Lowe Roche

Honourable Mention — Lowe Roche

New business: GroupeMédia TFO, Warner Bros. Canada, Re/Max, TreSemmé , Lymphoma Foundation Canada, Costa Blanca, NHLPA, K-Y, RMS, Couche-Tard, Macís, Circle K, Advertising Review Board of Ontario

Toronto-based Lowe Roche is in the winner's circle this year with an honourable mention for AOY. When asked what drives its success, CEO Monica Ruffo simply recites the shop's mantra: "Innovate or die."

For Lowe Roche, innovation means mixing disciplines in new ways, according to Ruffo, who joined the agency in September of last year. "We look for strategies that are agnostic of any discipline and find unique ways of delivering a mash-up of communication," she says.

With its recent work for Pfaff Auto, for example, the agency took photos of Porsche Carrera 911 S vehicles in select Toronto homeowners' driveways and then delivered personalized cards to their mailboxes. "While this was a direct mail piece, we used a level of personalization that you would usually see in the digital space," says Ruffo. "We borrowed what is effective in digital and applied it to one of the oldest disciplines in communication, direct marketing on a printed piece."

For O.B.'s "A Personal Apology," which earned a Cannes Bronze Lion in the PR category, Lowe Roche combined digital technology with direct marketing to create a personalized way of delivering the message through a song and video.

The agency's inventive mentality can be attributed to its structure, according to Ruffo. "Our staff members don't sit in perfectly organized departments," she says. "We have creative people mixed in with account people, interns and producers, which helps inspire ideas."

Lowe Roche saw some staff changes this year. Pete Breton and Dave Douglass left their roles as co-chief creative officers in September, and Sean Ohlenkamp, former VP and digital creative director, was promoted to CD. Art director JP Gravina and copywriter Simon Craig were named ACDs.

This year, Lowe Roche also became full-service in both French and English languages in all areas from account services to strategic planning. Ruffo, founder of the agency's Montreal office Amuse, implemented French services into the Toronto shop when it began working with GroupeMé dia TFO last year. "It gives us the ability to be more efficient for our non-English clients and really gets the entire agency to be thinking in a bi-cultural way."

The agency had three Gold AOY wins in the past ('93, '97 and '98) and it seems the mantra is working, bringing the shop back into the AOY circle after its last honourable mention three years ago.