Trophy Catch

Pearls in the Media

It’s hard to strike the balance between being humble and tooting your own horn too loud… with that said, we felt there in fact was enough room on the internet to at least dedicate one page to promote the odd time Francomedia get’s some publicity and fanfare.

So, without further adieu, here is our spiel:

Francomedia is a multiple award winning boutique creative shop and to prove it, here is a showcase some of the wins, write-ups and triumphs.

Ava Awards

Francomedia wins yet another platinum award at International Design Competition!
February 25, 2013

We won the top honor of a Platinum Ava Award for the development of Inbox Heroes Animate Video for Enbridge. The Ava Awards are an international awards competition recognizing outstanding work by creative professionals involved in the concept, writing, direction, shooting, and editing of video production, tv commercials, news, and programs, as well as new media.

This is welcome news for the creative team at Francomedia and the AVA will be in good company, surrounded by two Pixies for the same project!

Read the Official Press Release

Pixie Awards

Francomedia picks up two Pixies at International Design Competition!
December 14, 2012

We won 2 Gold PIXIE Award for the development of Inbox Heroes Animate Video for Enbridge. The awards were for Animation and Special Effects. The PIXIE Awards are an international awards competition recognizing outstanding digital work in motion graphics.

The award shelf at Francomedia is getting really full and we may have to hire someone soon to keep it dusted and looking presentable.

Congratulations to the contractors and staff at Francomedia that made this project so great. It’s nice to work with clients that allow us to be so creative.

Calgary Herald

Major retailers look here for expansion
March 5, 2010
David Parker

Congratulations to Kevin Franco and the creative folks at Francomedia in winning the marketing award at the Alberta Business Awards of Distinction. It was based on its strategy to market itself using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in conjunction with unique promotional items it designed and produced.

Read the full article here: Calgary Herald

Business in Calgary

Business In Calgary Magazine
February 2010
David Parker

Marketing Matters

I’m excited that three of the four finalists in the marketing sector of the Alberta Chamber of Commerce Awards of Distinction are Calgary firms. The winner will be announced at the gala event on Feb. 19 at the Marriott at River Cree Resort in Edmonton which allows me to mention all three.

Francomedia’s submission was a collaboration of its entire 2009 selfpromotion, portions of which have already won five international marketing awards.

Besides its standout business cards, stationery, website, blogs and such, Francomedia has a reputation with its clients for creative gifting. The latest was a Colorado spruce tree in association with a video game it created in which the Grinch tries to burn down a Christmas tree.

I hope you noticed the hard-hitting magazine ads, bus shelter and Stephen Avenue Mall posters for Viable Calgary, a workforce initiative focused on assisting employers to increase their engagement of employees with disabilities.

One addresses guide dogs in the office, another about being nervous about working around people with disabilities, and my favourite – a woman stretched out over a fitball above a caption that says, “And some people think a wheelchair won’t fit in the workplace.”

Another campaign that also includes thought-provoking TV commercials and radio spots is the work of Indigo Ice, agency of record for Prospect, Viable Calgary’s parent organization. This is worth viewing on Viable Calgary’s website.

The third is the campaign produced in-house for ICON Stone and Tile by marketing manager Sophie Bélanger. Former vice-president of marketing for a Quebec stone company, Bélanger also worked as a graphic artist for Montreal and Quebec City agencies. Her experience shows in the targeted campaign that uses print, brochure, direct mail, website, E-Promos and a 30-second TV spot to build the company’s reputation in stone. All are well-done classy productions.

Read Business in Calgary Magazine

SAIT Alumni Link

SAIT Alumni Link
Winter 2010

Kevin Franco, Ryan Ferrier (New Media Production and Design ’07), Sandor Fekete (Computer Technology ’98) at FrancoMedia won platinum at the international Ava Award, which is the top honour from the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals (ACMP). They received the top honour for an alternate reality game (ARG) they created, called Experience the Node. Congratulations to this very talented group of alumni.

