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Aside from being the agency created and run by media darling Tyler Brûlé, Winkreative, to Canadians, was generally known as the London U.K.-based shop responsible for Porter Airlines’ adorable raccoon mascot. And that was about it, until a few months ago.
Last fall, Winkreative landed in Toronto. Brûlé opened a Monocle shop – a retail storefront inspired by the trendy Monocle magazine, which he also owns – in the city’s Little Italy neighbourhood. In the back of the store, behind the racks of dapper luggage and cashmere ties, is the Canadian Winkreative office and its full-time staff of five.
After just a few months in business, the agency was shortlisted for a recent LCBO account that they pitched in collaboration with Level 5 Strategy Group. The two also collaborated on, and won, the Toronto-area transit company Metrolinx.
For Metrolinx, Winkreative will handle all creative work – naming, corporate identity, carriage livery and interiors, architecture consultancy, station interiors and communications – for Union-Pearson Express, Toronto’s forthcoming downtown-to-airport public transportation service.
Brûlé had the world to choose from when he plotted Winkreative’s next move, and also had his eye on a San Francisco set-up. With stakes – and accompanying Monocle retail stores – already planted in New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo, it seemed likely he would make his next move in the direction of a city with lights just as bright. His decision to land in Toronto, then, is a little surprising.
“There’s some good things happening in Toronto,” says Brûlé. “Toronto has proven to be a neck-and-neck contender with London and Hong Kong,” he adds, referring specifically to Monocle’s retail numbers. “It performs better than New York, which puts enormous pressure on the people in New York.”
• The world according to Tyler Brule
With around 40 worldwide employees, Winkreative handles the creative work of more than 30 clients in – at last count – 15 countries.
But the agency keeps fairly quiet when it comes to future plans and wouldn’t discuss details of its Toronto staffing. New Canadian business inquiries are directed to London-based strategy director Steve Teruggi, and the first creative work released for Metrolinx credited U.K.-based employees for the design.
But Brûlé’s approach to business is one not dictated by borders. It allows Winkreative to chase accounts around the world without being planted too firmly in any particular place. And perhaps small outpost offices are enough if they can partner with established players like Level 5 to chase big pieces of Canadian business.
“Maybe it’s a luxury that I feel slightly removed from the backbiting and the on-the-ground competition,“ says Brulé, of the boundless geography his agency serves. “We see the world as a market. Toronto is one amongst many.”
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