CBC News Federal Election


Introducing the people behind the campaign ads
Meet the players


The Player: Würstlingroup � Toronto (founded 2005)

The Main Man: Michael Würstlin � Würstlin was an 18-year-old unemployed graphic artist when he was approached by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott to design a logo and board for a new game they had developed called Trivial Pursuit. In exchange, Würstlin received five shares of their fledgling company. Today, Würstlin's main preoccupation is branding. He considers himself a "brand engineer."

In Their Own Words: "Würstlingroup is a company that helps brands communicate in an accelerated culture�.Our firm helps brands flourish because we celebrate this erosion of boundaries separating the disciplines. Though advertising has often "borrowed" from culture, it's often been a bit shy about its legitimacy. We think it's time for advertising to come out and play with the other kids."

Claims to Fame: Michael Würstlin has developed campaigns for Bank of Montreal, KFC, Nescafe, Molson and Labatt, and helped create brands for IMG Direct, Grocery Gateway.com and Expedia.com.

Political chops: None. The agency is less than a year old so it has not been involved in previous campaigns. A Calgary-based firm called Watermark was responsible for the Tory ads in 2004, but it is not involved this time.

Strange But True: The Würstlingroup boasts an interesting array of " associates," many of whom come from non-advertising backgrounds. They include Hubert Davis, who directed the award-winning documentary Hardwood, Thom Sokoloski, an avant garde opera director, and, perhaps most intriguingly, lawyer Stephen LeDrew, who served as president of the Liberal Party of Canada from 1998-2003.


The Player: Bensimon-Byrne � Toronto (founded 1992)

The Main Man: Peter Byrne � Byrne's first foray into politics came after meeting Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty in the summer of 2003. "He had a real sincerity, a real lack of bullshit about him," Byrne concluded, and he volunteered to take charge of Liberal advertising in the upcoming campaign to unseat the Conservative government of Ernie Eves. Byrne's "Let Dalton be Dalton" campaign won high marks from both insiders and voters.

In Their Own Words: Our four beliefs:

Be the Best
"We want to create the best agency environment in the country."

Flat is Good
"We all take turns pushing the snack cart on Wednesday afternoons."

Respect People
"If you work here, it means you have a lot of talent. Otherwise, you wouldn't be working here."

No Yelling
"No yelling. Ever."

Claims To Fame: The Molson's "I Am Canadian" campaign, Buckley's Mixture ("It tastes awful. And it works"), and stupid.ca, an anti-smoking campaign for the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Political Chops: Solid red! Byrne's work for the 2003 Ontario Liberal campaign has been amply rewarded. In the past two years, Bensimon-Byrne has received more that $6 million in advertising contracts from the Ontario government, compared to less than $100,000 in contracts during the final year of the Conservative government.

Strange But True: In 2003, Byrne ran one of the most positive campaigns in recent Ontario history. "If you guys turn to the negative stuff," he warned Liberal organizers, "I'm leaving and I'll make a bit of fuss about it too." The next year, he oversaw one of the most negative campaigns in recent memory: the federal Liberal campaign of 2004.


The Player: NOW Communications Group � Vancouver (founded 1992)

The Main Man: Ron Johnson, NOW's president and founder, is a leading social marketer who is involved in democracy training projects at home and abroad. He has been a card-carrying member of the NDP since he was 16 years old. He believes "the same progressive values that founded NOW Communications drive everything we do today."

In Their Own Words: "For us, communication begins with a principled vision for what you want to achieve. Social marketing means social change; our goal is nothing less than a better, fairer society."

Claims to Fame: NOW does no work for corporate clients, but it has developed campaigns to increase public support for unions during bargaining, for students opposing tuition fee hikes, and a variety of other socially progressive causes. It has been in charge of advertising for the federal NDP since the 1997 election, and for NDP campaigns in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba.

Political Chops: There is usually no pot of gold for ad firms at the end of the national NDP rainbow, but NOW has managed to do pretty well with several NDP provincial governments. The firm was awarded more than $5 million in contracts in B.C. while Mike Harcourt was premier.

Strange But True: NOW and the Saskatchewan NDP are currently involved in an embarrassing lawsuit filed by longtime party worker David Degenstien. In September 2003, Degenstien was fired from his job as a ministerial assistant after a cartoon surfaced during the provincial election campaign that depicted the leader of the Saskatchewan Party as a Nazi-like guard hoarding NDP supporters into a boxcar. Degenstien was fired after e-mails he wrote in support of the cartoon were made public by the Saskatchewan Party. Degenstien believes he was "terminated without cause" and is suing both the NDP and NOW Communications, arguing that he was dismissed by the party on the advice of the ad firm. To add insult to injury, Degenstien's lawyer is Tony Merchant, a former Liberal MPP.

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