The Indie List: ruby & foster

A marketing agency for the 21st century

Co-founders Anna Halfpenny (left) and Marketa Krivy (right).

Conversations with friends can, when you’re lucky, lead to moments of inspiration. When a mutual entrepreneur-friend turned to Marketa Krivy and Anna Halfpenny looking for advice on how to evolve her business, it sparked a business of their own.

With Krivy’s brand building expertise as an executive creative director and Halfpenny’s experience with strategy and business development, the two of them realized they held valuable perspectives key to cracking business problems. They also knew first-hand that helping people like their friend was difficult from their positions within agencies, which are often engaged too late in the process.

“[Agencies] are coming in when key business decisions are already made,” says Halfpenny. “They’re brought in on the path of execution versus the path that considers broader business outcomes.”

So in January 2019, they launched ruby & foster, which they call a marketing agency for the 21st century.

Krivy says with the landscape so fragmented and cluttered, you can’t look at brand building and awareness creation through advertising alone. “The power has shifted away from brands to consumers, so as a result, what a brand says about itself matters a lot less than how it behaves in the world.”

So what does it mean to be a 21st century agency?

First and foremost, it’s about placing a laser focus on who the client is trying to reach. Then, it’s about taking a holistic approach and looking at marketing in broader terms, considering all touch points that might improve the customer experience.

“What’s become apparent to us is that if we can orient thinking around the customer or the person clients are trying to reach, everything falls from there,” says Krivy.

“Our philosophy centres around empathy – empathy for our clients, and for their customers, empathy for the talent we work with and for the companies we collaborate with,” adds Halfpenny.

This means the work ruby & foster does is often invisible in the traditional sense. While they will certainly execute creative for clients – be it in-house, in collaboration with the client’s internal team, or using freelance talent – the shop’s output has included brand strategy, evaluating business models, and providing the tools a brand needs to build its business. For instance, the agency completed an executive summary for one client that helped them determine whether they should be consumer facing or B2B. For another, it created a new brand identity, along with templates for its social channels.

“Our outputs vary greatly because our client needs vary,” says Halfpenny. “Our agency reel is our client testimonials; it’s about how we’ve helped our clients’ business. We appeal to companies that have thrown out the old marketing playbook.”

The approach also resonated with clients. For instance, when ruby & foster was tasked with a comprehensive assignment in spring 2019 for clean beauty product brand Schaf Skincare, they were involved in all aspects of the brand’s business. The scope of work included everything from business model analysis, business planning and consumer persona development, to brand, content and retail strategy, as well as brand identity and brand messaging. Founder and CEO Peter Schafrick described the process as a true partnership, and the agency continues to provide ongoing marketing support.

rubyfoster-quoteWhile the work of ruby & foster doesn’t follow industry norms, Krivy says for them, it’s about placing their skills where they’re best suited to help clients with today’s business problems. “We’re shifting with the landscape. We’re not just looking at creative output; we’re looking at the whole business and how we can use our creativity and industry experience in a way that’s more closely tied with business goals.”

Anna Halfpenny
Co-founder & COO