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ACTRA touts actors as smart choice for agencies

Work from DentsuBos and 360i let industry types say what they really think

The union representing English-speaking actors in Canada has a saucy new digital, social and experimental campaign that calls on the advertising industry to hire professional performers — not amateurs or computer-generated spokespeople — to deliver brand messages.

With the tagline “Actors Say it Better,” the Toronto branch of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), has launched ACTRAgram.com, which allows users to “cast an ACTRA actor to say the things that would normally get you fired.”

The campaign, developed by DentsuBos and 360i Canada, includes some tongue-in-cheek messages for people in the ad business such as “Stop stealing ideas from Reddit,” “Your briefs are too long” or “You only come to meeting for the free food.”

The website encourages users to choose a message they want to send to a colleague, then pick a stereotypical ad character such as the “overly cheerful service industry professional,” “muscle pain sufferer” or “heartfelt plea for donations guy.” There are 100 different messages that can be sent.

ACTRA Toronto hopes they will be shared across social media to help raise awareness. Some of the participating actors include Wendy Crewson, Darryl Hinds and Colin Mochrie, to name a few.

David Sparrow, president of ACTRA Toronto, said the campaign is a humourous way to show the industry that professional performers “add real value to campaigns.”

“The viral ad put together in your nephew’s basement may get a number of hits, but the question is, ‘Does it drive sales?’” Sparrow says. “We think it’s a very positive campaign — and a little disruptive.”

Sparrow said it’s the first time his union has hired an agency to build a campaign to promote its members.

Cass Enright, vice-president and managing director at 360i Canada, said it’s also the first time he’s worked on a campaign directly targeting his own industry.

The goal was to make the campaign catchy, but also not “too preachy,” Enright says.

“We wanted something that will appeal to the industry in a fun and clever way that links to our world, while also getting the [ACTRA Toronto] message across,” said Enright. “I think we achieved that.”

ACTRA Toronto is also promoting some new online services it says will make it easier for clients to hire its actors.

“We hope in the next couple of years to become the Uber of the entertainment industry, where people say, ‘let’s go ACTRA because it’s easy, faster and better and they have the talent performers we want too’,” says Sparrow.

The ACTRAgram campaign was also featured at FFWD Advertising & Marketing Week in Toronto, where visitors had a chance to cast actors to record a message live.

Sparrow says there will also be some radio spots talking about the advantage of hiring professional actors, and reminding the general public about the role artists like these play in society.

“It’s up to us as unions to ensure that we are relevant going forward and that we stay competitive in a changing media landscape… and that we impress upon that public that when art is created, the intellectual property is wroth paying for,” Sparrow says.

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