Chopsticks and wrestle Pandas and Dragons for top spot among Chinese restaurant names, across the USA. Imperial Gardens, Golden Woks and Great Walls hold their own against a mob of Jade Villages and several Bamboo Groves. Even this rather convenient online Chinese restaurant name generator only serves to underscore our reluctance to use our noodle in favour of the lazy familiarity of the cliché.

I guarantee very similar findings with Indian restaurants - across the world. It is a world ruled by Maharajas, Maharanis and their edifices - their Taj Mahals, their Bombay Palaces and occasionally when slumming it, by their humbler Huts, whether serving Dosa, Roti or Curry. Here and there we see a sideways leap from Kadhais to Tandoors - that's frying pan to fire for those unaware of the cuisine's argot.

It's easy to see why in a world of Stupidly Imitative™, Ho Hum™ and Same Old Same Old™, we are passionate about differentiation and why we were careful to guide our FreshCo client away from stereotypes and clichés when we went to work for them. And it's why the brand they so correctly approved and ran with - Chalo - is so right for our time and for our audience.  

Gavin Barrett is Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh, a Toronto agency which serves as defacto Ministry of Defence in the war against cliché, whether in Arabic, English, Putonghua, Macedonian, Pig Latin or Zamboni. (Just checking to make sure you were paying attention). No pandas or dragons were hurt in the writing of this post which also appeared as a LinkedIn post by Gavin.

Before Humans of New York became a social media sensation and before Bill Cunningham made street photography fashionable, Helen Levitt, inspired by a conversation with Cartier-Bresson and took to the streets of Manhattan equipped with a Leica. She slipped past the glitter and lights and makeup to examine the underbelly, the grit. Hers was the city that built the city - the myth that is New York. From the late 30s, and well into the 90s, she wandered through poor, working-class neighbourhoods, alert to their incredible life, sensitive to how they pulsed with interaction. She captured evanescent moments of joy and beauty, the pleasure and play of children, men and women, talking, waiting, watching as cultures and communities connected on the street to make and shape the New York we now know. Towards the end of her long life (she died in 2009, aged 95), she lamented that much of what she photographed had vanished. “I go where there’s a lot of activity,” she said. “Children used to be outside. Now the streets are empty. People are indoors looking at television or something.”


You can read and see more about Helen Levitt in the New York Times' obituary for her.

Helen Levitt, New York, c.1940

 
Helen Levitt / New York City, c 1940



Helen Levitt 1928-2009 New York City (Girl with Lily). From Joshua P. Smith Collection of Photographs

Well Dressed Man on the Streets of New York City, 1940 by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt / NYC (Phone Booth) 1988


Note: All copyright belongs to the artist/owners of the copyrights themselves.
Dear copypuppies,
 
Before you go all aww-goofy on me because I used the word puppies in a sentence, let me caution you. There is nothing cute in what follows.
Think of this note as carrying three bags full of mixed metaphors and embodying that hated passive aggressive phrase “constructive criticism”. Or consider it a combination of advice and lecture - a lecture titled What This Job Takes. My own weary hope is that you will use it as a guide as it contains a few extremely practical tips and some, as the Jesuits like to say, spiritual direction.
The proof is in the proof reading.
Don’t wait for someone else to catch errors or mistakes - not just your errors. Mine, Jonah’s, Jane’s and Yasmin's. You’re the young sailor at the front of the unsinkable ship. It's cold and lonely out there but it's your bloody watch. Don’t reassure yourself that the captain is on the bridge, watching for icebergs. All you should care about or think about is that you are. Keep your eyes open. You can save the ship. You have to care. More than anyone else. There is no one else. The ship goes down, you go down. You are the watcher in the night. And winter is always coming. That's what this job takes.
Miss a deadline and you’re dead. 
That doesn’t mean I am going to kill you. But someone will. The account manager. The client.  Deadlines are not flexible. They are sacred. You have to come through in time. There are no options. Blood, sweat and tears. Constipation. I don’t give a shit. Make it happen. That's what this job takes. 
Work it, work it, work it.
The only way to ensure you come through on time is by working really hard at writing and ideating. You need four headlines? Write 400. Write, write, write. Be a maniac about writing.  The less you write the more your writing shows that you are not enough of a writer. Write, write, write. That's what this job takes.
Carpe the fucking diem.
Know what I mean? Don’t wait for someone else to suggest a good idea or to solve a problem. Jump in. Jump up. Put your hand up. Grab opportunities. If there are none, make opportunities. With every brief answer the brief. 400 times. Then ignore the brief 400 times. Then, come back to the brief. Give me another 400 lines/ideas/scribbles/brainwaves. Why 400? Well, I like 500 better. If you can keep going. Can you? Here’s the nub of it: if you can really count how many lines/ideas/scribbles/brainwaves you’ve had, you haven’t done enough. Keep going. You never know what you’ll find. A gold lion. A yellow pencil. A raise. That's what this job takes.
Write the wrongs out of yourself.
You want to be good? You want to produce great work? You want to be the writer whose writing they write about? You need to spend 10,000 hours doing the same thing. 10,000 hours ideating. 10,000 hours writing. Every iteration, every hour, makes you better. When you get to 3000 hours you’ll be horrified by the stuff that you’re writing now. When you get to 10,000 you won’t know how to write anything but good stuff any more.  You will have written the bad and the average out of you. That's what this job takes.
Passion makes perfect.
In my craft or sullen art... so goes the opening line from a poem by Dylan Thomas, a poem about whom he wrote poems for. Look it up. You don't read poetry? Well, young 'un, perhaps you should pursue a career as an art director instead. Or, maybe even consider switching to finance (I shall ignore that momentary whine of rage from the Beancounting District). Poets are writers' writers. Words do new things in the stubby stained fingers of these obsessive, ink-bottle-djinns. So. Read poems. Read everything. Make your reading wide. Make your thinking deep. Give a damn. Love the words. Love ideas. Seek them out in poems and rap lyrics and dispatches from war zones. And yes, in advertising too. There is even poetry there. I am not going to tell you where to find it. Go and bloody find it for yourself. That's what this job takes.
The best ad you ever wrote was someone else's.
This is what love's got to do with it. When you love the best advertising ever made, you can quote it or refer to it without hesitation. The best work ever done over the last 10 years - and way beyond that. Think going back 20something years is tough? Ha. You should be familiar with work that was done long before you were born. Tough is going back 60something years. Tough is being able to see the crap that will be done well into the future. Besides, making sure you don't make the mistakes that have been made before is easy. Making sure you don't have the same brilliant ideas that have been had before, that, dear (wo)manwolf, is difficult. So. Immerse yourself. Till you learn to swim in a sea of brilliance. That's what this job takes.
Don't kid yourself kid.
You’re a good kid. You’ve got many excellent qualities. You could do well. You could go far. But you have to rise to the opportunity you have. Make the most of it. Give it your best. Give it your all. Your heart. Your soul. Your sweat. Your tears. Your blood. Even your damn toenail clippings. You won’t regret it. And it's what this job takes. 

That’s it.  

Here endeth the lesson.
And oh, in case you were wondering: Dylan Thomas wrote his poetry for lovers. 
__
Gavin Barrett is Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh, a Toronto agency where copywriting is critically important and where young copywriters are raised in captivity, fed a diet of milk, honey and great ideas and then released into the wild again.
__
The photograph is a rare portrait of 1913 Nobel Literature Laureate, poet and storyteller, Rabindranath Tagore, from the archives of The Hindu.


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.

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