Late last week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced it would be facing another challenging year due to a $130 million shortfall that is resulting in the loss of 657 positions effective immediately. This type of news is crippling for any business to announce, misery loves company, and the tumbling effect of bad news has a measurable influence on a brand. This shortfall message has become habitual, and fans are getting used to the annual rhythm of CBC being threatened by fiscal shortfalls.

What a position to be in. One of Canada’s most loved brands, with millions of die hard fans, a highly recognized mark, and sterling journalistic status, the CBC drifts with substantial financial woes and finds itself at a critical crossroads, choosing the right direction will mean success or oblivion. Filled with enormous potential, the primary gap is not about fiscal management alone; the real gap is one of imagination, and an inability to lead in the creative age. We want the CBC to have a media strategy to promote Canada’s culture, design, innovation and entertainment, and a shift from reactive policy and programming to a proactive, organized visionary role. But how? This is a list of recommendations that designers and branders have put together; a tour of our interpretation of issues facing the CBC, all loving suggestions, free advice from the creative class.


1. BRAND CANADA. The image of the country is turning a corner. We have some of the best innovation and ideas, but little of this creative vision makes it into the self-image of the country. The articulation of the Canadian brand has largely been developed by decades of travel and tourism brochures. The image of what Canada is about, or better, is doing, is being created in a vacuum.

This is an enormous void waiting to be filled by the CBC. The brand of the country is waiting to be updated and defined. Tell the stories that represent Canada best, and become a central organizing principle for the country’s mission. This will help Canadians better understand their place in the world, and increase investment coming into the country as well as our exports. This will help to create a measurable advantage for CBC’s major stakeholder, the Federal Government, and erase the debate around the value of the CBC. The network will be our brand Canada articulator, manager and distributor. The biggest asset the country has.


2. NEWS IS THE BIGGEST THING. The CBC is Canada’s most trusted and popular news outlet, making this an obvious area to invest and cultivate. News-making organizations are the perfect platform for innovation. Always changing, fresh content and critical information. News is ideally suited for state-of-the-art ways of delivery and shaping opinion. Be daring, try news things, take a leadership role, this will be a magnet in attracting new partners, digital developers, designers, apps, and new types of sponsors and native content developers. We see growth in niche and specialized news slices, like Kids news, and Seniors News. We are seeing interesting news products appearing on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and iTunes, exciting formats for reaching out to new audiences. We loved this recent CBC piece…more please. We like how unlikely players like VICE are entering the news business, and documentary films like Helvetica are helping to make information entertainment. Beyond exploring new ways to deliver the news, we want the CBC to sell their news-making expertise (classes and workshops on how to write and broadcast your own news through social media, how to use your cell phone to capture the news, how to be a journalist, etc). Open it all up and help us make the news too.

cbc3. EMBRACE DIGITAL CULTURE. All the action, in almost every market in the world is spreading across three platforms, and they are not TV, Radio or Shortwave. Think desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones.  The CBC has to commit to living and breathing digital. Programming, services, personalities, etc., every CBC product must be run through the digital mill. Anything that does not pass, bin. Media outlets need to be front line in this area. We want to see new tech partners developed (think IBM, Apple, Google) and relationships welded to the start up and entrepreneur cultures of MARS and Waterloo. Uncork the archives, we want a Netflix style guide to the mega deep CBC archives (every show, every story – searchable and shareable). Become a digital advocate, and don’t be afraid to experiment, you will see rewards every time you do.

4. ADVERTISING 3.0. We see two areas for the CBC to profit from a renewed revenue model. First, the brand should update their ad products to be more attractive to advertisers. Do native and embedded content well, and create exciting ways to link content to  supporters. Second, are partnerships and sponsorships. Be a leader in how brands link with viewers to create excellent content. Uncork the fan-base that really wants to pay for and support the services, improve sponsorship packages and strategies so that everyone wins (viewer, CBC and brands). We want to see a better fit between the ads and the content, a Googlish model where ads are displayed beside content in a thoughtful way. This alone will uplift their ad products and raise the value for advertisers, and can remove some of the stigma of inappropriate ads appearing beside thoughtful content.

