Most-read of 2020: Agencies

The most popular stories out of Canada's shops included big assignments, major launches, pandemic survival strategies and racism in the industry.

As we do every year around this time, strategy is counting down the biggest stories from the past 12 months. Today, we are looking at the most popular stories from our weekly C-Suite newsletter, which covers how brand leaders are approaching the biggest market challenges and responding to new opportunities (and if you like what you’re reading, you can always subscribe here). Be sure to also check out the year’s most-read stories from our bi-weekly Shopper Marketing Report, weekly C-Suite newsletter and the pages of our print magazine.

Five industry veterans launch Broken Heart Love Affair

The industry knew something was afoot when several high-profile creatives began leaving their posts for “undisclosed opportunities.” Those rumours were confirmed in late March with the launch of Broken Heart Love Affair, an agency founded by CSO Jason Chaney, co-CCOs Carlos Moreno, Denise Rossetto and Todd Mackie, and chief business officer Beverley Hammond (pictured above). Many thought they were, um, brave for debuting during peak COVID. But the group hit the ground running with work for Kids Help Phone, Kruger and other clients.

Rogers integrates creative and media work with WPP

The trend of major advertisers condensing their work with a dedicated agency continued in 2020, with WPP creating a dedicated unit for Rogers from staff at Taxi – which already worked with the telco on its wireless brands – and John St. The team was dubbed Theo, named after company founder Ted Rogers.

John St.’s CCO Angus Tucker had been tasked with helping to get Theo off the ground back in April, several months before it formally launched in June; earlier this month, the shift was made permanent, with Tucker stepping away from duties at the agency he co-founded to devote his time to Theo.

Ottawa Senators add Zulu Alpha Kilo to its lineup

Every now and then, a strategy story will find an audience outside of Canada’s marketing and advertising industry. In the case of this story, that audience was hockey Reddit.

The Ottawa Senators have been going through an overhaul, rebuilding its talent on the ice and making a number of changes in its front office since 2019, which dedicated fans of the struggling team have been keeping up with as they gauge their expectations for the upcoming season. Among those behind-the-scenes shakeups was enlisting Zulu Alpha Kilo as its new ad agency, tapping the Toronto shop to handle brand strategy, creative, digital development and production, with the goal of getting fan engagement and – once live sporting events get back to normal – arena attendance back up.

How agencies are approaching the government wage subsidy

At the outset of the pandemic, when the impact on our lives and business was at its most uncertain, our readers were eager to learn about how to handle near constant disruption without a clear playbook to go off of. But the most-read out of all of these stories was this one about the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.

Published just a few days after it passed during an emergency weekend sitting of parliament, it went into the details of a program that was, at the time, still novel and slightly opaque to many business leaders. But it also went into why support measures like this were important for ad agencies in particular, which were facing the prospect of business drying up as clients pulled back ad budgets out of an abundance of caution.

Open letter calls for action against racism in Canadian ad industry

In the wake of racial justice protests, a group of professionals released an open letter, calling on agencies and clients to commit to 15 steps to improve representation of Black, Indigenous and PoC talent across the industry. To date, more than 590 individuals, and more than 90 organizations, have signed the pledge. The group that spearheaded the letter, People of Colour in Advertising and Marketing (POCAM), continues working towards holding the industry accountable.

This was just one way strategy aimed to keep the spotlight on diversity, equity and inclusion issues in the industry this year, be it through tackling the “that doesn’t happen in Canada” mindset many seemed to be stuck in, or looking at how the issue shows up in different ways and in different segments of the industry, from PR to strategic planning to production.

With files from Justin Dallaire