The Indie List: Creativity for commerce

It's more than a tagline for doug&partners
The doug&partners senior team: (left to right, top row) Julie Haroutunian, Doug Robinson, Moxie Garrett; (middle row) Bonnie Lall, Matt Syberg-Olsen, Kristin Burnham; (bottom row) Kim Hunter, Eric Baldakin, Adam White.

The doug&partners senior team: (left to right, top row) Julie Haroutunian, Doug Robinson, Moxie Garrett; (middle row) Bonnie Lall, Matt Syberg-Olsen, Kristin Burnham; (bottom row) Kim Hunter, Eric Baldakin, Adam White.

You really get the sense that culture is important to Toronto’s doug&partners.

“We have core values we really take seriously,”explains VP, head of digital experience, Moxie Garrett of the 40-strong agency. “Everyone shares them – always being curious, independent, entrepreneurial-minded, focused on partnership – we want to make quick decisions and be flexible.”

Flexibility, after all, is a core calling card for many indies. For doug, it’s even in the name – ‘& partners’ is a nod to the group’s connection to best-in-class talents (media, digital, content partners and others) that come to the table as needed.

The latest instalment of the Wildhood campaign for Go RVing Canada provides a timely reminder that there are still ways to satisfy our wanderlust.

The latest instalment of the Wildhood campaign for Go RVing Canada provides a timely reminder that there are still ways to satisfy our wanderlust.

The agency, founded in 2002, describes itself as “fiercely independent” and that’s not just lip  service. To live up to that ethos, the agency conducts regular reviews to make sure they’re taking full advantage of their potential.

Case in point: about 18 months ago the indie agency decided it could spend money more wisely by getting out of an expensive downtown lease and buying an old garage in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto. It’s now a collaborative space designed to inspire, with big garage doors, plenty of natural light and more flexibility. It will also give doug more capability for in-house video, post and digital production.

Fox Harb’r Resort in Nova Scotia is as unique as the spelling of its name. Which, of course, is a great creative jumping- off point.

Fox Harb’r Resort in Nova Scotia is as unique as the spelling of its name. Which, of course, is a great creative jumping- off point.

“I like describing it as a forward-ready workspace,” says founder Doug Robinson. “It works for tomorrow’s new normal – a safe, creative, inspiring workplace. That’s a real sort of visual testament to putting our money where our mouth is.”

“Creativity isn’t found just in the creative department,” underlines ECD Matt Syberg-Olsen. “It’s in how you approach everything, how you solve problems. I think that constant change is actually kind of exciting. And, in a way, it’s a real opportunity for us.”

And doug has seen plenty of new opportunities of late. Beyond the surge of clients looking to retool for COVID, the agency has taken on new business this year. Work with GoRVing on the ‘Bring Back Wildhood’ campaign led to a connection to the city of Sault Ste. Marie, which brought doug on for a rebrand to attract economic investment. Then the agency picked up Plan International Canada, which required an exclusively digital holiday fundraising campaign that took into consideration the constraints of the pandemic.

Doug added Rawcology – a strategic positioning and digital consultation assignment for the organic superfood brand that’s gone national since its 2017 launch. They then kicked off new work for the Fox Harb’r Resort in Nova Scotia – a digital assignment to drive traffic to the upscale, coastal golf course – and jumped into Wellington Water Watchers, an Ontario non-profit dedicated to protecting local well water and eliminating single-use plastic bottles.

Another in a series of online videos for The Period Purse seeks to reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation. And this time the forecast calls for heavy periods.

Another in a series of online videos for The Period Purse seeks to reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation. And this time the forecast calls for heavy periods.

Then, there’s been new work for the University of New Brunswick, autoTRADER, Honda, Distributel, Reliance… It’s been a busy year.

It’s kept the creative and digital teams focussed on reimagining each brand experience, while also revisiting fundamentals through a pragmatic lens. In the long shadow of the pandemic, Garrett says it’s been about making sure everything – from websites to CRM strategies and reach-outs, those basic building blocks of great customer communications – is in place. “You’re seeing different perspectives and the people at the table are solving problems differently. What does GoRVing do when, all of a sudden, there aren’t trade shows anymore? How do you pivot? You have to collaborate with the client to come up with a solution.”

Online videos for the Ontario Honda Dealers demonstrate that the features in every Honda are designed to satisfy a wide variety of customers. Even if the customer is just a hand.

Online videos for the Ontario Honda Dealers demonstrate that the features in every Honda are designed to satisfy a wide variety of customers. Even if the customer is just a hand.

Adds Robinson, “I think it’s really about making sure you’re keeping an eye on the brand’s goals, constantly bring them up, so the client understands you’ve never lost sight of them. We need to over-communicate now.”

Once aligned on how to solve brand problems, you have to be able to execute. “I think there’s a certain amount of elasticity that we have as an independent which allows us to look at our clients’ needs and how we can best service them,” observes Syberg-Olsen. “We can stretch and reshape a little to make our service offering better.”

2020 marked the launch of a new campaign for the University of New Brunswick, built on the idea that the true value of an education isn’t just where you get it, but how you apply it to make the world a better place.

2020 marked the launch of a new campaign for the University of New Brunswick, built on the idea that the true value of an education isn’t just where you get it, but how you apply it to make the world a better place.

While the year has been one long challenge for everyone, Syberg-Olsen believes the changes the agency’s been making – building and adapting to respond to current market needs – also positions them well going forward. “There’s a lot going on in the world right now, but there’s also a lot of incredible opportunity. I think we’re ready to take on some exciting projects – just roll up our sleeves and get going.

Doug’s founder agrees. “We may not be the biggest agency around,” Robinson says. “But boy, are we ever competitive.”

CONTACT:
Doug Robinson
CEO
doug@dougpartners.com