Array of Stars: New partnership takes flight

Toronto's Array of Stars (AOS) and Quiver ended 2018 by entering a new union.
Tasked by UNION, the studio created an interactive LED installation and experience launching the all-new INFINITI QX50 that travelled across Canada with stops in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Tasked by UNION, the studio created an interactive LED installation and experience launching the all-new INFINITI QX50 that travelled across Canada with stops in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

The now merged production studios had been working together regularly over the past year, says AOS founder and managing partner, Alistair Leyland. They’d first partnered together on a couple of projects for brands like Sony Pictures Television, GMR Marketing, VISA and TIFF. But it wasn’t until the light-studded (and show-stopping) Nuit Blanche execution they undertook for INFINITI’s QX50 that the partners at each shop realized the true chemistry between them.

INFINITI’s ad agency UNION originally approached two-year-old Quiver for help in creating an innovative campaign around the new vehicle. On the back of similar work for the AGO, Quiver managing director (and now partner, VP development at Array of Stars) Graham Budd immediately thought of AOS. Together, they brought to life a motion-activated display that featured more than 48,000 LED lights fused to the body of an INFINITI QX50 crossover SUV. It was a hit. Thousands interacted with the car during the festivities, and it’s now travelling across Canada reaching millions of people, he says.

Alongside Cossette, the studio created an interactive hub site for the latest “SickKids VS” campaign to help people spread the word, allowing them to join a crew and donate.

Alongside Cossette, the studio created an interactive hub site for the latest “SickKids VS” campaign to help people spread the word, allowing them to join a crew and donate.

The two studios are a wildly exciting complimentary fit, says Leyland. Quiver’s strong background in experiential and content production fit well with AOS’s expertise in digital technology and design. “Both are craft-driven,” he adds, “and each agency tries to put ‘story’ at the forefront of everything we do.” What’s more, the five-year-old Array was in the process of tweaking its growth strategy, actively seeking to broaden its offering.

“One thing that’s made Array of Stars successful is that we made a conscious effort to stay in our lane and not over-commit to things outside our wheelhouse,” he says. “That worked for the first five years — building our core design and digital competency — but we wanted to take a different approach for the next chapter and assume some strategic risk, based on where we see the industry heading.

The eight-part branded content series, created for Jeep with UM and Bell Media, followed Canadian mountain climbers in their quest to tackle two unclimbed peaks near Mt. Everest.

The eight-part branded content series, created for Jeep with UM and Bell Media, followed Canadian mountain climbers in their quest to tackle two unclimbed peaks near Mt. Everest.

“From a high level, the reality of what makes a company like AOS valuable in the marketing and advertising ecosystem (niche, cutting edge technology), also means that the skills and expertise expected of our team is constantly evolving,” he adds. Looking ahead, he says, with the blurring lines between content, technology and experiential, the need to broaden Array of Star’s skillset became apparent.

Craft and storytelling will still drive the bulk of the merged shop’s approach to production, adds Cole Sullivan, founding partner and creative director, AOS. “A lot of companies like to use the latest and greatest technology for the sake of it,” he says. “For us, rather than going into projects with the attitude of ‘We have this really cool technology we can throw at the problem,’ we try to extract a story, with compelling characters, and hone in on the right technology that helps us craft a captivating narrative.”

The production studio created a full brand identity, design system and website for the iconic Bar Raval restaurant in Little Italy.

The production studio created a full brand identity, design system and website for the iconic Bar Raval restaurant in Little Italy.

The company counts among its staff folks who aren’t from traditional marketing and advertising backgrounds (Leyland, for example, came up in the film and TV world), and Sullivan says the work it does with clients in the entertainment space, such as Sony Pictures Television, Vice and Discovery, means the shop spends a lot of time thinking through what people actually want to watch. The goal, Leyland says, is to always blend the old-school film industry hustle with the forward power of digital. The result is a story that resonates across platforms.

Partners (left to right Alistair Leyland, Graham Budd and Cole Sullivan plan to take their production studio global.

So far the studio’s coupling has been a huge success. In the first 15 days of 2019, the production studio signed more new business than in the entire first quarter of 2018. “Our phone won’t stop ringing,” Leyland says.   The 20-person company will likely grow another 50% this year to keep up with demand, he says.

While the merged AOS remains a proud Toronto-led business through and through, counting stalwart Toronto-based brands like the Toronto Public Library, AGO, SickKids and Spin Master, as well as Canadian agencies like UNION, Cossette, Zulu Alpha Kilo, and Grey among its clients, the end goal for the expanded team is to take a more world-focused view.

“We really believe we have an opportunity, through our work and our relationships, to win global work and significantly move the needle for those clients,” says Leyland.

CONTACT: 

Alistair Leyland
Managing Partner
alistair@arrayofstars.com