Giants & Gentlemen recruits outsider help for clients

New Toronto agency tries to 'out think' competitors

Chris Powell March 12, 2012

New Toronto agency tries to ‘out think’ competitors


Natalie Armata, Gino Cantalini, Alanna Nathanson

Gino Cantalini was working as vice-president, brand director with Publicis Toronto when a serendipitous conversation with former Taxi 2 senior art director Natalie Armata took his career in an entirely unforeseen direction.

Armata and another Taxi 2 colleague, Alanna Nathanson, were in the midst of trying to get their new agency, Giants & Gentlemen, off the ground but had come to the realization they needed a business lead.

At the same time, real estate developer Beaverbrook Developments had come to Cantalini, a marketing veteran whose career stops have included Colgate Palmolive, Nestlé Canada, the Campbell Company of Canada, Labatt and Molson. Beaverbrook was asking if Publicis might be willing to work with them. After determining that the company wasn’t really a fit with the agency, Cantalini reached out to Armata – who had some prior experience in the real estate sector – to see if she might be willing to meet with Beaverbrook.

“I sent her a note through LinkedIn, and she called me the next day saying ‘I can’t believe you contacted me – my partner and I are starting up an agency and needed a business lead and we were talking about you,'” Cantalini told Marketing.

“I said ‘Well, I was calling you about some potential business.’ We started on one project. [Beaverbrook] loved what we were doing and threw all of their business at us.”

Formally launched last week, Giants & Gentleman is focused on helping its clients’ brands be perceived as “giants” in their business category, while employing a decent, “gentlemanly” approach to marketing.

“We’re all about big ideas that are going to stand out in the marketplace… and part of our philosophy is always to operate in a decent manner and do things we can be proud of 20 years down the road,” said Cantalini.

In addition to charter client Beaverbrook, the agency is also working with the B.C.-based not-for-profit organization Canopy.

Part of the agency’s approach involves the creation of custom-created teams for each project, allowing it to be nimble, flexible, creative and strategic through every step of the creative process.

Outsider Help
The agency is also employing a creative strategy called “Outthinking,” which utilizes so-called “outside experts” who can help brands engage their target audience in unexpected ways while breaking established patterns. While the agency determines the usual target indicators such as demographics, psychographics and aspirations, the “Outthinking” approach utilizes the expertise of people who may be working in a related vertical.

For example, the agency enlisted well-known automotive consultant Dennis DeRosiers to provide insight into how automakers tried to position their vehicles to the same younger suburbanites Beaverbrook was keen to reach for a new suburban development.

“Typically these folks don’t want to buy the same brand as their parents,” said Cantalini. “So we positioned this particular subdivision as ‘Not your parents’ subdivision. Even though you’re moving to the suburbs, you’re kind of maintaining your own style.

“This way, whether it be the creative or the strategy stage, you bring somebody else into the mix that makes you think totally laterally and hopefully allows you to come up with something different,” said Cantalini.

The agency’s leaders are currently working out of Toronto’s The Spoke Club while seeking office space in the city’s east end. “We’re kind of taking our time because it’s pretty awesome here,” said Cantalini. “I love people bringing me my drinks.”

Is Canadian marketing inherently “ungentlemanly?” What do you think of the “Outthinking” concept? Post your thoughts in our comment section.