DAOY Gold (tie): Think like an agency, act like Lg2

How independence and a desire to instill brand equity in the hearts and minds of consumers has rewarded this national shop.

Lg2_group_photoThis story appears in the November 2014 issue of strategy.

Lg2′s new Toronto office is in the heart of Toronto’s hip Liberty Village and encapsulates the industrial chic of the neighbourhood. The exposed brick walls, concrete floors and wooden beams contrast the ’70s-inspired décor and bright red carpets in the boardrooms, creating a clean minimalist look. The rows of empty desks are waiting to be filled, and the kitchen is devoid of any signs of regular use. With a staff of four (soon to be six), the 7,000-square-foot space echoes as the trio of partners discuss what to put on the blank white walls (one wall in a boardroom has a giant 70-inch flat screen primarily used at this point to let partner and co-CD Chris Hirsch watch football).

Lg2′s Toronto expansion has been a long time coming, but really came together this past May when it was announced that Hirsch and his partner Nellie Kim were joining the shop to lead creative. A few months later, Jeremy Gayton joined as partner and VP general manager.

Sitting in their new digs, the trio muse on when they first heard of Lg2.

“Over the last few years, it’s really blipped on our radar creatively,” says Hirsch. “Not just locally, but nationally and internationally.”

“[Lg2 was doing] really super smart, simple work we admired from afar,” adds Kim. “A lot of their work had an international flair to it.”

Hirsch points to the 2012 Cannes Lions-winning Krispy Kernels campaign (an absurd spot in which a Kernel falls between seat cushions, and a man literally dives into the couch to retrieve it, led by Quebec City partner and CD Luc Du Sault) as the first time he really noticed the agency. (For his part, while at his former agency Taxi, Gayton says he frequently pitched against Lg2, and was always impressed by its strong craft in branding and design).

So when the agency approached the trio to help open up the Toronto shop, they jumped at the opportunity.

“There’s a philosophy of ‘Do good work, attract good people, attract good clients, and everything else will fall into place,’” says Gayton on what he admired about Lg2.

poutine1And it’s that good work – namely for clients including QSR Valentine, the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec and Valin (see below) – that really resonated with this year’s DAOY judges, nabbing the agency Gold.

Mathieu Roy, partner and VP general manager of Lg2 Montreal, attributes its success to clients who set the right tone for the agency (i.e. those who agree that good-quality creative is the best way to move the needle on business), and its continued independence.

Founded in 1991 by Sylvain Labarre and Paul Gauthier, Lg2 launched in Montreal with the motto “Think like a brand, act like a retailer.”

“To think like a brand means to instill its equity, essence and promise into the heart and mind of the consumer,” says Charles Durivage, communications manager, Lg2. “It means creating a strong, distinctive and pertinent preference that gives the brand added value over the long run. To act like a retailer means stepping outside of the agency’s four walls, defending the brand’s positioning and expanding its reach, product by product, market by market, square foot by square foot, every single day.”

Today, the company employs 200 people across three offices (Montreal, Quebec City and now Toronto) and works with big brands including Natrel, Desjardins and Bell, with roughly 30% of its revenue coming from clients outside of Quebec.

It started exploring new offices in English Canada in 2012, first bringing in Jason Chaney to help lead in Toronto. Chaney left earlier this year to join Cossette, but the agency continued its push to open a new shop, Roy says.

“We had a gut feeling that it was the right time [to expand into Toronto],” he says. “The industry is evolving – even more so in the last few months. The landscape is moving – lots of consolidation and opportunity to really be one of the last truly national independently-owned agencies.”

Independence is paramount for the agency, he says. “The idea goes back to what the founders had envisioned a decade ago, when they decided to keep the company alive and independent,” by taking a hard look at their future to determine how to leave their legacy, he says. “It enables us to have full control over the work and our decisions. It allows us to have a powerful and deeper relationship with our clients and a connection that is ownable to them and to our employees.”

Without the big backing of a holding company, the agency decided to fund the Toronto office entirely internally, Roy says, allowing the new shop to focus on finding those right clients without the worry of financial debt held over them.

Gayton predicts that with its two new clients – both in the financial space (and yet to be named at press time) – the Toronto office will be solvent by the end of this year, a mere four months after officially opening its doors. “We’ve set the condition so that they wouldn’t be chasing new revenue,” Roy adds. “We’re doing this expansion by choice – it’s fun, it’s stimulating, so we might as well put in conditions to attract some exciting and bold clients.”

New business

Aldo Group, Groupe Germain, Tourisme Québec, La Coop fédérée, Leclerc Cookies, Tourism Montreal, Sleeman Brewery

Key hires
Nicolas Baldovini, UX strategist; Guillaume Carrier-Turcotte, senior AD, interactive; Jeremy Gayton, partner, VP general manager; Chris Hirsch, partner and co-CD; David Kessous, senior graphic designer; Nellie Kim, partner and co-CD; David Purkis, CW; François Royer Mireault, strategic planner, interactive

Cases

Valentine trades poutine for calories

Quebec-based fast-food chain Valentine has a “no B.S.” approach that fully embraces the nature – and caloric count – of its products.

Valentine launched a mobile pedometer app called Walk off Your Poutine, and challenged customers to earn a free poutine by burning the equivalent number of calories contained in the meal. It used GPS tech to measure speed and distance travelled. And encouraging messages, written in the brand’s cheeky tone, were sent to users via the app, while Facebook connectivity enabled users to share their progress and success.

Walk off Your Poutine became the top app in Canada in the food and beverages category in less than a week, ahead of Starbucks, 7-Eleven and Urbanspoon. In its first six months, it generated more than 50,000 downloads, 5,000 transactions and 300 million steps. The overall initiative generated press coverage in top-tier Quebec media, with impressions worth more than $150,000.

SAAQ’s wake-up call

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 11.19.52 AMRoad accidents are the number one cause of death among 16- to 24-year-olds. But many young adults continue to take risks at the wheel. The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) wanted to reach college students and warn them about the perils of reckless driving.

Lg2 created an installation in bathroom mirrors that placed youth face-to-face with three young “ghosts” who’d lost their lives in car accidents. The installation consisted of a sink unit with a one-way mirror, and behind the mirror, a 3D ghost was projected when a motion sensor was activated. A hidden camera captured users’ reactions.

The ghosts were played by young actors, delivering sober and touching stories. At the end, users were invited online for more information on road accidents and safety.

The installation was seen by nearly 10,000 young people across the province in 39 colleges, and the video was viewed nearly 220,000 times on YouTube. The execution garnered 125 press mentions, equivalent to $585,000 in free media placement.

Valin suits misfits for success

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 11.38.31 AMValin Confection is a Quebec City startup that specializes in tailor-made, affordable suits for men. It was looking for a way to gain awareness in Quebec with a campaign aimed at young professionals, graduating students or anyone else looking to make a positive impression as they enter the workforce.

Through Portage, a non-profit organization that rehabilitates and reintegrates substance abusers, Valin created customized suits for six ex-addicts to help change the negative perception employers have during job interviews. The process was filmed for YouTube and the brand’s website. A small buy helped reach a targeted audience in Quebec City and advertising on nearby campuses was used as a support channel to reach young professionals and graduating students.

The “Fits the Misfits” video was viewed more than 20,000 times in two weeks and helped the brand earn $300,000 in media impressions. Each rehabilitated ex-addict Valin dressed landed a steady job in his field and has remained sober ever since.

Click here to read the full cases.