Oct 31, 2020
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Front Page, Industry News

Kicking butt Canadian-style

TO411 special features writer Rea Kelly explores the business model at Toronto Ad Agency RBW

As we wrap up a year where the economic sky fell in, I visited Rao, Barrett & Welsh, a ‘new mainstream’ ad agency, to try and discover what makes them successful.

Gavin Barrett is the Creative Director at RBW, located in Toronto’s east end. He’s wearing a tweed blazer, jeans, and an “I love India” t-shirt. Although Rao, Barrett & Welsh are small and you may not have heard of them, they’re kicking butt, Canadian-style.

RK: I had you filed under ‘ethnic’ advertising.
GB: But we’re more. The space we occupy is “New Mainstream Agency” because the old mainstream is now just another market segment. You’re only talking to 51% of the population [with messages created in English and French]. What happens to the other 49%? I think the age of the big agency came too soon in Canada; the ways of thinking in the U.S. are not right for us. We’re a country with a tiny population. We’re more like a Spain or Argentina… and we’re very small.”

RK: What do you do best?
GB: Classic idea-based advertising; if it’s a great idea, it can work on a baseball cap, a TV ad, or an event. We have a saying here, a company motto: “We put ideas first to make ideas last.”

RK: What is your unique reason for existing?
GB: We created this agency to be perfect for the new Canadian mainstream, the best of big agency discipline combined with small agency agility and creativity. The wealth of leadership experience in this place is impressive. For example, among our leadership, the combined experience spans India, East Africa, Romania, USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, the U.K. and, of course, Canada. We have handled global brands in global markets and bring that thinking to the new Canadian mainstream reality.

RK: Why are you successful?
GB: Our careers as senior level creative directors/VPs tended to end with us running major national accounts. After a while we thought we could do this for ourselves. However, two creative guys can’t run an agency. We were lucky to find partners in Prasad Rao and Francis Alexander, two gents we met at Maclaren. Francis had run the Rogers account, and they had such high regard for him that they asked him to head their marketing department while they transitioned to a new department director. Prasad was the General Manager on RBC and Coke and the rest of Maclaren’s packaged goods accounts. When we started, we took a huge leap into the unknown . . . there was a definite need for more small agencies . . . we’re seeing that now. Taxi was the groundbreaker in that territory . . . Zig, Clean Sheet, Zulu Alpha Kilo, Rethink, all these great, hot, brilliant agencies that deserve to have a place in Canada.

RK: Give us an example of a spot you’ve recently completed?
GB: We just did a TV spot for TD Bank whose message is going gangbusters. It’s about a subject totally relevant to South Asians: TD’s branches are open longer hours. South Asians are very much a longer hours people so that’s what the spot is all about.

RK: Do you do any social cause marketing?
GB: Yes, our most active social cause marketing is for an art gallery/creative studio space called creative spirit (at 999 Dovercourt). They are a non-profit that exhibits the work of able-bodied artists alongside artists with mental or physical disabilities, and provides a studio space and art education for the disabled or ill . . . the art is just mindblowing.

Wish to share Ideas or comments? Communicate directly with Rea by emailing her.

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Front Page, Industry News

Kicking butt Canadian-style

TO411 special features writer Rea Kelly explores the business model at Toronto Ad Agency RBW

As we wrap up a year where the economic sky fell in, I visited Rao, Barrett & Welsh, a ‘new mainstream’ ad agency, to try and discover what makes them successful.

Gavin Barrett is the Creative Director at RBW, located in Toronto’s east end. He’s wearing a tweed blazer, jeans, and an “I love India” t-shirt. Although Rao, Barrett & Welsh are small and you may not have heard of them, they’re kicking butt, Canadian-style.

RK: I had you filed under ‘ethnic’ advertising.
GB: But we’re more. The space we occupy is “New Mainstream Agency” because the old mainstream is now just another market segment. You’re only talking to 51% of the population [with messages created in English and French]. What happens to the other 49%? I think the age of the big agency came too soon in Canada; the ways of thinking in the U.S. are not right for us. We’re a country with a tiny population. We’re more like a Spain or Argentina… and we’re very small.”

RK: What do you do best?
GB: Classic idea-based advertising; if it’s a great idea, it can work on a baseball cap, a TV ad, or an event. We have a saying here, a company motto: “We put ideas first to make ideas last.”

RK: What is your unique reason for existing?
GB: We created this agency to be perfect for the new Canadian mainstream, the best of big agency discipline combined with small agency agility and creativity. The wealth of leadership experience in this place is impressive. For example, among our leadership, the combined experience spans India, East Africa, Romania, USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, the U.K. and, of course, Canada. We have handled global brands in global markets and bring that thinking to the new Canadian mainstream reality.