Full Article | PDF

Online Assistants

Branding Through Business Cards
January 2010
Christina Greenway

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of encountering two sets of business cards that really broke the mould of the traditional business card and completely knocked my socks off.

If you spend anytime handing out your own business cards, then you can definitely learn a thing or two from these guys.

Read the Full Article

Ava Awards

Francomedia wins yet another platinum award at International Design Competition!
December 1, 2009

We won the top honor of a Platinum Ava Award for the development of Experience the Node Alternate Reality Game (ARG). The Ava Awards are an international awards competition recognizing outstanding work by creative professionals involved in the concept, writing, direction, shooting, and editing of video production, tv commercials, news, and programs, as well as new media.

We are definitely going to need a larger trophy case - so far this year we have won 2 Hermes Awards, 2 MarCom Awards and 1 Ava Award… and there’s still 21 days left in the year, so who knows?

Read the Official Press Release

MarCom Awards

Francomedia wins Another Platinum & Gold at International Design Competition!
October 28, 2009

We picked up a Platinum MarCom Award for the development of the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) for The Node Gaming Centre called, Experience the Node and a Gold Award for the design of our business cards. The MarCom Awards are awarded annually by the AMCP (Association of Marketing & Communications Professionals).

We will proudly hang the certificates and display our trophies in the office for all to see!

Read the Official Press Release | PDF

Business in Calgary

Business In Calgary Magazine
June 2009
David Parker

Business in Calgary article online

Marketing Matters

Last fall I mentioned the business card that Kevin Franco of Francomedia hands out; it’s made of clear plastic and shows a rather plump goldfish on the end of a fish-hook. His designs and concept of business cards has won Francomedia a Platinum Hermes Award in an international competition that attracted over 3,700 entries in 141 categories.

The awards are hosted by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals based in Arlington, Texas.

Full Article | PDF

Francomedia Business Card

International Recognition
May 21, 2009

The business cards that Francomedia picked up a Platinum Hermes Award for design and concept are now being posted on various design web sites and blogs around the world. Check them out:

Card Observer
The Artist and His Model
Visual Bloc
Thought Mechanics
Keep it Surreal
Card Pomp
Business Cards 24
Business Card Design Ideas
Mercenary Designs

In addition, we have been featured on several blogs around the world including:

• Ultimate Guide To Business Cards • Meloon Graphics • 75+ Immaculate Business Cards

Hermes Creative Awards

Francomedia wins Platinum & Gold at International Design Competition!
April 27, 2009

Read the Official Press Release

We picked up a Platinum Hermes Award for the design of our business cards and a Gold Hermes Award for the design of our envelopes. The Hermes Awards are awarded annually by the AMCP (Association of Marketing & Communications Professionals).

We will proudly hang the certificates and display our trophies in the office for all to see!

Alberta Chamber of Commerce Alberta Business Awards of Distinction

The Alberta Chamber of Commerce
December 23, 2008


The Alberta Chamber of Commerce announces that is one of three finalists for the 2009 Marketing Award of Distinction.

What truly makes this a win, win for Francomedia is that one of it’s good clients, Spindle, Stairs & Railings was also listed as a finalist in the same marketing category. Another Francomedia client, Canada Safeway Ltd., is a finalist in two human resources categories.

Calgary Inc Magazine, November 2008

Calgary Inc Magazine
November 2008
Jesse Semko

Read about the “Mind Blowing Marketing” initiative that Francomedia put together for Node Gaming.

Full Article | PDF
Calgary Inc Article Online

Got Game?

As a viral marketing tool, an Alternate Reality Game can make customers go gaga over your company’s product - but only if done right.

A pair of mean-ass looking bouncers dressed like Men in Black stand in a parking lot at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, waiting for a secret set of code words.

“I’m expecting a call,” hastens a casually dressed man, who nervously approaches the dark-suited duo.

“Your agent name?”

