Small Agency of the Year, Southeast, Silver: The Variable
Why It Won: The Variable, a 42-person shop, tries to shrug off the ad agency label, saying instead that it's in the business of creating "indifference-fighting organizations that move people out of their natural state of uncaring." It takes that to heart with its own beverage company, Sunshine, which makes a "good energy" (read: non-artificial) drink -- more than 1 million cans have been sold in some 1,600 retail locations, the shop said -- and its lifestyle and apparel brand, Careolina, which gives half its proceeds to North Carolina-based organizations fighting discrimination.
The Work: Millennials may not be as grill-savvy as their parents, but they sure enjoy a barbecue. So for Char-Broil, The Variable created a campaign that showed a younger audience how it could enjoy the social aspects of grilling without slaving over the fire. The agency also worked with Lowes Foods to create a "unifying" campaign called "The Dinner Party" -- think billboards with chicken wings urging viewers from the "right wing" and "left wing" to unite.