One team, one mission

One Twenty Three West pegs back-to-back AOY wins, in 2020 and 2021, on a collaborative culture focused on brand transformation.
123west-OneTeam-OneDream

A series of animated LinkedIn posts brought the values of One Twenty Three West to life and stoked conversations on key industry issues.

If you ask One Twenty Three West founder and CEO/president Scot Keith why his team has been recognized as Canada’s Small Agency of the Year in 2020 and 2021, he’ll tell you it’s no mystery. It’s his people.

123west-Troll-Whiskey-Five-Nine-Bluefuel-Label

1 Troll Co. Clothing asked One Twenty Three West to help launch Five Nine, a bourbon whiskey targeted at its blue-collar target demo. As part of the brand identity work, the shop created a brand platform, name, logo, full product packaging suite, brand guidelines and social media campaign.

He sums it up with what he calls a “one team, one dream” approach. All the agency staff, no matter if they are in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, or Edmonton, are on the same team. There are no departments in the self-described indie “idea and design collective.” There are no barriers, no fiefdoms. There’s only a single team, pulling in one direction.

“We’ve done everything we can to remove barriers to collaboration,” says Keith. “An art director is an art director. A writer is a writer. An account person is an account person. But it only works if everyone understands the final goal and how you’re going to collaborate.”

And don’t expect the lavish trappings of agency life, either. Since it was founded in a Vancouver garage in 2013, One Twenty Three West has stayed true to its humble roots, preferring to keep the overhead low and invest in senior talent instead.

“Most agencies are like a pyramid,” describes Keith. “There are a handful of very experienced people at the top, and then there are people with one-to-five-years experience learning the ropes at the bottom. We flipped the pyramid. The vast majority of our team is very experienced.” One Twenty Three West has 15 creative directors who actually do the client work.

Keith says the agency has a similarly collaborative relationship with clients, bringing them in early to help shape the direction of a project and decide how to best drive business. The better the relationship with its clients, he notes, the better the work.

Real Canadian Superstore wanted to tell stories of real Canadians of all backgrounds, and so called on One Twenty Three West to bump up its strategy and create new design systems, brand campaigns and customer connection points. Beyond broadcast, the campaign features an OOH takeover showcasing 10 Canadians and the wide variety of products in their carts.

Real Canadian Superstore wanted to tell stories of real Canadians of all backgrounds, and so called on One Twenty Three West to bump up its strategy and create new design systems, brand campaigns and customer connection points. Beyond broadcast, the campaign features an OOH takeover showcasing 10 Canadians and the wide variety of products in their carts.

One Twenty Three West has become known as an expert at brand transformations, helping companies modernize or accelerate their brands. It has worked with multiple clients that have gone on to be valued at $1B+ – the latest being San Francisco-based payroll and compliance company Deel, for which the agency tackled brand strategy and marcom to increase awareness of the brand in advance of a funding announcement.

The idea behind CAA’s “Before You Drive” campaign was a poll that showed nearly eight in ten Canadian drivers admitted to being distracted while driving. To tackle the issue, One Twenty Three West and CAA encouraged drivers to get all their distractions out of the way before heading out. The idea behind CAA’s “Before You Drive” campaign was a poll that showed nearly eight in ten Canadian drivers admitted to being distracted while driving. To tackle the issue, One Twenty Three West and CAA encouraged drivers to get all their distractions out of the way before heading out.

The idea behind CAA’s “Before You Drive” campaign was a poll that showed nearly eight in ten Canadian drivers admitted to being distracted while driving. To tackle the issue, One Twenty Three West and CAA encouraged drivers to get all their distractions out of the way before heading out.

The agency worked with multiple stakeholders across the US, Canada, the UK and Turkey to craft a one-minute brand video for social media and paid digital platforms. It drove significant brand awareness and traffic in terms of number of visits and the diversity of locations across the world. It’s currently doing the same for Vancouver geolocation security and compliance company GeoComply.“Groups are coming to us because they’ve got a complicated story to tell and need smart, creative people to tell it,” says Keith. “We’re perfectly suited to help them grow because we’ve invested in some amazing strategic planners such as Colin Carroll [Group Strategy Director] and Jared Gill [Strategy Director]. Everything starts at strategy. Then, we’re all in as one team to figure out the overall messaging so we can transform the brand at each touch point.”

The agency has added many other new clients, including the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Breast Cancer Society of Canada, Calgary Airport, Chartered Professional Accountants British Columbia, HelloFresh, Indigenous Tourism BC, and Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority.

One Twenty Three West’s own transformation has seen it recently add 10 staff across strategy, digital, creative and account management, bringing its roster to over 50 – which will prevent it from attempting a three-peat as Small Agency of the Year.

Athletics Canada’s new brand was one people could rally behind, as One Twenty Three West created a new brand design for Team Canada for the Tokyo Olympics. The execution titled “The Time is Now” centred around a new logo that captured the maple leaf, the podium, the torch and other key Olympic elements.

Athletics Canada’s new brand was one people could rally behind, as One Twenty Three West created a new brand design for Team Canada for the Tokyo Olympics. The execution titled “The Time is Now” centred around a new logo that captured the maple leaf, the podium, the torch and other key Olympic elements.

“We had to get a bit bigger to get even better,” Keith says. “You have to grow to attract the best people – and we’re at this really good size right now where we can compete with anybody.”

Just don’t expect the expense accounts to get any bigger or the reins to get any tighter.

“In our business, if you try to micromanage everything with a small executive team you can’t grow,” sums Keith. “You have to bring in the right people, and they have to be properly on- boarded to understand our culture and how we work.

“It’s been great. I’m having more fun than ever right now, because it’s very busy but I’ve got all people whom I absolutely trust.”

CONTACT:
Scot Keith
Founder and CEO/President
Scot@123w.ca

The 2022 A-Listers:

Intro

Zulu Alpha Kilo: Firing on all cylinders

UM: Powering a culture of innovation

Initiative: Reinventing the rules of media

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

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