The Indie List: ‘Grow or die’ but with integrity

Why Giants & Gentleman's philosophy is right for the times
How do you tell people that Momenti Pizza from Dr.Oetker is the best of both worlds? With a centaur of course.

How do you tell people that Momenti Pizza from Dr.Oetker is the best of both worlds? With a centaur of course.

When Alanna Nathanson, Natalie Armata and Gino Cantalini came together to found Toronto-based Giants & Gentlemen, a scrappy indie agency in 2012, they set out to serve the brave ones, those who were interested in doing things differently.

That point of view is summed up by the credo “Be Brave, Be Decent,” a philosophy that’s been at the core of their identity since launch. It’s also helped the agency flourish into a highly awarded shop, with a track record of growing their clients’ businesses.

“We bring a grow-or-die attitude to make brands tower like giants, while always acting with integrity, as ‘gents.’ That’s been key for us to win in the long term,” says co-founder and CCO Alanna Nathanson. “Having open communication and earning the trust of our partners while doing things that haven’t been done before has allowed us to continue to grow in size and reputation.”

As the pandemic started to unfold, choruses of “Stay Home” rang across social media. For those with a safe haven, it was good advice. A chillingly simple spot for Abused Women’s Hotline reminded viewers that for others, home is the most dangerous place to be.

As the pandemic started to unfold, choruses of “Stay Home” rang across social media. For those with a safe haven, it was good advice. A chillingly simple spot for Abused Women’s Hotline reminded viewers that for others, home is the most dangerous place to be.

The value of its “Be Brave” boundary-pushing stance can be found in the agency’s ability to thrive in the exceptional circumstances that came with a global pandemic. Rather than stagnating during widespread lockdowns, G&G won new business, including a project for Queen’s University in March, and AOR for Clover Leaf in the Fall, for whom G&G is doing strategy, creative and media (via its integrated media partner PUSH).

Working with CIRA, Canada’s official domain registry, G&G created the .ca enforcement squad. This follow up to the “Don’t be a Traitor” campaign sees the squad sequestered in the woods, engaging in all manner of Canadian a while encouraging people to make their website “true north strong.” This was also one of the first remote shoots during the pandemic.

Working with CIRA, Canada’s official domain registry, G&G created the .ca enforcement squad. This follow up to the “Don’t be a Traitor” campaign sees the squad sequestered in the woods, engaging in all manner of Canadian a while encouraging people to make their website “true north strong.” This was also one of the first remote shoots during the pandemic.

Their first assignment for Cloverleaf involves creating a new brand identity and masterbrand campaign, using the agency’s trademarked Outthinking methodology, which taps into outsider perspectives for competitive and meaningful insights.

Work with existing clients also continues to grow, thanks to fostering open, collaborative relationships. In July, the agency created a new integrated campaign for CIRA, Canada’s Internet Registration Authority. It’s an evolution of its “Don’t Be a Traitor” campaign (which poked fun at “treasonous” Canadians who register a .com domain) but with an even more patriotic bent. It was also one of the first remote shoots in Canada.

In a year when people are forced to remain distant from each other, the benefits of being alone might not seem obvious. When it comes to pizza, however, not having to share is a winning situation. A print campaign for Momenti personal pizzas for Dr. Oetker leans into the pleasures of eating for one.

In a year when people are forced to remain distant from each other, the benefits of being alone might not seem obvious. When it comes to pizza, however, not having to share is a winning situation. A print campaign for Momenti personal pizzas for Dr. Oetker leans into the pleasures of eating for one.

 

New campaigns include a print push for Dr. Oetker Momenti at-home pizzas, and a quietly arresting PSA for Assaulted Women’s Helpline which reminds people that staying home during lockdown is not safe for everyone. The agency has also been growing its relationship with Enercare, an RFP it won last summer. This fall Enercare made G&G its official AOR for strategy and creative, and increased the mandate.

Nathanson says the pandemic also allowed the agency to practice what it preaches at home, shifting its staff to working remotely and creating a supportive environment, even at a distance.

“When the pandemic started to unfold, we adapted quickly and sent everyone home, even before stay-at-home orders were in place.” Nathanson says. Since then, the partners have been implementing ways to make WFH as optimal as possible, with input from their team. “Everyone’s opinion matters here at G&G. It’s important that all of our team members have a say,” says cofounder and CCO Gino Cantalini.

 

Recognition of a supportive culture was validated again this year when the agency was named one of Canada’s Top Employers for Young People for the third year in a row.

It’s this culture that allows G&G to continually attract new talent. In the past year, the agency welcomed Mary Ruf as VP, business lead on RBC, who brings experience as senior client partner from roles at BBDO, Y&R and McCann. She also aids in new strategic and creative ventures.

Adam Guylas joined G&G as director of technology, and is transforming the agency’s digital offering with deep expertise in everything from software engineering to website development. And Becky May just joined G&G as a highly awarded senior art director/ACD, who’s worked at many of Toronto’s top agencies like DDB and Rethink.

Cleverly placed next to Ikea, this outdoor campaign for Enercare reminds you that, unlike furniture, DIY furnace repair is not a thing.

Cleverly placed next to Ikea, this outdoor campaign for Enercare reminds you that, unlike furniture, DIY furnace repair is not a thing.

Getting back to the core philosophy of being brave, earlier leaps of faith are now paying dividends. Two years ago, the agency developed and released its own gin brand – Giants & Gentlemen Old Tom Gin – that was part holiday gift for clients, part passion project. That five-time award-winning side-hustle has now become a more robust business; the gin was accepted into the LCBO and will be available in limited stores in early 2021.

Beyond the pandemic, the founders see brighter days ahead. As Natalie Armata, cofounder and co-CCO says, “it’s been a brutal year for everyone, everywhere. The world can’t wait for 2020 to end. That said, we’ve learned a lot both as business owners and human beings, and we believe that coming out of this we will be stronger than ever, thanks to our entrepreneurial spirit and founding philosophy of being brave and decent.”

CONTACT:
Gino Cantalini
Co-founder & COO
g.cantalini@giantsandgents.com