Reinventing the rules of media

Initiative's new ventures lean into gaming and seek stickier experiences.
First Winters Image

For Destination Ontario’s “First Winters,” Initiative noticed the more winters Ontarians experienced, the more they took them for granted. So Ontario’s recent immigrants were turned into travel advocates and their first-hand winter experiences were used to inspire the rest of the province.

Initiative recent media AOY Gold award wins[2019 and 2021] have fueled the shop’s relentless need to reinvent what success looks like, says Helen Galanis, its Canadian CEO who leads the over 150-strong Toronto office.

“We want to focus on what we can do better than anyone else,” she says. “There are areas of opportunity that challenge the boundaries around what a media agency has traditionally focused on, and that’s what is motivating us.”

That means reinventing the rules of media. “We believe consumer ad avoidance is the fundamental problem facing the industry,” Galanis says. So the agency has launched a number of new endeavours in the interest of removing the barriers that get in the way of great work.

To build excitement around its mobile app, Wendy’s launched a limited-edition mobile phone featuring a custom voice assistant named Wendy. Initiative used Wendy to engage audiences across Twitter and Spotify with friendly banter and personalized audio ads.

To build excitement around its mobile app, Wendy’s launched a limited-edition mobile phone featuring a custom voice assistant named Wendy. Initiative used Wendy to engage audiences across Twitter and Spotify with friendly banter and personalized audio ads.

Transforming media planning has been a core focus for years, but to take it to the next level, Galanis installed Ryan Van Dongen as head of communications design with a broad mandate to focus on the craft of media planning.

While redefining the role of the media agency is ongoing, so too is identifying opportunity. And a big one can be found in gaming, a multi-billion dollar industry with a complex media ecosystem, reaching over 60% of Canadians with an increasingly broad audience.

Says Galanis, “We wanted to understand gaming from strategy through to activation,” including all the audience subcultures and identify the different ways clients can tap into them.

Enter the agency’s new gaming practice, launched in December to develop gaming expertise across partners, platforms and personalities, and to operationalize all gaming-related offerings across parent IPG Mediabrands and IPG tech company Kinesso.

 To address the surging post-pandemic demand for travel, Travel Alberta developed “Wide Open Spaces,” a series of interactive virtual vacations with National Geographic that offered audiences a chance to experience two of Alberta’s most iconic hikes from their sofas.

To address the surging post-pandemic demand for travel, Travel Alberta developed “Wide Open Spaces,” a series of interactive virtual vacations with National Geographic that offered audiences a chance to experience two of Alberta’s most iconic hikes from their sofas.

Whether it’s the metaverse or new levels of influencer engagement, gaming culture is media in 2022, so it was important to assign a cross-functional team to it, including strategists, audience experts, planners, and partnership specialists, working together to understand the opportunities from all sides, and championed by Van Dongen. The agency is excited about a number of client engagement opportunities, including one with Wendy’s.

Meanwhile, the role of Initiative’s Storyline division is to create relevance through original storytelling.

The new content practice launched in 2020 to develop strategies to deliver stickier, more memorable and meaningful audience experiences. This means a focus on new content formats, purpose- driven storytelling with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and opportunities engineered to drive audience participation.

To promote CBC’s new series Strays, Initiative planned an entire media strategy around reaching audiences through their dogs – which included a dog-friendly ice cream truck that targeted local dog parks.

To promote CBC’s new series Strays, Initiative planned an entire media strategy around reaching audiences through their dogs – which included a dog-friendly ice cream truck that targeted local dog parks.

However, a great idea is only valuable if it can be executed, and after noticing some of the agency’s best concepts weren’t coming to fruition, Initiative introduced Limitless Media, a venture whereby planners can tap into the production support they need to execute their biggest and most groundbreaking visions.

“It’s about creating a team and building new partnerships that will allow us to create media plans that aren’t off a rate card or pulled out of a media kit,” Galanis explains, holding up a recent campaign for Destination Ontario as an example.

The challenge? Motivate Ontarians to explore their own province over the winter, leading to a campaign built on the insight that the more winters you live through, the less you seem to enjoy them. “First Winters” used recent immigrants to Ontario as its travel ambassadors.

To promote drama series The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime Video, Initiative focused on bringing to life the concepts of good vs. evil and light vs. dark with larger-than-life OOH executions, including a first-to-market 3D shadow board and anamorphic creative at Yonge-Dundas Square.

To promote drama series The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime Video, Initiative focused on bringing to life the concepts of good vs. evil and light vs. dark with larger-than-life OOH executions, including a first-to-market 3D shadow board and anamorphic creative at Yonge-Dundas Square.

The series paired three newcomers with local artists, developing stories that invited the rest of the province to remember what they love about winter in the province. The work ran across digital residential screens targeting neighbourhoods with higher volumes of new Ontarians and as an article series with The Globe and Mail.

Limitless Media is positioned to bring more of those ideas to life, allowing Initiative to explore experiential activations, unconventional media placements and branded product creation, expanding the sandbox their planners work within.

The results? Along with a plethora of other recent awards (AOY Media Campaign of the Year, gold CMA for innovative media, silver CMA for engagement, eight Media Innovation Awards, and WARC’s Top 50), the agency has drummed up new client wins including Destination Ontario, Foodland Ontario, theScore Bet, Properly and Clutch.ca.

CONTACT:
Helen Galanis
CEO
helen.galanis@initiative.com

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Pomp & Circumstance: A grander vision

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Camp Jefferson: Designing choice