The Agency A List: One Twenty Three West

Cultivating a hands-on creative culture
For financial brand KOHO, One Twenty Three West developed a full identity that included four card designs and custom card carriers. The unconventional identity has no set colours and can be changed daily, if needed.

For financial brand KOHO, One Twenty Three West developed a full identity that included four card designs and custom card carriers. The unconventional identity has no set colours and can be changed daily, if needed.

Scot Keith makes a shrewd observation about advertising: only in this business, he says, do you become masterful at your craft and then you’re asked to become a manager. “It’s like Sidney Crosby scoring 50 goals in a season, then asked to be the coach. It doesn’t make sense.”

Addressing this talent imbalance is the core mission of six-year-old Vancouver-based idea and design collective One Twenty Three West, where Keith is co-founder, president/CEO. It’s why the agency’s motto is “low overhead, high talent” and it’s why of its 32 full-time staff, One Twenty Three West has 12 working creative directors.

Millennials are the first generation to see drunk driving as socially unacceptable behaviour. One Twenty Three West was tasked with getting them to feel the same about driving high. To do so, they depicted teens as the ones warning their parents about high-driving. “We knew finger-wagging wouldn’t work. We needed a more positive message,” says co-founder/ECD Bryan Collins.

Millennials are the first generation to see drunk driving as socially unacceptable behaviour. One Twenty Three West was tasked with getting them to feel the same about driving high. To do so, they depicted teens as the ones warning their parents about high-driving.

“We’d rather be the Navy Seals than the Army. We put the money we save into paying better talent,” says Keith. “It’s all for the benefit of the client who gets top talent working on their business.”

As for the low overhead side of the One Twenty Three West equation, the agency famously launched from the garage of co-founder/executive creative director of design Jeff Harrison, with its other founding partners: executive creative directors Rob Sweetman and Bryan Collins. From there, they set up shop in an industrial laundromat.

Millennials are the first generation to see drunk driving as socially unacceptable behaviour. One Twenty Three West was tasked with getting them to feel the same about driving high. To do so, they depicted teens as the ones warning their parents about high-driving. “We knew finger-wagging wouldn’t work. We needed a more positive message,” says co-founder/ECD Bryan Collins.

However, after five very affordable – albeit cold and loud – years in the laundromat, they needed much more space. They’ve since moved to a low-cost building and renovated using found objects, such as junked doors complete with knockers and pre-owned furniture.

Such creative solutions are merely an extension of the agency’s approach. “We get hired when a client has a big business problem or opportunity and they need a very smart, creative and experienced team to help them,” says Keith.

That creative process is marked by unparalleled collaboration. Counter to typical agency practice One Twenty Three West doesn’t hold any ideas back from its clients. “We show them everything,” Keith says. “We’re in the idea business so we’re also in the failure business, I don’t care if we fail 99 times to get to something brilliant and effective.”

It’s how they developed Role Reversal for BCAA. Designed to bring attention to the dangers of driving high, the campaign brings a surprising twist. Instead of parents counselling their kids on the ills of driving under the influence, the TV spots show millennials giving their 420-friendly parents “the talk” on driving high.

The Windfall Cider brand is all about luck and good fortune – finding your proverbial golden apple. One Twenty Three West created the brand, identity and packaging for a line of ciders including Hail Mary Rose Cider.

The Windfall Cider brand is all about luck and good fortune – finding your proverbial golden apple. One Twenty Three West created the brand, identity and packaging for a line of ciders including Hail Mary Rose Cider.

Collins says this campaign is an example of strategy-led creative, as One Twenty Three West worked hand-in-hand with the client from the earliest stages, including strategy and research.

“Research revealed that millennials take designated driving more seriously than any other generation,” says Collins. “In fact, 91% regularly make plans for a safe ride home and 88% would never drive impaired. So we decided to celebrate them as the responsible spokespeople of our campaign.”

The work was so successful that it was picked up by every CAA organization across the country.

Collaboration also led to a very unconventional identity for financial brand KOHO, which included a series of four credit card designs. Collins says the generative design was inspired by the constant struggle between spending and saving, the bright colour shifts representing how the balance is always changing. The branding was a result of frequent, informal conversations with the client to bring the spirit of the company to life.

After 90 years serving BC, White Spot needed a brand refresh to spur slowing sales, so One Twenty Three West leaned into the brand’s strength: that for almost a century, they and their Legendary Burgers are practically woven into BC culture. The agency created BC’s Own, a campaign that reminds British Columbians why they fell in love with White Spot in the first place.

After 90 years serving BC, White Spot needed a brand refresh to spur slowing sales, so One Twenty Three West leaned into the brand’s strength: their Legendary Burgers are practically woven into BC culture. The agency created BC’s Own, a campaign that reminds British Columbians why they fell in love with White Spot in the first place.

Keith says the agency tends to attract clients with an entrepreneurial spirit, ones who know that great talent is worth investing in, and “businesses that are going for it.” In turn, that focus on making their clients’ businesses better has resulted in a balanced, hands-on creative culture.

One Twenty Three West created the MADE/NOUS brand, identity and campaign to shift attitudes toward Canadian content to one of pride. The campaign, voiced by Academy award-winner Christopher Plummer, featured actor Jacob Tremblay, the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise, a nod to Deadpool and many more Canadian creative successes.

One Twenty Three West created the MADE/NOUS brand, identity and campaign to shift attitudes toward Canadian content to one of pride. The campaign, voiced by Academy award-winner Christopher Plummer, featured actor Jacob Tremblay, the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise, a nod to Deadpool and many more Canadian creative successes.

“We hire on talent and good character,” he says, noting that in six years, only four people have left the agency. “We don’t have foosball tables or pool tables; we want the work to be the thing, and we have fun with good people while we do it. That’s why all of our creative directors are working and getting their hands dirty. It’s what makes them happy. Creative people should create, and when they do, the client benefits” 

CONTACT:

Scot Keith 

Founder, President/CEO

Scot@123w.ca