For the second year in a row, Zulu Alpha Kilo has been recognized by U.S. publication Ad Age as one of the world’s top independent agencies.
Last year it was the first non-U.S. shop to win the overall top prize, the first time in Ad Age history that had ever happened. This year it was recognized in the global category, winning the top honour as Ad Age’s International Small Agency of the Year.
The Toronto-based firm received the news in Nashville on Wednesday night. Zulu was introduced to the stage as “Shit Disturbers” borrowing from the title a local industry publications bestowed on the agency when it made its A-list of top Canadian shops in December. The shop was given that name for its strong stance on creative spec work for pitches. But despite turning down 80% of the RFPs that come its way, it continues to grow and attract top tier clients like Whirlpool, Stella Artois and Uber over the past year.
"These finalists are nimble, innovative and—stop me if you've heard this before—shatter silos," said Ad Age Editor Brian Braiker. "They're also taking on projects, creating brands and launching products in ways that fundamentally redefine what it means to be an agency. There has never been a more exciting time to be at a smaller shop. And these are the best of the lot."
The Ad Age Small Agency Awards go to independent agencies with up to 150 employees that have demonstrated smart strategies and innovative ideas for clients.
Agencies must submit three campaigns that are ranked by industry peers and the Ad Age editorial staff for a combination of creativity and strategy.
Zulu was one of only two agencies that made multiple trips to the podium when the shop also picked up Campaign of the Year Silver in the integrated category for “A Balloon for Ben.” The branded content film was created for Cineplex – Canada’s largest theatre chain. It topped a million views in 24 hours, reaching that milestone faster than the first viral sensation Zulu did for Cineplex (‘Lily & the Snowman’), which now has over 80 million views worldwide.
Another campaign that caught the jury’s attention was for Harley-Davidson. The agency launched a café in Toronto’s downtown core to target first-time bike buyers in a city without a dealership. The result was 1903 | A Harley Davidson Café—a nod to 1960s café racer culture, when riders would race stripped-down bikes from one café to another. The idea generated 50 million earned media impressions and increased sales.
“We’re thrilled with this global recognition again from Ad Age,” says chief creative officer & CEO Zak Mroueh, who founded Zulu in 2008. “We share this honour with our amazing clients who have entrusted us with their brands. Having premium clients who value true partnership has enabled us to flourish while remaining true to our core values.”
See some of Zulu's brilliant work here