The Indie List: Elemental

The Toronto agency is banking on content and social.
Brent and Dustin laughing

Brent Wardrop and Dustin Brown lead the agency of 18, which includes a social and content studio.

The needs of marketers are changing, and agencies have rushed to keep pace. And for the 18-person Toronto agency Elemental, part of the solution lies in greater collaboration. While client-agency cooperation is easy to pay lip-service to, the agency has been working over the past five years to put in place actual processes that codify a collaborative approach, says Dustin Brown, partner and head of strategy at the agency. He points to the agency’s “Briefstorm,” method of creating briefs. Everyone comes together for an initial brainstorming meeting, and at the end of the session, not only do they have a brief, they have a client-approved creative idea.


The Scene creative featured a world awash in gold, because who wouldn’t want to live in a golden world

The result of that relationship-building approach has been recent wins from major brands like Campari, Starbuck’s Canada and Baffin, says Brent Wardrop, partner and CD at the 18-year-old agency. He points to recent work with loyalty program Scene. In October, the loyalty program launched a paid membership, and the agency rolled out a new identity for the line in the fall. Targeting a group of high frequency movie goers in the 25 to 34 demo, the campaign taps into the insight that people like to feel special and get exclusive offers, highlighting the first-class, VIP nature of the program

Doubling down on collaboration in more real-time messaging, the agency is also expanding its efforts with social media, bringing execution inhouse to help create a smoother path to execution, says Wardrop. One of the agency’s main boardrooms has been transformed into a social content studio, complete with video and photography hookups, lighting and sound equipment and backdrops.

Brands are investing more money in creating high quality content, yet the traditional billing and production outsourcing model isn’t the most economical or efficient. “We can come up with the concept quickly, get approvals, and turn around the work within days, if not hours,” Wardrop says. The new studio is pumping out three to five pieces of work per week, and added ongoing social media management for the likes of Scene and the Canada Goose-owned Baffin boots.

Amid the growth in social media production, the agency has also been investing in more ever-green content through its sister company Original, says Brown. “If social is here and gone in an hour, the stories we create through Original for brands are meant to live for much longer,” he says. Launched in 2016, Original is headed by Matt Sadowski, a former actor, director and producer-turned agency copywriter. Sadowski’s background in the film and TV business is an ideal foil to Wardrop and Brown’s agency cred, says Brown. “We get caught telling stories in 15-, 30- and 60-second increments. Matt comes from a place where time doesn’t matter,” he says. “Telling stories – however long it takes to keep the audience engaged – is what matters.”


To help reach younger audiences, NO YOLKS noodles and Elemental created a social-first, humour-driven campaign (complete with memes and recipes, of course) that highlighted how yolkless noodles can pair with any ingredients

Since the launch of Original, the agency has created over 20 videos for brands including The Drake Hotel, Girl Guides Canada, Herb, Canadian Film Festival and Canadian Journalism Foundation. “We’ve got great teams at both Elemental and Original,” he adds. “We live on the mantra of ‘do great work together,’ and after 18 years we’ve learned we’re not going to get to great, unless we do it together.”


Dustin Brown

Partner, Head of Strategy