Agencies Using Wine, Self-Parody To Stand Out From The Pack

June 23, 2014 Jonathan Paul

Agencies are often busy using their creative skills to craft imaginative solutions for client brands, but they can pretty darn good at using their talents to effectively promote their own brands too.

Industry trade publications are a favourite, tried-tested-and-true platform of ad agencies looking to promote themselves. Most often, it will include coverage of standout campaigns, significant hires, awards won, or expert opinions offered up by the senior levels within the agency, but every now and again, an opportunity arises wherein agencies are a little freer in how they can promote their own brands to prospective clients and their peers.

Using the back page

“The best way an agency can brand itself is through its work.”

That was the case for Toronto-based creative agency Open in Strategy magazine’s December issue. It was invited by the publication to tackle its back page, a place often reserved for agencies who make tongue-in-cheek observations about prevailing industry trends.

Open chose to chirp the much-used marketing anthem, a still-popular choice for TV brand commercials, leveraging the opportunity to put its brand mantra on display: “To create something different, you have to behave differently.” They took the execution beyond the magazine, creating an accompanying shareable video and website, speaking to its brand belief by addressing a simple task in an interesting, different way.

“The best way an agency can brand itself is through its work, showing it can take a simple ask and turn it into an insightful piece of communication that not only answers the ask, but then goes above and beyond,” says Martin Beauvais, Partner at Open.

Toronto-based Lowe Roche took a similar approach, using its work as a platform for self-banding. It unleashed its creative acumen on behalf of Kids Help Phone at a charity dinner, for which the agency was the wine sponsor. Knowing that many attendees at such event don’t know each other, or what to talk about, Lowe Roche developed a conversation-starting app that played off of its role as the bringer-of-wine. It allowed guests to design their own custom wine labels. Upon completion, the labels were affixed to bottles of wine that were then delivered to guests’ tables within minutes. Over two-thirds of the guests at the event participated, all of them potential Lowe Roche clients.

Playing with potential clients

“Lowe Roche developed a conversation-starting app that played off of its role as the bringer-of-wine.”

“Strategically, our Custom Wine app played off the insight that these events, while supporting worthy causes, sometimes need a little nudge to make them more fun,” says Jonathan Daly, Strategic Planner, Lowe Roche. “Creatively it was a ‘Wickedly Smart’ way to turn something we were already doing into a great opportunity to promote our brand in a way that really reflects who we are.”

Sid Lee, arguably one of biggest agency brands in Canada, is certainly not afraid to go big to promote its own brand. C2MTL is a great example of just how big it will go. It’s a funky, sumptuously seductive three-day conference, awash in innovation, that serves as a platform for stimulating creative and visionary thinking regarding commercial problems.

Big-time speakers often attend the event, with folks like director James Cameron and Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh having previously spoken at C2MTL, and people like Kevin Spacey and Chelsea Clinton set to take the stage in Montreal in 2015. Sid Lee President and C2MTL curator Jean-François Bouchard has described the event as a “creative sandbox where anything can happen,” and that’s certainly a reflection of the Sid Lee brand belief and its approach to all things, particularly including its client work; creative collaboration is the name of the game.

The event was founded three years ago by Sid Lee in collaboration with founding partner Cirque du Soleil, leadership partner Microsoft and content and media partner Fast Company magazine. This year, Sid Lee and its partners are taking C2MTL global with C2 Commerce and Creativity, a network of economic forums featuring C2MTL sister events that’ll be active in five continents. They will all offer the same approach to creating experiential business encounters that’s solidified C2MTL’s reputation — and Sid Lee’s — internationally.

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