There is strength in numbers. And while the 13 members of Polytechnics Canada may seem like a relatively small number of institutions, together they provide a formidable offering in the nation’s higher ed. landscape.

What they lacked was a unifying voice: a message that could be shared consistently across all of their markets, benefiting each of their members locally while also building credibility for the association nationally. Through the strength of our work with one of their members, Polytechnics Canada chose ED to bring that message to the masses.

What they told us: We need to amplify our members’ voices.

Polytechnics Canada is a non-profit organization that represents and advocates on behalf of its members. Among its mandates, it’s charged with building credibility and awareness for polytechnic institutions – institutions that offer a unique blend of integrated work and learning opportunities, applied research, and industry-driven programming.

The strategy for deployment was the association would invest in the development of a creative platform for the campaign, and in the creation of templated online and offline marketing tools. Those materials would be made available to all members, and it would be each members’ choice to run the campaign in their own catchment markets. To encourage uptake, the creative platform needed to be:

  • compelling enough that members would invest in running the campaign in their respective markets, and
  • creatively agnostic to avoid confusion or conflict with individual members’ other marketing efforts.

What we saw: Polytechnics are intentional about education.

Finding a common ground for a message and campaign that all 13 members would buy into started by examining the offering – and what makes polytechnics unique in the higher education landscape. The common ground we identified was that the polytechnic model is grounded in a culture of intent.

The main driver for polytechnic institutions is to solve real and specific challenges. They design programs to address actual industry and market gaps – gaps that industries often identify to a partner polytechnic institution. They train students using the precise and current equipment they’ll find on the job– improving students’ job readiness, and reducing onboarding needs for employers. Their research focus is on solving problems that make a real-world impact for companies and economies – rather than seeking theoretical answers.

This led ED to two dimensions that inspired our creative approach: the intention behind the polytechnic offering, and the application of the research they do, and both what and how polytechnic institutions teach.


The combination of intention and application led us directly to a theme line that doubled as a value proposition for Canada’s polytechnic institutions: Purpose, Applied. Each member institution agreed that this language captured the unique dimension of polytechnic institutions when compared to either universities, or trade colleges.  

For the look and feel of the creative, we looked at the marketing suites for all Polytechnic Canada member institutions. While some used either red or blue in their marketing, none did so in combination. These colours created a visual voice that felt unique to the association, while avoiding confusion with any other marketing a member might have in the market at the same time. 

Each member would have the opportunity to opt into and deploy the campaign in their own markets. This led us to create a suite of assets that could be adapted for a variety of online and offline applications. In our conceptual creative, we created a library of messages and images – images that depicted a range of programs that were common to most, if not all members. While members were able to use this library as-is, we also provided the associations’ members with guidelines for adapting the creative to feature their own photography, while adhering to the campaign’s overall look and feel. 

Polytechnics Canada – Purpose Applied
Out of home concept – member’s logo to appear in signoff position.
Polytechnics Canada – Purpose Applied
Print concept – recommended CTA is a campaign-branded URL on the member’s site.
Polytechnics Canada – Purpose Applied
Sample of online ad concepts – member’s logo to appear in signoff position.

Finally, the authorship of the campaign was designed from the onset as a co-branded effort. Advertisements were authored by Polytechnics Canada and the local polytechnic institution, depending where in Canada those ads would be seen. This strategic approach to placement positioned the campaign as a value-add to members, and provided further incentive for them to adopt and invest in the platform in their respective markets. 

A national coming-out.

As part of the campaign launch, ED consulted with Polytechnics Canada on their placement of a print ad in the annual Macleans University Rankings edition. This vaunted edition of the magazine is normally where the country’s universities jockey for position, reputation and bragging rights.

Polytechnics Canada – Purpose Applied
Creative courtesy of Polytechnics Canada
Polytechnics Canada – Purpose Applied
Polytechnics Canada – Purpose Applied
Polytechnics Canada – Purpose Applied
Polytechnics Canada – Purpose Applied

Polytechnics Canada’s ad flew in the face of that tradition. Rather than competing within the fray of universities, the association set their schools distinctly apart. The ad proudly declares that the magazine wouldn’t list any of the polytechnic institutions that make up the association’s membership – but that their collective impact on Canada’s future is undeniable.