“The Girl from Ipanema”

It’s stuck in your head.

That song.

“The Girl from Ipanema”, or at least the theme is. Rattling around on your cranium for the rest of the day, or longer. Even if you don’t know that particular song, there are a schwack of songs, themes, or even lyrics that have the ability to stick. Why does this happen? I could rattle off some scientific mumbo-jumbo that would sound cool, and impressive. Fact is. It’s simple. No really…”simple”. For the most part the mind does not like complicated, especially in advertising, especially now. Consumers are bombarded with thousands of messages, both traditional and online. Creatives must focus even more on who the consumer is, and convince them to act with witty, clever creative, that stands out from the rest of the “spam-vertising”.

(ok, I just spilled soya sauce on my napkin, the one I am using to write this. See the picture below. I am kicking it old school. No tablet or laptop, not even a pad of paper. I am scrawling my thoughts down, with a borrowed pen, on a napkin in a sushi restaurant. Hey, sometimes I can’t control the creative, when this baby is ready to come out, stand back!) 


That is why it is important for Creatives to focus on the audience, and of course that starts with the client. Pulling out pertinent info, drilling down to the specific details about the audience. It can almost be a therapeutic exercise for the client to answer the hard questions about his brand, and his true audience.

Simple works. And it works even better when you have all the elements needed to execute great creative. Follow the K-I-S-S Philosophy (keep it simple stupid)


– DP


The QR conundrum

While at a trade show recently, I walked into a booth and the sales rep immediately started a conversation with me. He seemed friendly, open, and very knowledgable about his product. We chatted for a few minutes and when I asked for more information, he directed me to a sign on the wall – a QR code.

The disconnect was immediate. We’d gone from a warm, personable chat to a stark black and white square directing me into the technological abyss. Did that QR code lead me to his company website, or to his daughter’s girl guide page selling me cookies (which, admittedly, may not be a bad thing) – or something far more sinister? Reaching out for a second chance, I asked for his card. He passed it to me, and to my dismay, it had his company logo, his name – and another QR code. Not even a phone number. I smiled, thanked him for his time and made my way to the next vendor, who was more than willing to provide their website and phone number to me without my asking.

Of course, you’re asking what my issue is with QR codes – and my answer is, I have none, when they’re used properly. In this instance, however, the technology was being forced upon me with no alternative. This is only one bad example of utilizing these codes: They’ve been placed on billboards beside busy freeways (who is going to scan a code while doing 100km/hr?), in subways with no cell coverage, or on bus and vehicle graphics. QR codes, when first introduced to the general public, were supposed to usher in the next generation of connectivity. Scan this simple square and be whisked away to a world of wonder! – but more often than not, to the company’s website, or in the case of the less imaginative, a digital copy of the ad you’d just scanned the code from.

Truthfully, if an ad or product doesn’t have me intrigued enough to remember their url or something google-worthy,  I probably won’t take the time to scan their code anyway. In the time it would take to open the specific app and scan the code, I could have punched in their domain name and already hit their site. The disconnect with QR codes continues with a simple glance – they’re ugly. Initially they were created as a means of identifying car engines by Toyota (it’s true – look it up!) – not to tell you a story and connect with you emotionally. Sure, there have been several creative means of dressing them up, including colouring them and going outside the generic square, but there’s no masking what they really are.

The QR code hasn’t made the expected impact upon the connected world that many thought it would. A recent study by comScore.com found that only 6.2% of mobile phone users in America were using QR codes. Other studies are predicting QR code use will rise to 8% this year, but drop shortly thereafter as other, more user-friendly technologies take its place.

A well-placed and thought out QR code can still have a meaningful contribution to your marketing campaign; but don’t rely too heavily on it. Support it with the traditional methods of contact, and never forget that a firm handshake and a welcoming smile will tell your audience a million times more than a black and white square ever can.

– JT

One Year and Three Days Ago

One year and three days ago, I lost my last job.

I wasn’t fired – I was told that everyone at the company loved my work; nobody had a bad thing to say about me – but they couldn’t afford to keep me. I remember the day well – a cold, dreary November Wednesday. A casual “Can we talk for a minute”? leading to “We have to let you go”. Cleaning out my desk and walking out, shocked. Angry. Worried and sad.

I drove home and sat on my couch for the next two days. Half the time I don’t even think my TV was on. I stared at the blank screen and worried. What had I done wrong? What would I do next? What could I do? How would I pay rent? I’d gone from completely reinventing the look for a multimillion dollar company, establishing their social media presence and bringing in tens of thousands of dollars in partnership deals to being told they didn’t need me anymore. I’d never been in this situation before. For days, I didn’t tell anyone. After I finally left my couch, I began scouring job listings, looking for anything, anywhere. I needed money, I needed a job, now. I looked and applied for dozens of positions, but didn’t feel excited about any of them, other than the money they might bring in. I thought of reaching out for a few more freelance projects as I’d been able to do for years, but could I really live off of that? I’d done it for a few years when I was just starting out, but could I do that now? I doubted it, I doubted myself, and applied for some more jobs.

