The Agency A List: Critical Mass

Focused on the customer
Critical Mass created a social test drive – an interactive video experience simulating the feeling of driving the BMW 8 Series with a soundtrack composed from actual vehicle sounds. Instagram and Instagram story hacks let users exert control over the sound and lighting effects around the car as they tap through.

Critical Mass created a social test drive – an interactive video experience simulating the feeling of driving the BMW 8 Series with a soundtrack composed from actual vehicle sounds. Instagram and Instagram story hacks let users exert control over the sound and lighting effects around the car as they tap through.

Critical Mass’ growth over 23 years has gone hand in hand with the boom in digital marketing. But it’s more than the agency’s focus on digital experience design that drove the Calgary startup’s expansion to nearly 1,000 employees across a dozen locations worldwide. Its informed understanding of customers has also played a key role in its success.

Critical Mass helped Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) rebrand and activate the new branding through a redesigned website that included a new CLF mandate, a 360°-video shot in a Malawi school, and an invitation to “join the revolution.”

Critical Mass helped Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) rebrand and activate the new branding through a redesigned website that included a 360°-video shot in a Malawi school, and an invitation to “join the revolution.”

“We’re more customer-centric than user-centric,” says Critical Mass CEO Dianne Wilkins. “The delineation is knowing those customers much better. Our proprietary group does a tremendous amount of research and all kinds of ethnography. We do a lot of qualitative and quantitative analysis to get the insights that drive our outputs.”

The results speak for themselves. In 2018 the shop recorded more than 13% year-over-year revenue growth, 11% global headcount growth, 11 new business wins and 15 awards, including kudos for seven projects featuring collaboration among all its offices, which span Canada, the U.S., Costa Rica, Brazil, the U.K. and China.

Nissan VR Tech DriveTen-year client Nissan approached the agency looking for the best way to showcase the safety features of Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies. Critical Mass’ solution was the Nissan VR Tech Drive, which allows dealership visitors to navigate various road dangers from behind the wheel of an Altima via a 360° VR experience.

The offering generated 100 million video impressions and followed the “See the Unseen” campaign, in which AR allowed customers to see Nissan cars transform and appear in Star Wars environments, tied into the theatrical release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “See the Unseen” was a winner at the AdRodeo Anvils and Creativity International Awards.

“Our long-existing relationship and deep understanding of Nissan allows us to come up with these successes,” Wilkins says. “They’ve tasked us with leading-edge digital and customer-centric experiences. We get permission to push the envelope and experiment with new technologies, merging the digital work we tend to do with physical environments like auto shows and dealerships. It’s a lot of fun, and inspiring for our team.”

Travel AlbertaCritical Mass also recently wrapped a five-year collaboration with Travel Alberta, aiming to attract young travellers to its scenic home province. It considers the “Ready” campaign – asking customers “are you ready to do this?” – its highest studio achievement. 

Its burgeoning in-house studio Wander collaborated with the client to storyboard, shoot and edit a four-part video series highlighting Alberta’s most appealing experiences, targeted to nine international markets.

“We were able to execute some epic, gorgeous shoots working with the nature and beauty of Alberta,” says the Alberta-born, New York-based Wilkins. “And as we meet clients in New York or London we’re able to show some of our best work and showcase where we’re from at the same time.” The campaign brought home platinum from the Creativity International Awards.

To spread the message that AT&T’s service ranks best among wireless carriers, a series of display videos and fake “how-to” clips made a joke out of mediocrity while helping audiences see the absurdity of settling for less than the best.

To spread the message that AT&T’s service ranks best among wireless carriers, a series of display videos and fake “how-to” clips made a joke out of mediocrity while helping audiences see the absurdity of settling for less than the best.

Critical Mass looks to work with purpose, and so was an ideal collaborator for the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF), a non-profit launched by pop star Rihanna to improve healthcare and education in impoverished global communities. Despite CLF’s accomplishments, it remained largely unknown. Critical Mass helped with a wholesale rebrand, creating a new child-inspired logo and design language that connects digital channels, merchandise and special events. The campaign was a winner at the Creativity International Awards, the WebAwards and W3 Awards.

“Leaps” is a Bayer initiative to solve 10 of humanity’s most difficult challenges. Critical Mass partnered with Bayer to create an experiential installation that symbolized a story of perseverance and launched it at Summit LA – a gathering of innovators for whom “impossible” doesn’t exist.

While global nods help inspire boundary-pushing, instead of promoting internal “rock star” talent, Critical Mass has a team-based culture and looks to further solidify its global organization. It is rolling out a Worldwide Leadership group of 50-plus senior managers across geographies, accounts and disciplines who will assemble for a week of collaboration in Calgary in May. It’s all part of what Wilkins describes as “one CM.”

“The global team will help ensure we stay connected and are sharing the amazing work we’re doing in each place – the new process we’ve come up with here or the new service offering we’re developing there,” she explains. “We’re embracing the single agency, single P&L, single brand and single reputation concept, which will drive more alignment and excellence across all parts of the company.”

CONTACT:

Diane Heun

EVP, business development

newbusiness@criticalmass.com