“It’s Lunatic,” he meekishly responds, unsure if his password will work, let alone if he’s in the right place, until one of the beefy bouncers shoves a walkie-talkie into his face. An unknown voice on the walkie-talkie bellows out a series of directions that Lunatic eagerly listens to.

Moments later, Lunatic scuttles across SAIT’s lot to a black limo that overlooks Calgary’s downtown skyline. He rattles a knuckle against the window, prompting it to slightly unroll. Through the window, a brown envelope is passed. Lunatic grabs it. Instantly, the window whirrs shut.

So, what the heck just happened? Secret documents covertly slipped to a spy? The underworld dealings of corporate espionage in Calgary? Not exactly. That James Bond-like scene is in fact a type of video game that plays out in the real world. Players take on the role of secret agents, working through a storyline by solving puzzles and completing tasks en route to the game’s conclusion.

The game is part of a potent viral marketing technique. One that companies such as Microsoft, Audi, the ABC television network and Warner Brothers Studios have used in the past few years to hawk their products with incredibly effective results. It’s called an Alternate Reality Game – ARG – and it works by creating interest, even fascination, in a product by turning players of the game into buyers of a product through a kind of engineering alchemy.

An ARG uses several types of media, providing clues through websites, phone calls, even live events that challenge the players to solve each puzzle using the shards of available information. Most puzzles are far too complicated for any one person to solve, but the web allows a collective intelligence to emerge, to solve the mysteries by sharing information on chatrooms, which builds a sense of camaraderie that can bolster a brand or build interest in a product.

If this sounds hardcore, even needlessly complex, that’s because it is. Take The Art of the Heist, the famous ARG launched in 2005 to sell the low-end luxury Audi A3. It kicked off with a mock theft of an Audi A3 from a New York City dealership. A grainy surveillance video of the robbers breaking the dealership’s glass window was posted on the web, along with a plea for help from Audi for information on the robbery. Thus began a three-month campaign with plot twists and characters that came to resemble a whodunit tale from a John Grisham novel.

Clues for who may have nabbed the Audi A3s were strategically placed in USA Today, Wired magazine, TV commercials, car shows, and other live events. As buzz built – and more than 500,000 players tuned in to play the game – the Audi A3 became one of the most sought-after cars in the United States. More than 10,000 inquiries for the small family car were made to Audi dealerships and 3,827 wannabe buyers test-drove A3s. The remarkable results later promoted Stephen Berkov, Audi’s director of advertising, to compare the campaign to a jet engine turned on its end, “sucking people into the intake.” And the Wall Street Journal praised it as “an advertisement like no other.”

Since then, replicating that success has become many ad agencies’ search for the Holy Grail. To understand how tricky that quest can be, there is no better place to look than Franco Media, a Calgary-based marketing and ad agency that, this past summer, duplicated the technique in hopes of replicating its phenomenal success.

In June 2008, Franco Media was approached by owners of The Node, a video game café in northeast Calgary that had yet to open it doors. The owners wanted to generate a buzz for The Node’s grand opening, scheduled for mid-August. But wooing its target market, fickle 12- to 30-year-olds, presented a problem: How do you spark – then fuel – interest among an audience known for its yawning at mainstream media, particularly during summer, a time when many have totally tuned out? The solution, it turns out, was an ARG.

It seemed like the perfect fit. Conduct an entertaining contest throughout the summer. Get local gamers to work together to solve puzzles. Watch that community build up, even take on Borg-like growth. Then stage a final puzzle that brings them – a newly formed customer base – to The Node’s open doors.

To build and intensify a community of customers, Franco Media picked a spy theme where participants took on the role of secret agents, solving weekly missions that had them combing through Craigslist, Facebook and YouTube for clues the firm had planted. A live event element to the game even provided players with GPS coordinates to a parking lot at SAIT. There, two men dressed as Men in Black directed each player to a limo where an envelope with an invitation to The Node’s launch party waited.

