15 Up begets 15 Below

When Taxi chair/CCO Paul Lavoie and the gang were noodling the agency's 15th anniversary plans, they were looking for a big idea that could begin June 15, 2007, and would grow with the company. And given that Taxi is marking 15 rather good years, Lavoie says the consensus was: 'It's a good thing to give back.'

When Taxi chair/CCO Paul Lavoie and the gang were noodling the agency’s 15th anniversary plans, they were looking for a big idea that could begin June 15, 2007, and would grow with the company. And given that Taxi is marking 15 rather good years, Lavoie says the consensus was: ‘It’s a good thing to give back.’

Armed with the wide open anniversary-related brief, the agency jammed ideas, and VP, design and interactive CD Steve Mykolyn suggested 15 Below. It’s a jacket. It’s breathable and waterproof, and it will have pockets that can be stuffed with newspaper or magazine pages to add adjustable levels of insulation. And rather than being a party premium for well-heeled Taxi associates, it’s intended to save lives. As per Mykolyn: ‘We’ve survived 15 years, now we’re going to help others survive the night.’

In the project’s first phase, Taxi will outfit 3,500 of Toronto’s homeless with the coat this winter, and plans to work with Covenant House to distribute the lightweight garment. Mykolyn jokes that depending what material is used, the pocket stuffing innovation could be the ultimate example of advertising that works.

Well-known Canadian fashion designer Lida Baday is creating the jacket, and the agency hopes partners and clients will get involved to assist expansion of the 15 Below program into other cities. Possible hook-ups include tapping fashion retail connections to manufacture and potentially sell the jacket, to fundraise and further fast track the scale of the philanthropic efforts. Another idea is an online auction, replete with surprise pocket contents from celebrities.

‘We were looking for something that would touch into our values of creativity, generosity and collaboration,’ says Lavoie, ‘so when 15 Below came up, we all felt really excited about it.’ All the Taxi offices are participating in the project, which is being unveiled on the night of June 14 at an inter-office anniversary party connecting Montreal, Toronto and New York revelers via video screens.

Lavoie is particularly pumped by the brand DNA connection of the agency’s new social strategy. ‘It touches our mission statement, which has always been: ‘How can we create the conditions to attract great people to do great things?’ – both economically and socially. Obviously economically we’re asked to build businesses. But socially, we’ve always thought that as communicators, we have privilege, and if we could channel that to do good, it would be a good thing.’

Mykolyn planned a trek to the Arctic to test the coat’s unique insulation in really cold weather, but Taxi cofounders Lavoie and EVP/design ECD Jane Hope kindly suggested a local walk-in freezer might suffice, so a date with a meat locker is now in Mykolyn’s daytimer.