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Winning the Prize

Depending on your point of view, Roots Air was the best agency client ever, or the worst. Roots, a fashion supplier  (the people that outfitted Canada's Olympic team) was about to launch an airline with partner Skyservice. Well anyway, they were looking to raise capital to launch an airline.

The job was to develop a website and marketing materials that captured the essence of the Roots experience. The client brief wasn't nearly so articulate. "Build us a website," was the directive.

Even though I wasn't part of the Roots account team, I was asked to lead the web strategy session. (I guess because I like unbounded problems.)

It is amazing how smart people jump into things. Straight into solutions. "Let's do an animation. We can do a virtual walk through." "Yeah and let's feature a loyalty card with a difference ..."  The session was going nowhere fast.

We didn't know what the routes would be, the air fares or anything about the business plan at all. Because there was no plan yet.

So, I took it to sixty thousand feet. What is the promise? The answer - "A Roots Experience" "What's that?" I asked.

Well the team tried to answer and finally decided that the answer was not found in Roots, but rather it was found in Experience. "It has to do with the senses... what we taste, what we feel ...."

So that's what they did. They built the site to appeal to the senses. They evoked feelings; described the scent of exquisite leather, the texture of fine foods and the glow that comes with great service." They also did an animation. A boy, on a raft, in a pond, with water gently rippling around him.

Roots Air Web site

The creative team lay the foundation for a potential greenfield launch into a new business venture for Roots and Skyservice and they even won a Bessie Award for their work.

The point is this. Sometimes you can give smart people clear direction. Sometimes you need to help them get to it by themselves. An agency head once told me to let the creatives do the creative. I only asked three questions. They did all the rest.