The Indie List: The Local Collective

Your friendly (big-thinking, flexible and effective) neighbourhood creative agency
The Local Collective uses its social channels to prompt response and to mirror cultural trends (thus the elephant playtime post), which advances understanding and insights as to what works in the space, versus the more traditional approach of displaying office moments

The Local Collective uses its social channels to prompt response and to mirror cultural trends (thus the elephant playtime post), which advances understanding and insights as to what works in the space, versus the more traditional approach of displaying office moments

Launching a business in this industry can be chaotic.  That first year is typically a scramble of new business acquisition, hiring and headhunting, trying to produce work that will attract new business, and of course screaming “it costs HOW MUCH for rent in Toronto?” over and over.

The Local Collective is currently in the middle of that maelstrom but seems to be navigating it with style. Some may have been surprised to see it shortlisted for strategy’s 2019 Small Agency of the Year less than a year after hanging its shingle. But given the experience of its founders, the work it’s already produced and its unique business model, it’s not surprising at all that Local has found its footing so quickly.

The agency launched in November 2018 when four industry vets put their more than 50 years of collective experience together: President and CCO Matt Litzinger, solutions and operations director Lauren Brown, managing director Kaitlin Doherty and creative director Pepe Bratanov.

“Our first year has been full of great moments,” says Bratanov. “Even the hardships have really showed us what we are capable of and reminded us why we wanted to create this creative brand.”

The “why” is what sets the business apart from its competitors. As Litzinger told strategy at launch, Local eschews “universal” insights for focus on local ones, which he calls the “postal code posse.”

“We hold ourselves to doing work we’re proud of with an approach that focuses on solving a business issue with a locally mined insight,” Litzinger says. “Our creative executions make sense for each brand’s challenge, regardless of medium. That means we can recommend business solutions that do not solely fall into the traditional sphere of an advertising solution.”

Pizza Pizza benefited from this thinking last Christmas when it ran its “Magical Holiday Shirt” campaign – its first big holiday push in years.

As part of the QSR’s goal to connect with younger Canadians “as a progressive, innovative and experience-driven” brand (in the words of CEO Paul Goddard), Local Collective designed four t-shirts that played off the ugly holiday sweater trend. The shirts were included as a promotional item in orders of two large pizzas during the season. While there was an integrated campaign across TV, radio, OOH and social, it was in service to the quirky-but-stylish designs Local created that stood out from other promotional fare.

“You always worry with swag that it’ll get lost in the pile of campaign tote bags, so seeing the demand for them and seeing them all over the place in the real world was a really great moment,” Bratanov says. “For us, it’s proof that the idea actually resonated with consumers, which is what we are always trying to go for.”

In the year since its opening, The Local Collective has also worked with Food Banks Canada and the cannabis brand YSS, with Doherty hinting at other North American and global partnerships kicking off in 2020 (“but we can’t say too much on that yet,” she said at press time). All those projects are handled by a flexible team of contract-based employees. At present, there are 13 people on staff, but there have been as many as 22.

“We are not focused on growth in the traditional sense,” says Brown, who staffs up for larger “waves” of output versus staffing up as an indicator of growth. Contracts vary from three to 18 months in length, and every contract comes with full medical and dental benefits along with “pretty strict rules” to encourage vacation time.

“So far, it’s a model that has resonated with all of the partners we have been lucky enough to work with,” Brown says. “The strength of the new gig economy is that it provides an influx of both passion and personality.”

Litzinger adds that this approach means Local is always bringing the best people to the table to work on its projects. He says it’s created a culture that he hopes people will find inspiring. While there are no shortages of challenges ahead for the startup, Litzinger believes his partners have built an independent agency ready to face anything the business can throw at it.

CONTACT:
Matt Litzinger
Founder,President & CCO
matt@thelocalcollective.com