Red Lion’s new revenue stream

The Toronto shop retains the IP rights for a client-developed hearing test app, allowing the agency to license it elsewhere.
hearing test

Publicis’ Red Lion Labs is trying out a new revenue stream: licensed apps.

The Toronto-based creative agency was approached by Toronto-based Sound Communication, a retailer that sells hearings aids, for a campaign to help draw in a younger crowd to get their hearing tested. Finding that the biggest barrier for youth to get their hearing tested was the perception that hearing loss only affected older people (despite big risks in our ear-bud wearing day and age), the agency looked at other medical testing behaviours for inspiration.

It drew inspiration from eye-sight, for which people often get tested without the same pre-conceived notion of it being an “old person’s problem,” says Brett Channer, president and chief creative director, Red Lion Labs.

“So we said, let’s take that behaviour we’re comfortable with and see if there’s a way to use it to demonstrate the challenges of hearing,” he says.

The result is an app, which will be released next week, that uses a photo snapped by the user to demontrate how bad their hearing is. The photo is made blurry and a hearing test is played over top, increasing in frequency, while the image slowly becomes sharper. Once a person can no longer hear the tone, they stop the app, and the image is left as blurry as their hearing is bad.

The agency took the unusual step of retaining the IP on the app, recognizing the client has a very local presence.

By retaining the IP rights on the build, Channer says they’ll be able to approach companies in other provinces or countries and repackage the app in a licensed agreement. While Sound Communication retains the licence in Toronto, there’s nothing preventing Red Lion Labs from selling the same app to someone in Alberta or even the U.K. to get a bit more mileage out of the platform.

This isn’t the first time Channer has taken this approach to a campaign for a brand. Channer had worked with CHUM radio station to develop a commercial, retaining IP rights. Realizing that most radio stations aren’t fussed whether the ad is played elsewhere (so long as it’s not sold within the same market), Channer was able to license the spot around the world.

“So it’s the same model in the world of apps,” he says.

They’ve already had some interest in the app, he says, with one company approaching them to start licensing discussions.

Once the app is live, he says they’ll take it to others in the hearing aid-space, notably in the manufacturing sector (as opposed to retail, like Sound Communications), and gauge the market value of this type of venture and then enter into negotiations.

Brands interested in partnering with Red Lion will be able to license the app (with custom branding), for a limited amount of time in a specific region for a flat fee, or on a per-download basis.

This particular app may not have the agency rolling in the dough, but he says they’re trying to retain IPs whenever possible now.

“I don’t think there’s an agency out there that’s not interested in [finding new revenue streams],” he says. “It’s a major focus for us. We say in our outline that we’re creative capitalists.”