RK: Why are you successful?
GB: Our careers as senior level creative directors/VPs tended to end with us running major national accounts. After a while we thought we could do this for ourselves. However, two creative guys can’t run an agency. We were lucky to find partners in Prasad Rao and Francis Alexander, two gents we met at Maclaren. Francis had run the Rogers account, and they had such high regard for him that they asked him to head their marketing department while they transitioned to a new department director. Prasad was the General Manager on RBC and Coke and the rest of Maclaren’s packaged goods accounts. When we started, we took a huge leap into the unknown . . . there was a definite need for more small agencies . . . we’re seeing that now. Taxi was the groundbreaker in that territory . . . Zig, Clean Sheet, Zulu Alpha Kilo, Rethink, all these great, hot, brilliant agencies that deserve to have a place in Canada.

RK: Give us an example of a spot you’ve recently completed?
GB: We just did a TV spot for TD Bank whose message is going gangbusters. It’s about a subject totally relevant to South Asians: TD’s branches are open longer hours. South Asians are very much a longer hours people so that’s what the spot is all about.

RK: Do you do any social cause marketing?
GB: Yes, our most active social cause marketing is for an art gallery/creative studio space called creative spirit (at 999 Dovercourt). They are a non-profit that exhibits the work of able-bodied artists alongside artists with mental or physical disabilities, and provides a studio space and art education for the disabled or ill . . . the art is just mindblowing.

Wish to share Ideas or comments? Communicate directly with Rea by emailing her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Front Page, Industry News

Kicking butt Canadian-style

TO411 special features writer Rea Kelly explores the business model at Toronto Ad Agency RBW

As we wrap up a year where the economic sky fell in, I visited Rao, Barrett & Welsh, a ‘new mainstream’ ad agency, to try and discover what makes them successful.

Gavin Barrett is the Creative Director at RBW, located in Toronto’s east end. He’s wearing a tweed blazer, jeans, and an “I love India” t-shirt. Although Rao, Barrett & Welsh are small and you may not have heard of them, they’re kicking butt, Canadian-style.

RK: I had you filed under ‘ethnic’ advertising.
GB: But we’re more. The space we occupy is “New Mainstream Agency” because the old mainstream is now just another market segment. You’re only talking to 51% of the population [with messages created in English and French]. What happens to the other 49%? I think the age of the big agency came too soon in Canada; the ways of thinking in the U.S. are not right for us. We’re a country with a tiny population. We’re more like a Spain or Argentina… and we’re very small.”

RK: What do you do best?
GB: Classic idea-based advertising; if it’s a great idea, it can work on a baseball cap, a TV ad, or an event. We have a saying here, a company motto: “We put ideas first to make ideas last.”

RK: What is your unique reason for existing?
GB: We created this agency to be perfect for the new Canadian mainstream, the best of big agency discipline combined with small agency agility and creativity. The wealth of leadership experience in this place is impressive. For example, among our leadership, the combined experience spans India, East Africa, Romania, USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, the U.K. and, of course, Canada. We have handled global brands in global markets and bring that thinking to the new Canadian mainstream reality.

RK: Why are you successful?
GB: Our careers as senior level creative directors/VPs tended to end with us running major national accounts. After a while we thought we could do this for ourselves. However, two creative guys can’t run an agency. We were lucky to find partners in Prasad Rao and Francis Alexander, two gents we met at Maclaren. Francis had run the Rogers account, and they had such high regard for him that they asked him to head their marketing department while they transitioned to a new department director. Prasad was the General Manager on RBC and Coke and the rest of Maclaren’s packaged goods accounts. When we started, we took a huge leap into the unknown . . . there was a definite need for more small agencies . . . we’re seeing that now. Taxi was the groundbreaker in that territory . . . Zig, Clean Sheet, Zulu Alpha Kilo, Rethink, all these great, hot, brilliant agencies that deserve to have a place in Canada.

RK: Give us an example of a spot you’ve recently completed?
GB: We just did a TV spot for TD Bank whose message is going gangbusters. It’s about a subject totally relevant to South Asians: TD’s branches are open longer hours. South Asians are very much a longer hours people so that’s what the spot is all about.

RK: Do you do any social cause marketing?
GB: Yes, our most active social cause marketing is for an art gallery/creative studio space called creative spirit (at 999 Dovercourt). They are a non-profit that exhibits the work of able-bodied artists alongside artists with mental or physical disabilities, and provides a studio space and art education for the disabled or ill . . . the art is just mindblowing.

Wish to share Ideas or comments? Communicate directly with Rea by emailing her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

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