The A-List: doug&partners

Ready for whatever's next with a fresh focus on the future
doug&partners just finished the complete transformation of an autobody shop in Toronto’s Junction area into a “forward-ready” flexible creative space.

doug&partners just finished the complete transformation of an autobody shop in Toronto’s Junction area into a “forward-ready” flexible creative space.

Over a year into the pandemic that sent employees to home offices, it might seem unusual that Doug Robinson is energized by his agency’s new space. But sitting in doug&partners’ freshly renovated digs in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood, he’s ready for what comes next.

The new office, which is a total overhaul of an old autobody shop, represents not just a new space for d&p, its’ reflective of a new way of thinking about the future. In fact, the move from downtown to a West End enclave symbolizes a restart – and when colleagues do eventually pass through the 16-foot glass garage doors, it won’t be business as usual.

If we say “period” enough times, will people just stop being squeamish about the whole thing already? That’s the message of online videos for The Period Purse, an organization that strives to reduce the stigma surrounding periods and provide free access to menstrual products.

If we say “period” enough times, will people just stop being squeamish about the whole thing already? That’s the message of online videos for The Period Purse, an organization that strives to reduce the stigma surrounding periods and provide free access to menstrual products.

It’s all part of a plan to retool the 19-year-old, 38-person shop into the country’s leading independent agency. “Moving to a space of our own allowed us to reallocate capital to what is important,” Robinson says. “And that’s the work and our people.”

Recognizing young employees are struggling working at home in isolation, Robinson is eager for them to benefit from in-person collaboration and mentorship in an inspiring new setting. But the changes go deeper.

doug&partners has also articulated a set of values, focusing on teamwork, respect, positivity, accountability and creativity. Robinson says the values already existed within the company and it was time to more deliberately commit to them. “It’s simple stuff, but it’s also vital that we’re building off the same foundation” he says.

Those values attracted Christine Scott, who assumed the managing director role in March.

The beautiful thing about an education is that it’s not just about where you get it, it’s about where you take the learning afterward, and how that benefits the world. For the University of New Brunswick (UNB), doug&partners created “UNB is Here,” an enrolment push that promotes the impact its graduates have on the world stage.

The beautiful thing about an education is that it’s not just about where you get it, it’s about where you take the learning afterward, and how that benefits the world. For the University of New Brunswick (UNB), doug&partners created “UNB is Here,” an enrolment push that promotes the impact its graduates have on the world stage.

“In this time when so many agencies are talking about the importance of diversity and inclusion in their corporate mandate, the values of doug&partners were the seal on what I was looking for,” says Scott, who has held senior roles at Community, Citizen Relations and Cossette. “That foundation of respect, especially as a BIPOC woman, was 100% mandatory. Doug instilled in me a strong confidence that he’s looking to evolve as an agency and keep moving forward.”

To encourage donations over the holiday season, Plan International Canada gave doug&partners the dream brief: ask people to give goats to each other as charitable holiday gifts. The agency obliged with an online campaign of charming, animated stories.

To encourage donations over the holidays, Plan International Canada gave doug&partners the dream brief: ask people to give goats as charitable gifts. The agency did so via charming, animated online stories.

All this has reenergized the agency. Robinson says the vibe is that of a start-up – fiercely independent, focused on partnerships, entrepreneurial and flexible – and with great clients. All qualities that were essential during a year marked by the need to pivot.

ECD Matt Syberg-Olsen says the past year put the agency’s motto of “creativity for commerce” to the test. “This notion is not just about using creative thinking in our work, but also in how we service our clients,” he says.

For example, doug&partners won an assignment for Plan International Canada in a virtual pitch. To this day, the agency and client teams have not yet met in person. That hasn’t stopped them from creating a successful campaign for the charity’s holiday fundraising drive.

Plan was forced to pivot from its usual multimedia approach to an entirely digital campaign – all in a climate where donors were feeling economic pressure. To stimulate giving, the agency created a charming, animated campaign featuring Plan’s well-known goats – a tangible representation of the effect of donations of all sizes.

Even though the charitable sector saw donations decline 16% (according to Imagine Canada’s Ongoing Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic study), Plan saw a 34% revenue increase (vs. 2019) driven by the campaign, which Syberg-Olsen adds was well above projections.

The agency also added a new note to its popular Wildhood campaign for Go RVing. Shifting from the nostalgic tone of previous work to an aspirational message, “Live your Wildhood” connects with young adventurers looking for a safe way to enjoy the outdoors. “We’re telling people, ‘Don’t wait to get outside,’” says Syberg-Olsen, noting that early results show performance substantially beyond projections.

doug&partners created a 30-second spot for autoTRADER.ca demonstrating that you can feel confident you’re getting the best price – so confident you just may feel like you can pull off an acrobatic move from a seminal ’80s movie

doug&partners created a 30-second spot for autoTRADER.ca demonstrating that you can feel confident you’re getting the best price – so confident you just may feel like you can pull off an acrobatic move from a seminal ’80s movie

Elsewhere, recent work for the University of New Brunswick promotes graduates’ global impact, while a project for autoTRADER.ca brings the brand into more emotive territory. The agency is also in the midst of launching a new campaign for Reliance Home Comfort and ongoing assignments for telco Distributel, in addition to projects for the city of Sault Ste. Marie, another client added during the pandemic.

In 2021, the very successful “Wildhood” campaign continued, reminding people that there’s never been a better time to “Live Your Wildhood.” Building on its slogan “Bring Back Wildhood,” doug&partners charted new emotional territory: aspiration.

In 2021, the successful “Wildhood” campaign continued, reminding people there’s never been a better time to “Live Your Wildhood.” Building on its slogan “Bring Back Wildhood,” doug&partners charted new emotional territory: aspiration.

Reflecting on the past year, Robinson draws on a sports analogy. “There’s no question that this year has entirely changed the playing field for us,” he says. “But it’s given our team the opportunity to reevaluate how we play and recognize where our strengths are. We’ve never been more ready for what’s to come.”

CONTACT:
Christine Scott
Managing Partner
christine@dougpartners.com

The 2021 A-Listers:

Intro

Zulu Alpha Kilo: from strength to strength

Target: natural born storytellers

UM: winning in an uncertain world

C&B: connecting on a deeper level

Initiative: doubling down on innovation and creating cultural velocity

Media Experts: shaping what’s next

Giants & Gentlemen: the power of unwavering philosophy

Wunderman Thompson: a multidisciplinary service offering

DDB: the power of informed creative

Citizen Relations: making every conversation count