Republic launches subsidiary to serve Gen Z

Named Zed, the shop will be managed by members of the demo and offer mentorship opportunities to up-and-coming creatives.

There’s a new kid on the block, and she fits the profile of the Gen Z customer.

Toronto agency Republic is launching a subsidiary focused on helping brands and businesses connect specifically with the young demographic. Called Zed, the shop will be run by members of the Gen Z cohort and will act as a mentorship program, providing job and portfolio-building opportunities to up-and-coming creatives as they contribute to Republic’s campaigns.

An important aspect of the offering is what Republic has named the Zed Network, a group of 16 to 24-year-olds who will have various methods to contribute, from vying for a full-time position with the agency to participating in ideation sessions, providing feedback to brands and filling out surveys. Zed is actively looking to recruit for the agency.

The flexibility of the program is meant to address the “vicious labour cycle” in which new recruits can’t get a job without experience, but are unable to obtain experience without one, says Fiona Scott, senior manager of digital marketing and growth at Republic and managing director of ZED. “We wanted to create an opportunity for students and those just entering the workforce to have an opportunity to get a job, as well as mentorship and access.”

The Zed Network’s first project includes contributing to the “Our History” campaign for the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity to launch on April 10 for anti-bullying event International Day of Pink. The goal of “Our History” is to spread awareness ahead of the launch of Canada’s first dedicated 2SLGBTQIA+ museum, scheduled to open in Ottawa in 2021. Saatchi & Saatchi Toronto is also involved in the campaign.

The decision to launch a Gen Z-specific subsidiary comes as brands and agencies grow more interested in a segment that is becoming more pervasive and impactful, according to Scott. The agency says the Gen Z cohort (those born between 1995 and 2003) are having an impact on everything from social media and the workplace, with an estimated spending power of more than $150 billion and growing.

Scott says Republic, which has made “empathy marketing” a pillar of its model, was looking for ways to better serve the cohort. “Republic can’t be the one to tell brands and companies how to speak to Gen Z if they’re not Gen Z.” The shop came to believe the idea lay in letting the audience itself take control of the agency: an approach it has dubbed “immersive empathy.”

Pulling double duty for now, Republic community manager Michelle Nguyen will serve as Zed Network manager, account coordinator Karishma Karia as strategy lead, and designer Cassie Chan as creative lead of Zed. Meanwhile, Scott and director of client success Jacob Barnes (who are not themselves part of the Gen Z network) will serve as mentors to the agency team.

Julie Wierzbicki, director of client success at Republic, will lead a mentorship program designed to teach emerging creatives about strategy, creative, account management – essentially, any discipline typically found within an agency.