maple5. CREATIVE CANADA. CBC is the ideal home base for the best creative, it has all the outputs that designers want to create: websites, apps, typefaces, logos, colour palettes, graphic design, product design, and more. The CBC also has a fantastic design history (like Burton Kramer logo – top image) to inspire. There are three ways to untap the creative potential of Canada: design leadership, content creator, and design intelligence. Canada is desperate for design leadership and the CBC is perfectly positioned to become the center of everything creative in the country. The broadcaster can be the collaborator, connecting the creative class, the host that showcases top work, and the instigators and recipients, giving designers’ work and ideas an audience. The CBC can author and express the look of Canada. Beyond this design savvy stance, the network should celebrate and promote design critique and thinking. Design is a global conversation and we can add to this dialogue with conversation on architecture, product design, design education and graphic design.  We want a Canadian movie night in partnership with TIFF, to connect with writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Naomi Klein to help us understand the material life around us, produce conversations with developers and architects to decode how our cities are built and homes designed. The design life of Canada is waiting to go global and express how we think. The CBC can be the launchpad and advocate for it all.


 6. BIG DATA BUSINESS, INTERACTIVES, & VISUALIZATION. The national footprint of the CBC is a real asset. An authentic, high touch network that should be leveraged into something big. Tapping this position could produce images and snapshots of what Canada is about, and the issues that we are facing. CBC should collect, visualize and share Canadian data. We see content like the federal budget explained, where taxes really go, and on and on. They can help visualize the Canadian experience into shareable, snack sized knowledge pieces, a unique access point for Canadians to see themselves in data and to use that information to be more informed and connected.  Managing and understanding the Canadian conversation and views is what CBC does well. For those who want to enter and play in the Canadian marketplace (tourists, investors, immigrants), the CBC should be the critical research stop.

7. HAVE A VOICE. BE A CHANGE AGENT. Contemporary media is best when it gets off the fence and frees their personalities to weigh in on issues, give a real opinion, letting them be creatively disobedient. Unlike Fox or other shouting confrontational styles, the CBC has a lovely human and social purpose. The CBC should be even more daring, quirky, entertaining, intelligent and articulate. We would like to understand the world around us, not just headlines, and then back that up with tools for change. We want to join the conversation and be a force for good too, so help us act on the issues raised. Anytime there is a chance to empower the audience with a big idea, back it up with tools for change.

Picture-1528. STAR MAKING MACHINERY. Canada really needs some big value awards. A system that genuinely celebrates and rewards the best the country produces. Build out the Junos, crank up the volume on the Polaris, grow the Giller and Canada Reads products, introduce design/architecture awards, and awards for global good behaviour (which would be on brand for the humanist CBC). The CBC should help raise the status and usefulness of our national award culture. We want annual “Best of Canada” lists that highlight our best music, sport, art, architecture, and more. This will give Canadians an annual benchmark for where their country culturally stands, and help our global perception. We see the CBC logo as a mark of excellence, a symbol for everything that is good in the country.

9. ELEVATE CONTENT. The broad conversation the CBC initiates is difficult to relate to: one hour gives you a brassy “Cross-Country Check Up” and the next is a contemporary big city view. Get focused, and wrap those conversations into a simple narrative. Be the forward leaning, optimistic, artful, Canada 2.0 storyline. Lose the folksy, and focus on the best of Canada. We have the fastest car, the best UFC fighters, the best poker player, and the cure for blindness. These subjects are not getting the airtime they need and Canadians are disconnected from the biggest ideas their county is producing. Reflect the best of ourselves back to us. Invest in quality conversations that inspire our imaginations.

design6+5_46810. GIFT SHOP TO FAN GEAR. The CBC has a loyal and reliable fan base, so give them a palette of ways to celebrate and express that relationship. Sports teams have made this shift with wild success, seeing themselves as outfitters not just gift shops. The possibilities to connect to exciting Canadian brands in fashion and design are so deep. Think of collaborations with Canada Goose, Herschel, and The Bay, to limited edition products, licensing/objects connected to CBC programming (like David Suzuki-approved eco items, or musical equipment from CBC Music), and items that are linked to giving and levels of sponsorship. Would you use a CBC credit card, with a small percentage going to support the programs? We  want interesting pieces that people will want to own, share images of, and talk about.

There has to be a future for the CBC. Few Canadians can imagine a Canada without it, but it is critical to embrace change, stare down problems squarely, and be enlightened by adaptability and the ability to move towards growth and opportunity. There is no doubt of the cultural importance of the Corporation, but this needs to be elevated and made more relevant. So get back to your main mission: be the voice of Canada.




More Features

Canada’s creative industries can lead the economic charge.

FEATURES / July 11 2017 / Edgar Cowan

9 ways to improve our trading strategy

FEATURES / August 1 2018 / Omar Allam

Chalet Artistic Glass

FEATURES / November 11 2013 / Conrad Biernacki