By the time of the secret agent drop off happened last August, over 400 people, from Calgary to Texas to the United Kingdom, had registered to play the game. On chat rooms it would later be praised as “awesome” and “very cool.” Clearly, it was popular. But would that translate into paying customers for The Node?

Kevin Franco, a husky, third-generation Calgarian, is the brains behind Experience the Node, the ARG marketing campaign that last summer siphoned off 280 hours of his firm’s time at a billable cost of about $25,000 (estimates place Audi’s Art of the Heist ARG at $3 million to $4 million).

To start the campaign, Franco placed an ad in the Calgary-based high school publication, Youthink magazine. The Matrix movie-looking ad read, “The real life video game has begun. Let the best gamer win.” In just one day, the ad had been scanned and posted on a popular gaming website along with the caption: “It looks like a spark of an ARG.” Immediately, interest took off, with hordes of curious web surfers clicking onto the site, like Formula One fans craning their necks at a spectacular crash.

Soon, chatter about the ARG spread throughout three online gaming forums and, just a few days later, The Node’s webpage received over 650 hits, at an average site time of five minutes. “That’s insane,” Franco says. “Most people view a website only for a few seconds before clicking away.”

To complete the first mission, the Youthink ad directed people to the website to register and play the game. An e-mail then instructed players to unscramble a ransom-style note that, after entering it into the URL of the site’s webpage, brought them to a You Tube video asking them to recruit more agents.

Most players breezed through the challenge in 30 seconds. “These people get cheesed when the puzzles aren’t hard enough – 76 per cent wanted it harder,” Franco notes. The ease of the first mission created an online backlash. (“Dead simple,” lamented one player.) That prompted harder missions in the weeks to come. In fact, the challenges quickly became too difficult for anyone but an experienced gamer to wrap their head around.

In one brain-numbing mission, players had to unscramble the anagram “cavemen suited me” to discover the phrase “amusement device.” Next, Franco posted a fake ad on Craigslist for an amusement device, which players had to find. In the ad, a hidden URL directed players to a 5 X 5 slide puzzle that required solving. In doing so, that gave players the time and channel of a live radio broadcast that presented them with yet another puzzle. That was the end of only one mission. Others went on… and on… hooking revved up players throughout the entire ARG.

By the time gamers tapped their boney knuckles on the limo at SAIT, the game had gone global. Participants from India, New York, Arizona and Ohio had tuned into play (it had even been compared to other top ARGs designed for multinational companies, such as Microsoft). This led Franco to expect a huge crowd swarming the limo. Yet, only two people showed up – something that afterwards barely fazed Franco. In fact, he didn’t consider it a big deal. As long as one of the participants posted the envelop contents online, the momentum would carry on and the opening of The Node could still be a hit.

A geek-speckled crowd of tweens, teens and hardcore gamers watch as The Node co-owners Tim MacRae and John Thomas cut a network cable with wire cutters, signalling the opening of the video game café on a Saturday morning in August.

About 60 people trickle in throughout the day to check out the game room at the heart of the ARG marketing campaign that raged throughout the past eight weeks. Of those 60, 15 say their arrival is due to the ARG, not quite the crowd Franco had originally hoped for.

So what went wrong?

Franco thinks things began to go awry during the second week of the campaign, a time when the ARG was taking some heat from diehard gamers across the globe for being “easy as pie.” To appease that crowd, he made it harder, more challenging. “It’s ironic,” Franco says. “We were worried by keeping it easy we would lose people, but by making it too hard we lost people.”

As the game’s puzzles hit a level of difficulty that would make even the Riddler’s head spin in confusion, the local players began to fall off while global players jumped aboard. “It grew into a monster,” Franco says of its complexity, realizing that it should have stayed simpler. “The local players got stumped and gave up.” And because of that, The Node gained more global recognition than it did local. (Not many gamers are willing to fly around the world to visit The Node.)