It took a conversation with my dad to finally kick me into gear. I told him what had happened, and how low I was feeling. I half-heartedly mentioned how I was considering finally starting my own business, as I’d wanted to do for over ten long years. How it had always been a goal, but I’d never focused or worked on it as I was always busy working for someone else. I don’t know what I was expecting, but my dad did what every great dad should do, and he told me to chase my dream. To go for it. Stand up, stand proud and go after what I want. Would it be hard? Of course. Would I regret it if I didn’t? Absolutely. My dad told me to chase my dream and know that my family was behind me, supporting me however they could. It was time to make the best of my situation, to seize the time I was given and put my brand in the stone.

I stopped looking for job listings that day and started building my company instead. I went back to school, taking a crash course on starting and running a business. Taxes, legal process, marketing and more – I drank it up. There is so much I didn’t know about what owning my own company was about – it was overwhelming at times. As time progressed, I began getting a few new clients. I told my close friends about what I was doing, and was grateful for their support and excitement.

I worked hard. I struggled. I had sleepless nights and weeks wondering where my next pay cheque was coming from. I sent out emails and had meetings and got silence in return. I worked on my own product more. I defined my company and I built what I want its brand to represent. I reached out to some of the most talented people I know and got their support in building the company even further. With their help, the company website was launched. Then social media platforms, business cards and even company t-shirts. Through it all, fear was always sitting on my shoulder, waiting for me. What if I can’t do this? What if people and businesses don’t want what I have to offer? What if… what if?

What if I didn’t try? What if I didn’t do this now – would I regret it 20 years from now? Would I regret it tomorrow? Yes.

There will always be a What If waiting for us all. I chose to ignore the fear, ignore the doubts, and ask What If this works out, and my dream does come true?

One year and three days later, I’m still working harder than ever, and still struggling. I haven’t made my first million yet – far from it – but I’m working toward it. This is my dream, and if I don’t work for it, I know I’ll only be working for someone else.

It took a long time and it took some bad times, but my dream is building. One year and three days ago, it all officially started. I hope you’ll all join me on this journey.


Jason Toma
Founder, Ambition Branding Inc. 

The Barn

I love to cook.

It’s another way to feed my creative side. (pun fully intended)

I have made a point of sharing my passion for cooking with my children, Gina and Ian. We are all obsessed with the Food Channel, and go into a blue funk if we miss an episode of America’s Test Kitchen.

When I create an especially tasty dish, perfected every step, and have the timing down to a science, I usually name it.  Once again my creative writing seeps into my everyday life.

The one breakfast dish I love to make is called “The Bird’s Nest”. The procedure is a closely guarded secret that, even my kids don’t know, although they have seen me make it so often I am sure they have the steps down.

“The Bird’s Nest” contains shredded hash browns, ham, bacon, green onions (not scallions, I am not that pompous) and two poached eggs. When it is complete, it resembles a bird’s nest.

One morning, I had just finished creating “The Bird’s Nest” and was just about to dig in when my son said, “Is that the Bird’s Nest?”

“Yes it is.” I responded.

“Why do you call it The Bird’s Nest”?”, my 6 year old man cub asked.

“Isn’t it obvious” I replied. “The shredded hash browns look like twigs from a nest and the two eggs are from a bird.”

“What about the ham and bacon, and green onions?” he said. “You don’t find those in a bird’s nest.”

He had me there. I was stuck for an answer, so I resorted to my extensive parent’s manual and said, “It doesn’t matter, eat your oatmeal.” Damn I hate it when my 6 year old is right.

Then he had the stones to continue, “If it was me, I would call it The Barn. The hash browns look like hay, the bacon and ham are from a pig that lives around a barn, and the eggs are found in a barn.”

Wow, he really thought this out. Then, my old experienced brain showed itself.

“What about the green onions?” I had him…superior intellect and knowledge prevails!

“Oh”, he said. “That is the grass you find around the barn.”

We’re making breakfast tomorrow morning together. I am going to show my son exactly how to make, “The Barn”.

– DP

Hidden Treasure

November 30th, 1992 – (excerpt from my first journal entry)

“Today is Monday, the last day of November. It was an okay day, nothing too exciting. My Sunnyside Garden Center commercial goes to air today. Not as good at “Pointer-Settas”, but up to par.”

A few days ago, I found my old journal while rooting through my “tickle” trunk. It brought back a flood of memories, some good, others great. From it, I realized something…creative writing was not something that came easy for me. It was an unknown talent that revealed itself to me in my late 20’s, when I first started in radio as a creative writer. I always had creative energy. I just never harnessed it. I was the funny, class-clown-goof that never took things seriously and always wanted to make people laugh with my actions, never my writing. Radio forced it out of me. I say forced it because it was difficult for me to focus the multitude of creative ideas I had into 30 or 60 seconds. I remember my first Creative Director reading my radio scripts, stop watch in one hand, my soon-to-be award winning radio script in the other, fresh off my IBM electric typewriter. The IBM hummed, I vibrated, and my Creative Director started reading, out loud. (it sounded so much better in my head).  She finished reading and showed me the stopwatch…39 seconds.

Long script short…I became a much better writer, and still write to ensure what is inside my head makes it out. I learned something from finding my old journal…the greatness inside, doesn’t want to hide.

– DP