Firing on all cylinders

Zulu Alpha Kilo: What being brave and unconventional can do
The “Year One” TV spot imagines the first Winter Olympic Games struggling to find an audience in Ancient Greece before the existence of client Bell and Canada’s best network service. Zulu launched the 60-second TV spot along with OLV and high-impact OOH.

The Micropedia of Microaggressions is an online tool created to equip people with an understanding of microaggressions, one of the most common forms of discrimination faced by marginalized groups. Developed on behalf of a coalition of leading diversity organizations, the tool invites users to contribute their own experiences of microaggressions.

Although Zulu Alpha Kilo has been known as an industry maverick for nearly a decade and a half, it’s still finding ways to raise the bar. In fact, maybe the best descriptor to capture the year that was, would be “transformational.”

For Zulu chief creative officer and chairman Zak Mroueh, the transformation started when he handed his CEO reigns to long- time president Mike Sutton. “Mike’s a masterful planner with a mandate to set us up for the future,” says Mroueh. This decision allowed Zulu’s founder, along with his creative leadership team, to focus solely on the agency’s creative output.

What followed was a slew of accolades from the major international trades: Campaign US’ indie AOY; The Drum UK’s Agency of the Year; Campaign Global’s Creative Agency of the Year (silver) and Independent Agency of the Year (bronze); and Ad Age’s International Small Agency of the Year (silver); as well as being ranked in the top 10 of independent agencies at the D&AD and One Show.

The “Year One” TV spot imagines the first Winter Olympic Games struggling to find an audience in Ancient Greece before the existence of client Bell and Canada’s best network service. Zulu launched the 60-second TV spot along with OLV and high-impact OOH. 2 To launch a limited-time flavour of Goldfish, Zulu looked to engage a fickle teen audience trained to ignore traditional advertising. The agency developed a Snapchat lens in which players had to focus on a Flavour Blasted Kravin’ Ketchup Cracker for more than 9 seconds to unlock a promo code.

The “Year One” TV spot imagines the first Winter Olympic Games struggling to find an audience in Ancient Greece before the existence of client Bell and Canada’s best network service. Zulu launched the 60-second TV spot along with OLV and high-impact OOH.

Then Mroueh found himself shortlisted as a Diversity & Inclusion Champion of the Year at Ad Age’s A-List and Creativity Awards gala – and inducted into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends in May.

The team opened a Vancouver office under managing director David Tremblay; brought in a pair of well-respected ECDs in Michael Mayes and Dean Lee; and hired Christine McNab as the agency’s first CMO.

To launch a limited-time flavour of Goldfish, Zulu looked to engage a fickle teen audience trained to ignore traditional advertising. The agency developed a Snapchat lens in which players had to focus on a Flavour Blasted Kravin’ Ketchup Cracker for more than 9 seconds to unlock a promo code.

To launch a limited-time flavour of Goldfish, Zulu looked to engage a fickle teen audience trained to ignore traditional advertising. The agency developed a Snapchat lens in which players had to focus on a Flavour Blasted Kravin’ Ketchup Cracker for more than 9 seconds to unlock a promo code.

By any account, Zulu is firing on all cylinders despite the pandemic. McNab says the year was all about being intentionally brave.

“Maybe it’s because we were founded [in 2008] during a recession,” suggests McNab, who joined the agency in January. “We started in a chaotic period, so it’s part of Zulu’s DNA to take risks and rise to the challenge during tough times.”

“Since day one, our mission has never wavered. It’s always been about doing unconventional work and applying lateral thinking to how we solve client business challenges,” Tremblay adds.

Working with Interac, Zulu developed transparent billboards. The see-through boards, set up in bustling holiday markets and local retailers, turned the real-life holiday activities of Canadian shoppers into living tableaus that celebrated the post- lockdown return to seasonal events and celebrations.

Working with Interac, Zulu developed transparent billboards. The see-through boards, set up in bustling holiday markets and local retailers, turned the real-life holiday activities of Canadian shoppers into living tableaus that celebrated the post- lockdown return to seasonal events and celebrations.

Zulu gets so much done because it moves quickly once a decision is made. It allocated the investment for Zulubot – its creative production and content studio – an hour after a meeting sparked the idea. The same was true of the Vancouver expansion. It’s about growth guided by a belief system, decisiveness and the power to move at lightning speed as an independent.

“In a good way, we’ve kept a small agency mentality throughout our successes,” Tremblay says. “We stick to our principles and put our people and clients first.”

Over the past year, the agency launched the successful “Welcome to Uncommon” brand platform for Subaru on social, high-impact digital and across the dealer network.

Subaru’s “Welcome to Uncommon” platform marked a change in marketing. The brand went from one focused on product to one that champions the individuals driving their product. Launch materials celebrate the colourful, eccentric folks that choose Subaru to empower their lives.

Subaru’s “Welcome to Uncommon” platform marked a change in marketing. The brand went from one focused on product to one that champions the individuals driving their product. Launch materials celebrate the colourful, eccentric folks that choose Subaru to empower their lives.

Zulu also did some of its best work for the greater good, such as The Micropedia of Microaggressions project on behalf of a coalition of Canada’s leading diversity organizations. The online tool was created to equip people with an understanding of microaggressions, one of the most common forms of discrimination that marginalized groups face.

And consider Tough Turban for Pfaff Harley-Davidson – a fabric that can be folded like traditional Sikh headwear, but which hardens on impact. It means Sikh motorcyclists no longer have to choose between their beliefs and safety.

 To establish the relevance of Girl Guides to young girls and their parents, Zulu took one of the organization’s most iconic assets – campfire songs – and reinvented them as modern anthems addressing the topics that inspire girls today, such as equality, inclusion, and individuality.

To establish the relevance of Girl Guides to young girls and their parents, Zulu took one of the organization’s most iconic assets – campfire songs – and reinvented them as modern anthems addressing the topics that inspire girls today, such as equality, inclusion, and individuality.

“We have strong values around diversity and inclusion,” notes McNab. “Micropedia and Tough Turban make a statement – not just externally, but internally as well – that we truly believe in and follow through with what we say.”

Zulu backed it up with the 20Doors scholarship fund launched by its founder with the commitment to create educational and mentorship opportunities for 20 aspiring BIPOC creatives.

 To promote Harry Rosen’s golf apparel, Zulu mimicked a live golf broadcast, tricking viewers into thinking the commercials were real golf coverage. But instead of focusing on golf, they focus on the golfers’ clothes, “setting the tone” for the retailer’s entry into the golf category.

To promote Harry Rosen’s golf apparel, Zulu mimicked a live golf broadcast, tricking viewers into thinking the commercials were real golf coverage. But instead of focusing on golf, they focus on the golfers’ clothes, “setting the tone” for the retailer’s entry into the golf category.

“We’ve never been in the advertising, design or digital business,” says Mroueh. “We’ve always been in the bravery business. That’s what drives our decision-making. We believe the world needs more creativity. So, for us, the driving force of the company has always been about doing amazing things for all the brands we work on – and, as a company, doing good in the world.”

CONTACT:
Christine McNab
CMO
christine.mcnab@zulualphakilo.com

The 2022 A-Listers:

Intro

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Initiative: Reinventing the rules of media

Media Experts: An audience tailored approach to brand and client growth

123W: One team, One mission

Zerotrillion: All-or-nothing approach to brand realization

Leo Burnett: Redesigning the consumer-brand relationship

Dentsu: A long-term view

Pomp & Circumstance: A grander vision

Elemental: Finding meaninful connections

Anomaly: Solutions designed for good

Camp Jefferson: Designing choice