King Ursa adds director of analytics

Joanna McFarlane joins as the Toronto shop, best known for in-house production, continues to evolve its offering.

King Ursa has added senior-level talent as it continues to build its offering in creative and production.

The Toronto-based agency, which began as the East End Project before rebranding last October, has hired Joanna McFarlane as its first director of digital analytics and insights. McFarlane joins from Grip, where she was most recently director of digital analytics.

McFarlane will use her background in data-driven marketing strategies, data collection, governance and optimization to help inform the agency’s creative work. That will entail playing a role supporting data-driven analytics (like those offered through Google Analytics), but also looking at the discipline’s “behavioural component,” says Eric Vieira, partner at King Ursa.

Vieira says the hiring signals the next step in the four-year-old shop’s evolution. Since launch, it has always been focused on an approach he describes as “strategically grounded, creatively unleashed.” But after first opening in Toronto’s East End and experimenting with various leadership structures and business models, it began to “hit its stride” as an agency in mid-2018, at which point it relaunched as King Ursa.

“We’ve reached that level of maturity now, where analytics was the next evolution of what King Ursa was going to become,” Vieira says. From the beginning, he says in-house production has been a “big differentiator” for the shop, allowing it to offer production services at a reduced cost for clients and to bring work to market more quickly.

Moving forward, King Ursa is looking to ensure that its copywriters, art directors and cinematographers are all thinking analytically, he says. But this doesn’t mean letting data be the sole driver of creativity.

“Data alone is never enough, nor should it be directive,” Vieira says. Building out the agency’s analytics chops is not about “putting blinders on creative.” Rather, “it’s more about putting guardrails, so that once we have those objectives lined up and KPIs, everyone understands what the purpose is. That’s when we can ‘creatively unleash.’”

Hiring a director to lead the discipline was based on a combination of client demand and opportunity. Some of King Ursa’s U.S.-based clients have begun asking for more analytics-driven work.

In addition to working with The Beer Store, Moosehead Breweries, Timberland, Lone Star Texas Grill and other clients locally, the agency has recently picked up assignments with U.S.-based Pearson and Invista, a fiber and resin company.