Patrick Crowe, president of Xenophile Media, a Toronto-based multi-media firm that has created award-winning ARGs for companies such as Disney and the BBC, echoes that sentiment. “One of the challenges we always find with ARGs is your most vocal players, the ones that keep your community populated and message boards busy, are also the most impossible to please,” Crowe says. “Nothing will please them. Everything is too easy.”

Catering to that international, articulate, game-savvy audience is seductive, Crowe continues. “You have to stick to your guns and really question who you are playing to. Who is your real audience?” About 90 per cent of all people who play ARGs are lurking, which means they’re not actively solving the puzzles, but rather only tagging along to watch things unfold, he notes. So, it’s important to make it easy enough for them follow, while still throwing in some tough Easter eggs to appease that hardcore contingent.

Still, he hastens, The Node’s ARG attempt isn’t all that bad. ARGs actually build over the years. Statistics show traffic increases after a game is no longer live, but still online, which lets new people discover it and former players relive the experience. So, as long as an ARG has evergreen content – that re-playability factor – it will still bring in new players, maybe even new customers.

And what does that mean for The Node? Even though a tidal wave of paying customers didn’t arrive, a slow trickle could be on its way.

SAIT Alumni Link Magazine

SAIT Alumni Link Magazine
Fall 2008
Pierre Hamel

A Little Voodoo Magic

Read about Francomedia and their work with VoodooPC in developing their packaging.

Full Article | PDF

Business In Calgary Magazine
October 2008
David Parker

Marketing Matters

Kevin Franco has been under my radar screen so when I met him along with one of his clients at a recent reception I was most interested to hear about his company Franco Media.

First thing that struck me was his clear plastic business card illustrating a rather plump goldfish caught on a fish hook - and his title of Idea Hooker.

The client was Spindle, Stairs & Railings that he has been agency of record for since he launched his company in 2003.

I may have met Franco before while I was at FWJ and buying bus boards from Tioga Signs where he began his career. He moved onto Canada Safeway when its office was in the Hudson Building at 10th Avenue and 5th Street SE and still handles special projects for the grocery chain.

He now has six staff working out of his northeast location and boasts a number of interesting clients like TEC Canada - website and print material - and Rainmaker Global Business Developments that serves as agency of record.

Full Article | PDF

Calgary Inc Magazine

Calgary Inc Magazine
October 2008
Tony Davis

Read how Kevin Franco learned from an expensive experience early in his advertising and marketing career.

Full Article | PDF
Calgary Inc Article Online

Small Business BooBoos

Tightwad turns over

His business card flashes a bright orange goldfish on a hook, and to catch big ideas for clients’ businesses, his unofficial job title reads: “Idea hooker.” But snagging staff for a pittance hasn’t been bountiful for Kevin Franco. In fact, several years ago he learned hiring subcontractors on the cheap left his reputation drowning.

A homebuilding company hired the advertising and marketing consultant eight years ago to build a website. He was spreading himself thin with too much other work, so he decided to hire a subcontractor to handle the job. “After starting the project,” Franco relates, “my subcontractor decided to quit. So I had to find another subcontractor. I found one and negotiated a price, and he got started on the project, which took forever, and eventually I had to fire that contractor and get yet another contractor.”

While hiring each subcontractor, Franco, now 40 years old, negotiated the cheapest pay. He later discovered that the cut-rate pay prompted those designers to push Franco’s work aside when they received a better offer. To make matters worse, Franco lost thousands of dollars on forfeited deposits when the hired designers didn’t deliver what was originally agreed upon. “It seemed at the time that every person I brought in was just a disaster. I found trying to nickel-and-dime the rate isn’t really a good idea,” declares Franco. “I ended up paying full price and got it done exactly how it should be.” The client grumbled about the repeated delays, tarnishing Franco’s business reputation.

IN RETROSPECT: Now, Franco no longer negotiates pay rates. In fact, when he hires new staff he asks them what they are worth. If he agrees, he’ll pay it.

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