Tearing down the silos

Collective IQ gives brands access to a team of virtual virtuosos

In Sobeys’ ongoing commitment to sustainability, it made fresh produce grown in-store available for the first time in Canada. Collective IQ launched this first-to-market offering, developing the program and providing ongoing support in three of Sobeys’ banners, including Sobeys, Safeway, and Thrifty Foods.

Toronto-based Collective IQ (COIQ) was ahead of its time. The full-service agency was purpose-built as a virtual offering from its 2016 launch – well before the pandemic forced everyone out of their offices. President and founder Natalie Serkin says she designed the agency that way because she saw the value and opportunity in a different kind of model – one focused on collaboration that would benefit both clients and her network of experts.

As brands bring more of their content needs in-house – and the scope and complexity of those programs grow – COIQ is designed to support or augment a client’s own marketing team, providing experts ranging from creative directors to data scientists and strategists who can integrate into a seamless partnership. By diving in to fully understand the business needs and brand culture, it can give clients the flexibility to scale up or down as needed.

For Serkin, it’s about tearing down the silos to give clients access to the best teams of talent. And COIQ boasts a roster of more than 350 experienced creative and subject-matter specialists.

She says for them to join the COIQ fold, “They need to be ego-free, top-level Canadian talent that is successful in their areas of expertise. We’re able to pull in senior-level people and do it in a cost-efficient, nimble way for our clients so they don’t need to go to a big agency. When it comes to the talent and project management, we can do it better.”


Collective IQ rebranded The Ottawa Hospital. The “Creating Tomorrow” campaign fundraised for Ottawa’s patient focused new hospital build, with an omni-channel campaign which focuses on the impact their quality of care and research has, told through stories of the hospital’s staff and patients.

It’s about creating purpose-built full-service teams for the client or project that can seamlessly work with the client’s capabilities. Case in point: Collective IQ doesn’t have a pitch team. The people at the table at the start are the ones who will shepherd the projects collaboratively throughout the process.

Serkin says the relationship with clients requires trust, integrity and transparency and must be nurtured. “All our clients have ballooned into much bigger clients, but we didn’t come in demanding anything from them. It’s, ‘Try us out and let’s see how it goes.’”

It’s an approach that speaks to confidence in the model – and it resonates. The COIQ client roster includes Coca-Cola, wine and spirits agency PMA Canada, The Ottawa Hospital, the Aga Khan Museum and Sobeys, for which COIQ has executed some of the brand’s most demanding work.

For 2020’s Waste Reduction Week, Sobeys launched a fall food waste campaign to drive awareness and engagement, educate consumers and inspire them to do their part in reducing food waste in their homes. It featured highly engaging educational food-waste messaging with activations across in-store POS, digital, CRM and social for all of Sobeys’ banners.

To tackle the work, COIQ built a team that began with a strategist, creative director, art director and writer, and then bolted on a half dozen more talents to dive deeper into each channel.

“We were able to pull that together within six weeks – a major campaign for seven different Sobeys brands that had to be in market nine weeks after we were briefed,” recalls Mary Georgio, who worked as strategist on the campaign. “And it was seamless for the client. We could have never pulled it off in that time frame if we were set up with the layers of a traditional agency. Our lean model allows us to operate in a more nimble fashion.

“We’ve been at this for a while,” she says, “so I always like to say we’re virtual virtuosos.”

Natalie Serkin
President and founder


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