The Indie List: Ray

Forget the dog and pony show. This St. John's agency gives you the straight goods

DFNL BILLBOARD INSITU HectorThe Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and labrador adopted the tagline “No Bull” for its recent campaign to dispel some of the myths Newfoundlanders had about milk. It’s kinda perfect, given the agency behind the work. Like the no-nonsense message to drink more milk, Ray has no time for agency bullshit.

“We’re really down to earth people,” says Jenny Smith, who founded the St. John’s agency in 2013 and serves as its ECD. She does whatever she can to avoid what she calls “the dog-and-pony show” of the modern agency business.

“Being from Newfoundland, we have a different perspective,” she says. “There are no egos. We’re transparent. We say it how it is and cut to the chase. No bullshit.”

That kind of directness was needed when DFNL approached the agency in May to address a major problem: declining dairy milk sales. Liquid sales in the province have decreased 11% over the last five years.

Cape Breton University pushes the boundaries of innovation and thought leadership. Ray helped create their new brand identity and ‘a tradition of new’ positioning to reflect the young university’s global perspective and commitment to a sustainable future.

Cape Breton University pushes the boundaries of innovation and thought leadership. Ray helped create their new brand identity and ‘a tradition of new’ positioning to reflect the young university’s global perspective and commitment to a sustainable future.

Ray began researching consumer attitudes with surveys and focus groups. It discovered a lot of public misconceptions. “People thought that the milk sold on our store shelves was from the mainland, or came from mistreated cows, or was filled with antibiotics and hormones,” Smith says.

Smith says they knew it was going to be a challenge to stand out. “There is a lot of good milk work out there right now because declining milk sales are a problem across North America. But we knew that to reach Newfoundlanders, we had to be direct. That’s just how people are here.”

The resulting work is a 360-degree campaign that features local farmers explaining that their milk is natural, antibiotic and artificial growth hormone-free, and locally produced. The ads are simply produced, with the real-life spokesfarmers speaking straight to camera. No bull.

That direct approach coupled with compelling creative is also apparent in Ray’s work for Quidi Vidi Brewing Co., the St. John’s brewery competing in the red-hot craft beer scene. It wanted to change its packaging design and move away from bottles with typeface-heavy labels to tall cans.

Thanks in part to the out-of-this-world packaging design featuring an astronaut, Dayboil IPA became one of the province’s most popular brews the very month it launched. It also made celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with a quirky online campaign a no-brainer.

Thanks in part to the out-of-this-world packaging design featuring an astronaut, Dayboil IPA became one of the province’s most popular brews the very month it launched. It also made celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with a quirky online campaign a no-brainer.

Its new IPA, Dayboil (a Newfoundland slang term for day drinking), hit the market in summer 2018 with a clean white label illustrated with an astronaut mascot (to play up the “out of this world” experience of a proper dayboil).

The work resonated. The first batch of Dayboil was projected to last a month. It barely made it three days, and went on to become the top-selling single can in Newfoundland and Labrador for its first quarter.

One year later, video spots with the astronaut played off the concurrent 50th anniversary of the moon landing with short, humorous sight gags. Today, Dayboil remains one of the top-selling beers in the province.

Ray’s image as a down-to-earth business partner stems largely from Smith herself. A 25-year agency veteran, she’s earned a reputation as a brilliant, approachable creative with award-winning work across diverse sectors, from Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism to Irving Oil. Ray began working with True North Seafood without a review or pitch simply because Smith had worked with its executives before and they trusted her approach.

That was five years and several campaigns ago, and the relationship endures to this day. Same goes for Connors Brothers Sardines out of New Brunswick and Cahill Group based in St. John’s.

NLBMC is a club for facial-hair enthusiasts who challenge gender norms and fight toxic masculinity. Ray helped promote their annual MerB’ys calendar to raise funds for Violence Prevention NL and make communities safer for everyone.

NLBMC is a club for facial-hair enthusiasts who challenge gender norms and fight toxic masculinity. Ray helped promote their annual MerB’ys calendar to raise funds for Violence Prevention NL and make communities safer for everyone.

Ray embodies Smith’s no-nonsense approach by making all 15 staff members available to clients. “There are no layers here, no go-betweens,” Smith says. “If a client wants to talk to somebody in production, they have their number. Problems get solved faster because they hear directly from the client.”

That approach has turned heads across the country. Approximately 60% of the agency’s business has come from out-of-province (including Freshco Retail Maintenance, Husky Energy, Suncor Energy, Cape Breton University, Computers for Success and the Toronto-based Massage Addict, which Ray is currently rebranding). Ray is resonating off of the island.

“I know our clients appreciate how easy we are to work with,” Smith says. “It doesn’t take long to get sick of the dog-and-pony show that surrounds most agency relationships. We’d rather just get to the heart of things, fix problems and craft great creative. Our clients seem to prefer that too.”

CONTACT:
Jenny Smith
President & Executive Creative Director
jenny@rayagency.ca