2019 Small AOY Bronze: Arrivals + Departures takes off

The shop is working with startups to explore the ins and outs of building a brand from the ground up while also pushing into health and wellness.

A and D

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of strategy.

The name Arrivals + Departures suggests the agency is going places. But even though Michael Bevacqua, partner and president of the shop, says he’s proud of its accomplishments so far, “we are not exactly where we want to be.” To help it get there, the agency is investing in start-ups and exploring the healthcare arena.

Independently owned Arrivals + Departures is the offspring of a 2016 union between Toronto’s Blammo and Halifax’s Extreme. Bevacqua says the agency’s founder Paul LeBlanc is a serial entrepreneur and his spirit has found its way into the shop’s operations, with Arrivals + Departures recently taking equity in an early-seed natural cosmetics company. He says the investment allows the agency to “strategically and creatively influence [a brand] at the very ground floor… This is a model that interests us as a potential segment of our business where we can work closely with entrepreneurs.”

The shop also added A+D Health to its slate of offerings in 2018. The division is being helmed by VP Richelle Colbear, who joined the team after eight years at John St.’s healthcare division. Bevacqua says there is so much opportunity to push beyond what has so far been done in the health and wellness space, and the agency is currently working with AstraZeneca, Diabetes Canada and the Ontario Brain Institute.

A+D’s two offices in Toronto and Halifax serve very different markets and clients.

“Combined, we’re large enough that we have scale but small enough that we can be nimble and innovative,” says Bevacqua, adding that both offices often share resources and play to each other’s strength.

The Nova Scotia arm, for example, works closely with the public sector. According to Martin Delaney, partner, president and chief strategist, the Halifax office has completed a significant amount of work for different government/Crown corporations – including a public awareness campaign for cannabis legalization – the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, the Atlantic Lottery and Prince Edward Island Tourism.

In Toronto, the agency works with clients from QSR to CPG, as well as brands like Goeasy Financial, Fallsview Casino and SkiptheDishes.

Arrivals + Departures won a pitch for SkiptheDishes in July 2018 and Bevacqua cites its work with the Winnipeg company as the agency’s biggest accomplishment in terms of having a real bottom line impact.
SkipTheDishes’ national integrated campaign stars Mad Men’s Jon Hamm pretending to be an “Ordinary Canadian Guy” and name-checking a bunch of Canuck references while reprimanding an assistant for not being familiar with them.

The first iteration of the campaign racked up 1.2 million views on YouTube and the latest spot aired during the premiere of Survivor, as well as the finale of Big Brother Canada. According to Bevacqua, SkiptheDishes experienced an 83% increase in orders and a 79% boost to its revenue because of the campaign.

“Clients are looking for creative ways to solve their business problems. They want a partner who is invested and understands their business challenges and is willing to go to war with them to achieve success,” he says. “There’s no shortage of energy and passion for the business. We are young, scrappy, determined and competitive as hell.”

New key business
AstraZeneca Canada Scholarship, Carl’s Jr., Diabetes Canada, Ganong Bros., Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Heritage Gas, Mucho Burrito, NS College of Nurses, Ontario Brain Institute, Shannex, SkipTheDishes, SmartCentres, Tourism Prince Edward Island

Key hires
Jeff MacEachern, CCO; Rachel Vares, group account director; Daniel Bennett, James Rothenburg, senior ADs; Mel Hattie, digital content manager; Sacha Stephan, UX designer

Staff
46

Small AOY cases

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For the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, the agency used empathy and empowerment as emotional triggers. When the museum launched its Mandela: Struggle for Freedom exhibit, A+D brought his story to life. The “27 minutes for 27 years” film became the core of the campaign, while an ambient installation (the size of the late South African president’s prison cell) also putted people in Madiba’s shoes.

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For Skip the Dishes, A+D asked, “Is self indulgence such a bad thing?” while poking fun at the most entitled of them all: celebrities like American actor Jon Hamm.

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Via commercials and mega boards, the agency flaunted the types of fun people were missing by not visiting Fallsview Casino.