2020 PR AOY Bronze: Pomp & Circumstance marches to its own drum

The PR shop has picked up a bevy of clients (and some hardware) thanks to a renewed focus on creativity.

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This story originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of strategy.

In just five short years, Pomp & Circumstance has grown at an impressive clip.

This October, the Toronto PR firm reported 107% year-over-year revenue growth. And, as such, it was recognized by both Adweek on its “100 Fastest Growing List,” as well as Canadian Business’ Startup List of the country’s fastest-growing companies (the only PR firm to be given such a title).

The agency also recently picked up half-a-dozen new clients – from Toronto luxury hotel Park Hyatt to global brands like Hagerty, an auto insurance co. for classic cars. The new business is on top of ongoing relationships it has with high-profile brands such as CIBC, Mercedes- Benz, eBay, Dermalogica and Canadian Tire.

Amanda Alvaro, president and co-founder of Pomp & Circumstance, believes its focus on creativity is behind  the agency’s success. Prior to establishing the shop in 2015, Alvaro and business partner Lindsay Mattick were the founders of Narrative PR, established as a subsidiary of traditional creative agency Bensimon Byrne.

“We grew up in an advertising agency,” she says. “And then we went on to own a PR firm. And what we took from that experience was being more of a creative shop than a traditional PR agency.”

When Pomp & Circumstance first launched, Alvaro says it was focused on “true, earned PR” within social and influencer marketing. But in recent years the agency has expanded to offer a full suite of services, ranging from video production to integrated media.

The agency did well for its clients this year when the world did a virtual pivot, helping brands reach consumers on new platforms and in new ways.

For instance, it helped Simplii Financial explore digital platforms as people spent more time homebound and affixed to their devices. Working with four content creators, it helped teach consumers how to simplify their lives – ranging from fashion and food, to fitness and home improvement – through instructional IGTV videos.

And when Mercedes-Benz was forced to cancel its 2021 S-Class roadshow launch event, Pomp & Circumstance used the new virtual reality to its advantage, creating an even bigger splash in Canada than what would have been possible if the premiere happened in person. The shop created a virtual breakfast for media and VIP guests, bringing aboard the global ambassadors F1 racer Lewis Hamilton and artist Alicia Keys to give a keynote and musical performance.

It even tailored swag to the occasion, providing attendees with Mercedes- Benz-branded air pods to use while watching the content.

“We’re taking the best of what creative shops have to offer in all realms – digital, video, online and earned [media] – and we’ve seamlessly put it into one offering. There aren’t a lot of PR agencies in Canada that are doing it the way we do it,” Alvaro says.

Pomp & Circumstance also likes to draw on different disciplines – like literature, history and philosophy – when it comes to its creative process.

“I love it when somebody [on our team] starts a brainstorm off with, ‘I just read this novel and it made me think of this.’ I love it when the first thing they do is Google what the root word of whatever a particular client is launching [to try to understand] what that means,” says Mattick.

“I think that we want people to sort of go beyond the surface, to evaluate, to be conscious of where ideas and influences come from, and to bring those observations to the work.”

New key business: Mercedes-Benz; Hagerty; Hyr; SheEO; Canadian Tire; BDO; The Toronto Region Board of Trade; Park Hyatt; Anejo Restaurant.

New hires: Erika Ceddia, account lead; Amy Bonwick, consultant

Staff: 13

To see the agency’s winning cases, visit the AOY website