Agency A-List – Veritas’ re-emergence strategy

Focusing on innovation, the PR firm has risen from the post-Target collapse, coming back stronger.
The new state-of-the-art newsroom allows the shop to monitor and track multiple social campaigns at once.

The new state-of-the-art newsroom allows the shop to monitor and track multiple social campaigns at once.

It’s been just over a year since Veritas lost its biggest client: Target.

The retailer’s very public withdrawal left the Toronto-based PR firm wondering: who are we?

“We were known for many things – including Target being a client of ours and for whom we did some incredibly creative work,” says Veritas president Krista Webster. “[Target's departure] could have taken any company of any size to a very dark place.”

But things are looking pretty bright, as she sits in the new state-of-the-art social media newsroom where a group of staffers face a bank of TV monitors, on which a proprietary software filters through Veritas’ clients’ social feeds, and displays trending topics worldwide (allowing staff to jump on trending conversations for its clients).

The newsroom is just the latest addition to the Veritas’ Growth and Innovation Lab, which Webster credits for helping the agency thrive in a post Target-world.

“For us to have thrived in the last year is something we’re really proud of,” she says. “We’ve not only replaced all the lost revenue, we’ve actually grown.”

The shop has added some new clientele, including Kimberly Clark (whom Webster calls a hugely important client that came to Veritas based on the recommendation of influencers who’ve worked with the agency in the past), General Mills and Tangerine.

Veritas continues to hone its influencer philosophy, shifting away from one-off campaigns that bank on YouTube stars. Instead, a big focus has been on maintaining ongoing relationships with the influencers – to create brand advocates.

Speaking of which, the Growth and Innovation Lab has led to some of the agency’s most interesting work over the recent months, adds Kevin Twomey, senior director, digital.

He points to campaigns such as Stella Artois’ Sensorium (in which influencers were invited to buy a ticket and come in for a sensory-overload eating experience), or even the current “#BringBacktheBees” campaign for General Mills. (The Sensorium was created in partnership with Mosaic, while “#BringBackTheBees” was launched alongside Cossette.)

In particular, Twomey is proud of the recent campaign for Subway, in which the agency was tasked with creating a social media video to re-instill trust. Interviewing stakeholders, the video was seeded online at first without paid support, and then re-seeded with a paid media spin. The initial run (without the paid buy), received more than 500,000 views on Facebook alone – significant considering the limited budget. The agency has been tasked with creating a second video for the coming year, while Subway in the U.S. is watching the Canadian efforts closely for potential adaptation elsewhere, touting them best-in-class.

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The “Together Sweater” marks the entrance to the Growth and Innovation Lab, a reminder to the shop around all that it has gone through.

Veritas continues to hone its influencer philosophy, shifting away from one-off campaigns that bank on YouTube stars. Instead, a big focus has been on maintaining ongoing relationships with the influencers – both digital and traditional players in a bid to create brand advocates. What’s more, the shop has been deepening its measurement and tracking capabilities, inspired by clients such as Labatt, who are looking for deeper metrics tied more succinctly with ROI and sales figures.

“It’s not just about impressions and engagements,” Webster says. “It’s about how influencer engagement impacts the target a client is trying to reach.” Veritas’ measurement is premised on the Net Promoter Score that correlates consumer loyalty (promoters and detractors) with revenue growth. Now, the agency is rolling out that approach to its entire client base.

Webster is also growing the complement of skills at the agency, having just added Vanessa McDonald as the shop’s new EVP, client service and operations, as well as Alyssa Scott, the new SVP, influencer practice lead (two new roles within the agency).

The duo joins the growing team which include the likes of a digital creative director and a digital strategist. Later this month, she will also be adding a VP, growth to oversee client and industry thought leadership and business development. The Growth & Innovation Lab has even been looking into adding services like media buying. And, Webster highlights, her staff increasingly have global backgrounds, which has been purposeful as part of the Veritas hiring strategy.

“Being a Canadian PR shop is no longer a deal breaker when it comes to being considered for global work,” adds Webster. “I believe with the right vision and international talent, what used to be relegated to a local play can stand up against any other market.”


The Agency A List stories originally ran in the June Cannes issue.