The Indie List: The Agnostic approach

Balancing intuition and reflection through better thinking
With Canadians looking for more ways to enjoy their own backyard, 2020 was the year of the RV. Agnostic worked with GoRVing Canada to ensure the RV lifestyle was front of mind from coast to coast to coast. Adventure seekers and outdoor lifestyle enthusiasts weren't the only focus this year, with Agnostic working with RV dealers to supply frontline workers with RVs to stay or isolate in to ensure they and their families were kept safe.

With Canadians looking for more ways to enjoy their own backyard, 2020 was the year of the RV. Agnostic worked with GoRVing Canada to ensure the RV lifestyle was front of mind from coast to coast to coast. Adventure seekers and outdoor lifestyle enthusiasts weren’t the only focus this year, with Agnostic working with RV dealers to supply frontline workers with RVs to stay or isolate in to ensure they and their families were kept safe.

Sarah Crabbe, President of PR shop Agnostic, likes to use the metaphor of the Trojan Horse when talking about her 18 month-old venture.

You could do worse than to borrow from Homer when describing the power of a good story. “The story we are told when we start with a client is never really the story,” explains Crabbe. “Initially everyone is clear that they want to create a narrative around their business or product, but we ask ‘What if no one wants to talk about your product or narrative?’ Our job is always to ask what the market, the media and the newsfeed are going to respond to. What is the Trojan Horse angle?”

Popular chef and local food entrepreneur Matt Basile (top) joined forces with Metro for the last two years at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for its "Spotlight on Local" program, which celebrates Metro's locally sourced vendors. Matt is passionate about local small businesses and brought his culinary knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit to share with the vendors, such as one of Metro Ontario's vendor partners, Wrap it Up Raw (right), from the Niagara region, onsite at Metro's "Spotlight on Local" experience.

Popular chef and local food entrepreneur Matt Basile (top) joined forces with Metro for the last two years at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for its “Spotlight on Local” program, which celebrates Metro’s locally sourced vendors. Matt is passionate about local small businesses and brought his culinary knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit to share with the vendors, such as one of Metro Ontario’s vendor partners, Wrap it Up Raw (right), from the Niagara region, onsite at Metro’s “Spotlight on Local” experience.

The Trojan Horse conjures up images of wonder, surprise, ingenuity and cunning – all qualities that are required to break through the wall of noise to which marketers must lay siege every day. After ten years of bashing their heads against the walls of Troy, the Greeks had a Eureka moment: let’s just go in through the front door! Agnostic is focused on opening that door without all the head-bashing.

With the tagline ‘Better thinking. Better results.’, Crabbe and her team want the world to know that their story rests on a healthy balance of reflection and intuition – or said another way, strategy and creative execution. Crabbe elaborates: “Our tagline means taking the time to ask: is this what our client’s business really needs? Is this the best strategy, the best team, the best execution? Let’s think about this.”

Truss Beverage Co. launched one of the widest cannabis beverage portfolios in Canada, with five new brands: Little Victory, House of Terpenes, Mollo, Veryvell, and XMG. The campaign, entitled “Start Wonder”, was built and launched in the middle of the pandemic, which was no small task for Agnostic and other agency partners.

Truss Beverage Co. launched one of the widest cannabis beverage portfolios in Canada, with five new brands: Little Victory, House of Terpenes, Mollo, Veryvell, and XMG. The campaign, entitled “Start Wonder”, was built and launched in the middle of the pandemic, which was no small task for Agnostic and other agency partners.

In the business of PR, where speed of execution is sometimes prioritized over thoughtful consideration, thinking is often regarded as a luxury. Stepping outside the box of ‘faster’ is therefore an act of courage – and a point of difference. Crabbe is building a team of senior practitioners who are highly intuitive yet always connected to the thinking, the insight and the research. That is a powerful proposition in a world where agencies tend to either swing for the fences of creative or strategy but rarely hit both.

Clients are nodding their heads. When she started the venture in April of 2019, Agnostic had three accounts: Cisco, Boston Consulting Group and hayu. In eighteen months they’ve added another fifteen clients to the portfolio. The Trojan Horse is in the house.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation's (PMCF) Quest to Conquer Cancer unites video game streamers, spectators and supporters from all over the world to raise money for cancer research through live gaming broadcasts. Quest culminates in a week-long fundraising finale in December – “Quest Together, Conquer Together” – with an ambitious goal to raise $500,000 in its first year. Pictured is pro-gamer Stone Mountain taking part.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation’s (PMCF) Quest to Conquer Cancer unites video game streamers, spectators and supporters from all over the world to raise money for cancer research through live gaming broadcasts. Quest culminates in a week-long fundraising finale in December – “Quest Together, Conquer Together” – with an ambitious goal to raise $500,000 in its first year. Pictured is pro-gamer Stone Mountain taking part.

It’s an interesting mix of B2B and B2C clients. Agnostic has worked with BCG’s think tank, The Centre for Canada’s Future, on themes of diversity and inclusion and the future of digital infrastructure. For Cisco, Agnostic supported the Digital Canopy project, an initiative designed to expand WiFi access  in some of Toronto’s most vulnerable communities, especially during the pandemic when it has been needed most.

In the midst of the pandemic, Agnostic also helped launch five brands for Truss Beverage Co., which is Molson and HEXO’s line of cannabis infused beverages.

For Metro’s Locally Sourced program, in which the grocer sources and supports local food entrepreneurs, showcasing their products on shelf, Agnostic’s campaign of vendor-focused stories got the firm shortlisted for Creative Campaign of the Year at the Canadian PR Society Awards, also taking home a Gold award.

Attendees of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair visited Metro's "Spotlight on Local" to sample delicious goods from its locally sourced vendors. The program supports local producers in seven regions of Ontario, demonstrating Metro's promise of being at the heart of the community.

Attendees of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair visited Metro’s “Spotlight on Local” to sample delicious goods from its locally sourced vendors. The program supports local producers in seven regions of Ontario, demonstrating Metro’s promise of being at the heart of the community.

And for iconic Canadian brands Harvey’s and Bauer, who teamed up on a pandemic payment solution that maintained social distance by using hockey sticks to pass credit cards back and forth at drive through, Agnostic drove traction organically with earned media coverage. That particular Trojan Horse caught the attention of NHL stars Wayne Gretzky and Tie Domi on twitter.

The pandemic has presented Agnostic with both challenges and opportunities. At the beginning of the lockdown it seemed like every brand came out with its piano track and ‘we’re all in this together’ statements, followed quickly by ‘and if you buy now’ discount offers. To be able to put a spotlight on local businesses, tell stories of frontline workers, share how iconic Canadian brands like Harvey’s and Bauer came together, has been a refreshingly meaningful alternative.

Ironically, Toronto-based Agnostic’s next task is to manage growth for the 15 person-strong outfit. “The challenge we have is that as the business gets bigger, how do we make it feel smaller?” muses Crabbe. “That is where we need the discipline to remember why we set out on this journey and ask if we are staying true to the simple goals we had at the start.”

CONTACT:
Sarah Crabbe
President
scrabbe@thinkagnostic.com