Mroueh abruptly left Taxi in October of 2007 after nine years of producing award-winning work for clients like Pfizer (like the standards-dodging "Wobleminki" and "Golf") and Mini, following a 4-week stint at a cottage where the entrepreneurial twitch struck, he says. A newspaper story about knowing when it was time to move on spurred him to quit his gig, cash in his equity partnership and go about forming his new agency within a matter of days.
"I quit without any future, no clients, just this vision of starting my own company," Mroueh (pronounced mrooway) says. "In December I'd just go to coffee shops, I was one of those guys who'd go to the coffee shops during the day, and I had my little notepad sketching out the name of the company and the vision of the company."
By 2008, he says, Mroueh was looking at office space, and began pitching new business in March and April. Currently, as ZAK officially opens its doors there's a staff of 18, including Mroueh's first hire, former deputy managing director of TBWA/Paris, David Toto. Mroueh says client announcements should come "very shortly," within a few weeks. The group is set to move into a new space in Toronto's East End in coming weeks, "away from the typical ad ghetto of Toronto," Mroueh says.
The agency's name, Zulu Alpha Kilo, comes from the NATO phonetic alphabet, which names letters after an easily identifiable word, Alpha for A, Beta for B, etc. for use in radio transmissions. Mroueh says he agonized over what to call the new agency until he was at a hockey game with some friends and their child was spelling out peoples' names in the style. Mroueh's wife told him it sounded perfect to her and thus Zulu Alpha Kilo was born. "To ensure universal clarity of communication, it worked perfectly," he says. "That was probably the hardest thing, naming the company. It becomes the brand."