Winning Ad Age's Small Agency of the Year title last summer was "a career defining moment" for Zulu Alpha Kilo founder Zak Mroueh, one that directly helped the agency achieve its No. 1 target: a U.S.-based client (connected-home platform Wink).
That contributed to Zulu Alpha Kilo's best year ever: 20% growth and new assignments from Whirlpool, Stella Artois, Aviva and Uber, enabling the Toronto shop this year to add another trophy to its case: International Small Agency of the Year. "Big agencies win awards for small things, but we're a small agency who wins awards on the big stuff," Mroueh said. "We started because the world needs more creativity. We want to do great work for clients but also to challenge the industry."
It does so in ways like creating a parody agency website guaranteed to weed out faint-hearted clients. Among other things, the site introduces the obnoxious (and fictional) Frank Zulu, who says he founded the agency in order to write off alcohol as a business expense.
Zulu Alpha Kilo continues to stand by its no-pitching policy, has banned emails between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m., and replaced unpaid interns with an "employeeship" program that offers paid work for candidates who win a craziest-use-of-a-marshmallow test.
There's been great work too, including a Harley-Davidson Café that catered to millennial hipsters and which the agency said reversed a three-year sales decline with a 5.5% uplift. "Mysterious Man" for Interac and "See the Big Picture" for Cineplex also hit the spot.
So how to top this in 2018? By competing with the big agencies: "We want to take away the 'small' moniker," Mroueh said.