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Creative Director’s Choice: John Kovacevich of Duncan Channon on why Gritty made waves

Gritty, the Philadelphia Flyers mascot

Creative Director’s Choice gives creative directors a chance to highlight the work they think is the best out in the ad world — the ads and campaigns they believe are making a difference.

John Kovacevich, executive creative director at Duncan Channon, makes a case for why Gritty, the Philadelphia Flyers mascot, scored a marketing goal this year.

As I read all the various best-of-advertising lists for 2018, I find myself nodding along with many of the consensus picks.

I too loved the visual craft of Spike Jonze’s Apple Home Pod spot and the keen storytelling of Droga5 London’s Amazon Prime video campaign.

But one of my favorite “ads” of 2018 was something much more low-tech: a guy in costume. Yes, I’m using my valuable Drum real estate to praise Gritty, the new mascot for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.

Up front, I should say that I’m NOT a hockey fan. I don’t know a puck from a…a…what else is there in hockey besides a puck?

So the fact that new hockey mascot would catch my eye is a testament to how it’s worked its way into popular culture.

As the story goes (and who knows what’s real and what’s PR, but it’s a good story), the son of the team’s chief operating officer was at the 2017 NHL All-Star game and asked his dad why the Philadelphia Flyers didn’t have a mascot of their own. So, the team began a development process to find the character.

The resulting mascot, introduced in September was…unexpected.

Schlubby and googly-eyed, with an unkempt orange beard, Gritty did not look like any other sports mascot. He wasn’t polished or all that coordinated. He was not “safe.” And the initial reaction was a strong “WTF?”

But their deft use of social media gave the character a voice. Gritty responded to attacks quickly with attitude and humor. And he walked the line of knowing that the whole thing was ridiculous but also taking the job seriously. An earnest wink, if you will.

As a result, Gritty went from “mascot gone wrong” to “iconic brand character” in a matter of weeks. It was like witnessing the birth of a new Tony the Tiger or Pillsbury Doughboy.

And the results have been great for the franchise – a “viral idea” that truly went viral in a way that exceeded expectations. It’s a reminder to all of us that the silliest, goofiest ideas require bravery, but the rewards can be great.

John Kovacevich is executive creative director at San Francisco agency, Duncan Channon.

See more of Gritty by clicking on the Creative Works boxes below.

To see the latest creative ads and campaigns, visit The Drum’s Creative Works section. If you would like to feature a creative director in our Creative Director’s Choice, please contact Creative Works editor Kyle O’Brien.

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