[ Vim | IKEA | CMT | Foresters | Bullying ]

Zig Fits.

"Enthusiasm." It seems to be a word that comes up when you're talking to people about Zig. And truth be told, the Toronto-based agency, founded by partners Andy Macaulay, Elspeth Lynn and Lorraine Tao in 1999, has a lot to be enthusiastic about lately. This was definitely a year when Zig had its share of the limelight. Okay, so it stole most of the limelight.

The agency won some major accounts, for one thing. First, in March, there was Ikea, worth an estimated $7.9 million. Then more recently the coveted $50 million Molson Canadian business, which saw the underdog shop beat out incumbent Bensimon•Byrne, and Taxi among others. How's that for impressive?

For Molson, it was a combination of creative prowess and strategic planning expertise that set Zig apart. Says VP marketing Rob Assimakopoulos: "[It was] not only the quality, the breadth and the innovativeness of the creative, but more importantly, all the work that preceded it [that] was pretty critical.... I felt that, as an agency, they were incredibly inquisitive, empathetic and objective at interpreting research and consumer behaviour trends, and that was a major piece of it."

The Molson team was also swayed by Zig's ability to "find big ideas across a broad range of categories targeting a broad range of consumers."

Other clients appreciate the accessibility of the shop's senior partners. "Andy, Elspeth and Lorraine are always available, and always there for us," says Nandini Venkatesh, marketing manager for Burlington, Ont.-based Ikea. "It's also the enthusiasm and passion they bring, which shows in the work."

On that note, Venkatesh reports she's "really happy" with the new Ikea campaign, aimed at the 35-plus crowd with the goal of eradicating the retailer's image as a student-only shopping destination. She's particularly proud of the radio advertising starring Ikea's self-effacing Swedish spokesperson.

"People have noticed it - they play back the key messages we're passing on to them," she says, adding: "Zig understood the Ikea personality - that it's innovative and genuine as a brand. They got the essence of it and the value that stands behind it."

But there's been more than new accounts in Zig's recent history. Like the fact that Toronto-based advertising and communications company MDC Partners bought a 49.9% stake in the shop this past fall.

Perhaps it's a sign of the times, but it seems that most ad agency types aren't too surprised. "If you look at the roster of agencies that MDC puts together, such as Cliff Freeman and Crispin Porter + Bogusky, those are really outstanding agencies and it could have a nice 'rub-off' factor for Zig," notes Rick Davis, partner of Toronto-based Gilbert + Davis. "There's no dog in the bunch."

Even so, MDC chief strategist Chuck Porter (who of course is also chairman of CP+B), says Zig doesn't need much help, creatively speaking, a fact that became clear to him the minute he walked through its door.

"I've talked to a lot of agencies in the last year-and-a-half, and Zig more than any other agency was genuinely an instantaneous thing for me. I walked in and said: 'This is a really exciting place.' Elspeth and Lorraine - even though they've been in the biz for a while and they are not new kids on the block - they still have the enthusiasm of 19-year-olds." There's that word again.

Whatever the reason, Zig certainly has a proven uncanny ability to pack an emotional rollercoaster of a punch into the 30-second spot. Couldn't you just watch the Vim "Prison" spot over and over? Next up is a Zig-ified Molson Canadian. Assimakopoulos hints the agency will try to "rebuild the deep emotional connections people have with [the brand]." Cheers to that.

Copyright © 2004 Brunico Communications Inc. All rights reserved.