A Toy for Your Thoughts: This Is Not A Toy

March 17, 2014 by  Top Drawer Creative

by Trellawny Graham, Creative & QC Executive

On a grey winter weekend, I decided to take in the very colourful feature exhibit at Toronto’s Design Exchange (DX) museum: This Is Not A Toy. This is an art show, guest curated by Pharrell Williams, a multifaceted artist – he’s a Grammy Award winning & Oscar nominated musician, producer, fashion designer, toy collector and toy creator.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was intrigued.

This Is Not A Toy showcases and celebrates imagination. It’s a big room full of toys! Toys as corporeal dreams; toys as political statements and cries; toys in homage. Toys you can’t touch because they’re covered in plexi enclosures – which makes taking a photo on a smartphone without glare terribly challenging (if you’re an Instagram user in the Toronto area or a toy-lover searching #thisisnotatoy, you may have seen them).

I was sent into mental spirals looking at these toys; I was looking at fingers, at knuckles and nail detail! I was looking at tiny facial features and the expression they conveyed based on the angle the artist painted them. Was the tiny warrior who slayed his opponent happy about his win? Was it a win or a need, like in a Tarantino blood-soaked flick when the “game” is fight to the death, kill or be killed.

How did FriendsWithYou decide where to put a face on cloud lamp to make that lamp so happy and cute? Moreover, isn’t that neat that I have attached emotion to a lamp… based on three black marks! KAWS’s sad Astroboy made me want to comfort the toy. The giant KAWS piece made out of wood that sits in the centre of the biggest area of the room tempted me to break the “please do not touch” rules; I wanted to stand behind it and give it a cuddle. The inanimate object can be more expressive and representative of emotion than some human beings!

I believe we have the capacity to humanize anything, and love it in a new way, like the face on the FriendsWithYou cloud lamp (or the stick, light, giant balloon…). We can like or dislike something because it’s familiar, like the Be@rBrick Beatles figures with oversized noses (there are countless identities of the Be@rBricks – Chanel, SpongeBob Squarepants, Mickey Mouse, Daft Punk … lots to like or dislike).

I was looking at the Dunnys, produced by Kidrobot since 2004; there are least a couple hundred of them on display at the exhibit. They are all different. I stood there thinking, ‘People can be so creative. There are so many ideas out there.’

I learned about the exhibit via social media. Part of my job is in fact being on social media, researching, producing, writing and editing content. The other part is quality control and assurance. In other words, I’m nitpicky. I look at details. I look at everything – and I can’t turn it off! I edit. I tidy up pieces of writing, pieces of creative – formations of ideas. Looking at all of these toys – some so dark, some so boisterous and jubilant, some so frustrated with the state of the world, some so much fun – I realized there is good stuff in the details. I was reminded of authenticity and storytelling – two key parts of successful advertising. Everything is connected! And it all starts out with toys. What do we want to play with as a baby, as a toddler, as a ragamuffin 7-year-old? It’s what engages us.

My detail-oriented, pop culture soaked recommendation: make some time and check out This Is Not A Toy. Bring your smartphone (who can resist taking a photo of a medical pill with a happy face on it, really?). Bring your open mind. And have fun. TOYS! The exhibit is open until May 19. Get tickets here.


We’re a Certified B Corp

February 10, 2014 by  Top Drawer Creative

There are over 900 companies in over 29 countries who are B Corps (about 100 of which are in Canada). B Corps are businesses that share a common belief: that business should be a force for good. They believe that corporate social responsibility is non-negotiable. So, we decided to sign up. We took a comprehensive test – the B Impact Assessment – and we passed, becoming the first dedicated, full-service ad agency in Canada to do so.

During the process of taking this test, we took a good, hard look at our business. We had to ask ourselves, “What makes us a better company?” Is it our culture? Is it our ethics? Is it our environmental stance? Our answers fared well on all fronts and the results made us realize we were getting things right. We scored above the median on all categories.



“The team and culture here is great,” says Director of Client Services Kathy McLay. “We like each other and that makes it enjoyable to come to work everyday.” We believe in our people and we treat them well. We like to have fun together as that keeps things healthy.



We’re accountable for our actions. Our policies are authentic and transparent; and one of our strengths is our adaptability. “We’re small and agile enough to quickly step out of our process if we think it will help us get a better result,” says Andrew Connochie, our Director of Brand Strategy. And part of our mission is to make sure results we get for our clients are valuable and sustainable. We practice what we preach, most notably the art of influence for social good.



This was where we thought we’d get it and we did do pretty well – 89% over the median score in this category! Our commitment to preserving and healing the environment is huge and expands through every aspect of our operation. From our recycled wood floors to our energy – 100% Bullfrog powered.  And there’s a lot in between.



“As a successful local business with business reach across North America, we feel it’s important to walk our talk of social corporate responsibility that is in the DNA of our organization,” says President & CEO Howard Chang. Each year we make donations to local and national charities, by way of pro bono work, funds raised or a combination of both. TDC has been behind campaigns for Second Harvest, Ride for Heart, Bullfrog Power and a large-scale rebranding for Genuine Health. As advertisers, we choose to use our influence for good.


“The opportunity is to find balance and authenticity in the way brands connect with consumers,” says Chang. We choose clients who align with our thinking on that. We want to get it right. And we’ve put a great deal of resources into researching how to do that. We’ve developed an expertise around the AHAATM consumer (active, healthy, affluent and aware). AHAAs are a psychographic we’ve identified that make up a powerful consumer segment. They are typically socially and environmentally conscious, they know what they want and they will pay to get it if and how they can. It’s worth it to them. They’re our kind of people and we are developing this community relationship. (Learn more about that here.)


So, we’re a Certified B Corp! We’re excited about that and we’re looking forward to what’s ahead: we want to keep thinking and producing great creative. We want to make a difference socially and environmentally. Moreover, we’re looking forward to doing better. There is always room to be better.

Check out the B Corp Anthem here.

Read the press release about our B Corp certification here.

Check out our B Corp page and get the definitions of the B Impact Assessment categories here.

See our B Impact Report here.



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