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Advertising Amazon Canada

How Calgary and Critical Mass used guerrilla ads in Amazon HQ2 charm offensive


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

October 25, 2017 | 5 min read

Experience design agency Critical Mass has headed up a campaign to butter up corporate powerhouse Amazon for the city of Calgary as the company looks to secure a location for a second headquarters.


Some highlights from the Calgary campaign

Working with the Calgary Economic Development office, the agency helped the Canadian city stand out from a whopping 237 other applicants for the HQ2 project. Calgary invaded Amazon’s home city of Seattle to plaster it in a hard-to-miss 200-piece OOH campaign culminating in chalk graffiti, billboards and banners.

The work looked to address misconceptions about Calgary, although if it lands an Amazon HQ, that is an understandable added bonus. Chris Gokiert, president of Critical Mass, told The Drum: “We believed Calgary didn’t have an accurate and clear international profile. When people think of Calgary, they think it is too far, too north, too small, too cold.

“When people think of us, they think we’re too traditional, too white, too old, too conventional. Our campaign needed to address these incorrect perceptions and prove that Calgary would be perfect for Amazon’s second headquarters.”

And to do this, it was important to talk to “Amazon, on their home turf, right in Seattle”. The 100 foot banner next to Amazon’s office read “Hey, Amazon. Not saying we’d fight a bear for you, but we totally would. Love, Calgary.”

Another bit of copy scattered across the sprawling city includes: “Hey, Amazon. We lost our rain jacket in 1988. Oh well. Love, Calgary."

“Hey, Amazon. We’d change our name for you. Calmazon? Amagary? Love, Calgary," and "Hey, Amazon. Our mountains make other mountains jealous. Pow day? Love, Calgary."

Print was also embraced to get the point across, full page ads landed in in The Seattle Times and The Washington Post, supplemented with spots on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

And finally, a video was developed for YouTube, touting bike lanes, and office space, and hot coffee, and hug-inducing cold weather. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek.

The Critical Mass team shared that the idea immediately came to them. “It’s funny, usually we agonize over a brief like this. But in this case, we honed in on the idea right from the start and never looked back.”

For Amazon on the other hand, it must be nice to be the most popular kid in town, it has 238 proposals to work through to find a new second home.

Vote for the campaign in The Drum's Creative Works.

Amazon: Hey, Amazon by Critical Mass

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Critical Mass

In a complex and fast-moving world, Critical Mass designs unparalleled brand experiences that connect with people. We were established in Calgary back in 1996, and since then we’ve helped global clients like Apple, Nike, Diageo, and BMW (and hundreds more over the years) reimagine digital and do what no one else in their category can do. Today, we’re over 1,400 digitally obsessed employees in 12 offices, across Europe, Asia, and North America—with a major, full-service hub in London.

What makes us different? We truly understand every part of our clients' digital ecosystems, and we deliver success by making data, creativity, and technology more connected, more efficient, and more powerful. Of course, digital never stands still, but neither do we. We help brands seize opportunities so that their customers get a better experience and a more seamless, dynamic, and personalised experience everywhere they go.

We’re also proud to be part of Omnicom, one of the largest holding companies for global advertising, marketing, digital, and communications services firms (serving more than 5,000 clients in over 100 countries).

No matter how much digital changes, one thing will always stay the same—who we are. We’re a transparent, honest, values-driven, passionate partner with a can-do attitude that our clients notice and appreciate.

We’re Critical Mass, but our friends call us CM. Please call us CM.

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