Most-read of 2021: Agencies

New agency models, new hires and new client relationships were among the most popular stories with readers this year.
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Taxi declines to participate in Canadian Tire RFP

One of the oldest client-agency relationships in Canada came to end this year when Taxi declined to defend its creative AOR duties in Canadian Tire’s latest RFP.

In addition to creating the “Canada’s Store” brand positioning, Taxi has also been behind efforts that included the introduction of “the Canadian Tire guy,” the “Tested” product review platform, a wealth of holiday work and the award-winning “Ice Truck” campaign.

The review concluded in November, with Publicis Canada picking up creative AOR duties. The assignment is set to begin in the new year.

Bensimon Byrne establishes new leadership for its agencies

Bensimon Byrne has long been a family of agencies that also includes OneMethod and Narrative. But this year, its parent company Tadium evolved its operating model, and announced a new leadership team to lead it into the future.

That included Narrative managing director Sarah Spence becoming Tadium’s new CEO, forming a leadership team alongside five managing directors from the group’s other agencies. Meanwhile, founding partner Jack Bensimon formed a board alongside the four other owners in the agency group.

“The whole industry is being disrupted, and various disciplines – whether you’re talking about PR, advertising, or media buying – are all overlapping,” Spence told strategy about the new approach. “We recognize there’s enormous value in keeping our three distinct brands and their personalities and the talent that resides within them, but bringing collaborative decision-making together so that we come through in a more powerful way for our clients.”

Angry Butterfly launches with a focus on thoughtfulness and agility

Brent Choi, Graham Candy and Erin Kawalecki wanted to do something different from the network agencies they came from when they started Angry Butterfly this year.

“We’re passionate people who were dissatisfied with the way things are and thought we could do it better,” Kawalecki told strategy. “You need to have a certain energy to do this – I don’t think there’s anything passive about us.”

Since then, the agency has grown from its three founders to a headcount of 20, with assignments for the likes of the Dairy Farmers of CanadaAutoIQ, Fire & Flower and Campari.

Zulu grows its team and makes a slate of promotions

Zulu Alpha Kilo’s first round of hires and promotions of 2021 were the ones that got the most attention, but they wouldn’t be the last.

The dozens of moves in February were followed by eight more as part of a “reengineering” plan toset itself up for its next ten years. That has included promotions for creative directors and now-CEO Mike Sutton, as well as further new hires across its departments.

Cossette eyes the future with a move into WeWork

Among the many ways agencies rethought the way they work over the last year, one of the more unexpected came from Cossette, which relocated its Montreal operations into one of the city’s WeWork locations. As part of the pilot, part of the WeWork space would be reserved for Vision7 staff, but they would also have access to shared spaces and resources throughout the rest of the facility.

“Barely anyone told us they want to go back to the way things were before the pandemic,” Louis Duchesne, president of Quebec and East for Cossette, told strategy, referring to an internal feedback gathering endeavor the agency undertook. “The vast majority of employees wanted a hybrid model, where they could combine a physical presence at the office with remote work based on different moments or needs that they have.”