Canvas Worldwide's Newest Offering Caters to Brands with Big Ambitions, Modest Budgets

By Canvas Worldwide InSites Archives
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Certain advertising clients don't quite fit the normal mold, from an agency perspective at least. They might need more of a Swiss Army knife approach -- in other words, a multifaceted boutique media agency that can help them realize lofty goals without a multi-million-dollar media buy. That's where Canvas Worldwide's Accelerator Group (AG) comes into play. As a department within Canvas Worldwide, it also functions as a sort of smaller agency within the agency.

"We wanted to create a sort of media lab for brands looking to do more with their dollars, and for those who are willing to get creative," explained AG leader Phil Sloan, Canvas Worldwide's Senior Vice President and Business Lead.

The group was created about a year ago after Canvas' New Business team met with a potential client that seemed promising but didn't have a large enough budget for the full-agency treatment. Canvas didn't want to turn them away, so AG was born.

Like a utility player on a sports team, Sloan noted that his team can do it all for clients. They're not operating on the sidelines, but alongside a client in the trenches. AG digs into every aspect of media planning, buying and marketing alongside clients to handle whatever needs doing.

The team positions itself as an incubator and media lab. It's staffed by a small team of media veterans with brand and agency experience.

"We behave more like a marketing department than a media planning/buying group," Sloan said. "That means we also consult on product pushes, sales promotions, creative development and sales channel strategy. We're deeply involved in the micro of planning media buys, but also the macro factors that our clients wrestle with every day."

In a short time, the group has grown to serve a half dozen clients in the retail, higher education, pharmaceutical and technology verticals. The clients are typical "challenger brands," or companies taking on more established competitors or clawing for market share, explained Associate Director Katherine Anderson.

"They want to grow and increase awareness," Anderson said. "These are brands that are being outspent by competitors, or they're starting from low awareness levels. We help them find opportunities they might not otherwise consider."

To do that, AG will stretch their clients' dollars and offer innovative solutions. They typically utilize digital and social media, and sometimes deploy creative tactics like street teams and street art, when appropriate. The idea is to generate buzz that raises the client's profile without spending big bucks, Anderson said.

As a media lab, the AG team avidly tests newer digital and social platforms. The group finds the best platform by combining a client's ambition with first- and third-party research. "We are really led by where their target market is, and we're all about making sure we're reaching them in the right places," she added.

When it is appropriate, AG activates other media channels, including out-of-home, streaming video, audio and linear TV. "We're constantly experimenting," Sloan noted.

Recently, the group worked with a retail client that wanted to re-establish its brand and attract a slightly older teenage demographic. "Their issue was partly, 'How can we be more inclusive as a brand,' and 'How do we modernize our brand and our approach to the market?'" Sloan recalled.

To plan the retailer's comeback campaign, AG relied heavily on data, research and testing. Because the client's target consumers spend most of their time on social media and multiple devices, "we were laser-focused on social," Anderson said. For social, AG created short-form videos that were whimsical and fun. To make sure they got consumers' attention, they focused the advertising before and after the crowded holiday shopping season.

"The biggest key to that success was being nimble and making sure they were top of mind," Anderson said.

As its clients grow, the AG team plans to flex with them. If a client starts to have more complex or extensive needs, they could graduate to the larger Canvas agency, but the AG team hopes to keep them close.

"Our clients are our kindred spirits," Anderson concluded. "We're all entrepreneurial. We'd like to think that won't change as they grow bigger and grow their budgets."

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